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BANGA: A BALANCING ACT

The history of the Banga Dance tells us a story of Filipino women’s strength, resilience and grace. Banga (pronounced ba-nga), meaning “pot”, is an earthen container originated by the northern Cordillera region of the Philippines. Traditionally, they’re made of local clay found only in the Kalinga villages, an area rich with rice terraces and lush mountainsides. The Kalinga people are highlanders and rice farmers of the Cordillera peoples, having been blessed with some of best land for rice farming. They are also skilled craftspeople who are well-versed in basketry, loom weaving, metalsmithing, and pottery; and despite centuries of occupation by the Spaniards, Americans and Japanese, the Kalinga people have been able to preserve their vast, rich culture.

Made exclusively by Kalinga women, bangas were used for cooking, water, food storage and bartering. One daily task was to fetch water from the lowlands to the highlands. With a coiled piece “jikon” that is made from a straw plant “ligis” or a rolled cloth for support, the women stacked bangas filled with water on their heads.

Experience and skill determined how many pots they could balance on their heads, and the more pots they could stack, the higher their standing was within the community.

The Banga Dance is inspired by this daily routine. Stacked as many as seven or eight at a time, the pots are balanced on the heads of maidens as they trudge to the beat of the "gangsa" or wind chimes displaying their stamina and strength as they go about this daily task. One version of the dance, known as Banga Salidsid, starts with women balancing one pot, moving to the rhythm without wavering strength or agility. The dance becomes more complex with graceful arm movements and tip toeing in circular patterns. As the music crescendos, they remove the pots off their heads, contributing to one, tall stack in the center of a circle they’ve created. A chosen woman, typically a woman to be wed, kneels to the center and slowly hoists up the tall, heavy stack onto her head. She continues the dance, solo, showing off her poise and skill.

We designed the MAAARI Banga Collection as a testament to the Filipina spirit and a symbol for women everywhere who juggle every day challenges with strength and grace. Life: it’s a balancing act.

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