with the patronage of

Logo du Club entreprises 2012/2013

The Philippines, Archipelago of exchange

Affiche de l'exposition Philippines, archipel des échanges © musée du quai Branly - Click to enlarge, open in a new window

from Tuesday 9th April to Sunday 24th July 2013

  • Garden Gallery
  • Temporary-exhibition ticket and twin ticket


  • Constance de Monbrison, curator for Insular Southeast Asia collections at the musée du quai Branly
  • Corazon Alvina, anthropologist

Events related to the exhibition 

visits, catalogue and events related to the exhibition 

About the exhibition

The exhibition gathers a selection of unique works of art from the Philippines, chosen from public collections in the Philippines, America and Europe as well as from private collections.

The Philippine archipelago includes more than 7000 islands and stretches over nearly 1700 km. The geographical and historical situation of its people has generated strong and varied forms of artistic expression in the natural environment of the monsoon regions of Asia.

Two visions exist, fashioned by the geography of the archipelago: one is turned towards the mountains, the other looks out to the sea. This double vision sets the tone for this exhibition, which focuses on a civilisation underpinned by the notion of exchange. Exchange is understood as an object which is given and received, which is meant to be seen and presupposes a relationship with the other. Whether symbolic or commercial, exchange creates relationships between visible or invisible beings.

This exhibition, containing more than 300 works, is the first major exhibition in France in the last twenty years devoted to the archipelago of the Philippines.

Exhibition overview

Carte des Philippines. - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Map of the Philippines, click to enlarge.

Unknown in France, Philippine art is rarely exhibited in its full breadth and diversity. With these unique objects, imbued with meaning, the exhibition pays homage to various forms of artistic expression (sculpture, weaving, music and saga); it is an invitation to discover complex cultures, some of them ahistorical, based on reciprocity.

The history of the settlement and conquest of the Philippines by the Austronesians around 3500 B.C. is told using a map and a chronological display.

The age and dynamism of the maritime routes in the South China Sea are explored. These date from the prehistoric epoch onward and were exploited by the Nusantao, the Sama, the Luzones and the Bugis who opened up new commercial routes over the course of time.

At the heart of the highlands: Austronesian footprints

Divinité du riz bulul porteur de coupe, 15e siècle, vallée de Cagayn, population Ifugao, bois de narra, patine sacrificielle. Inv. 70.1999.4.1 © musée du quai Branly, photo Hughes Dubois. - Click to enlarge, open in a new window

 - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Bulul rice divinity cup bearer, 15th century, Cagayn valley, Ifugao population, narra wood, sacrificial patina. Inv. 70.1999.4.1 © musée du quai Branly, photograph Hughes Dubois

The first part of the exhibition will be dedicated to the imprint of the Austronesian world in the art of the highlands of the north of Luzon and Mindanao. It is within these societies where prestige, demonstrations of wealth and the promotion of warrior feats are so important, that these works of art are born.

Illustrating the communion between Man and Nature, this section interrogates the forms of creation that ensure continuity and balance between the different worlds (the world above, the intermediate world, or limbo, and the underworld). Man's history is expressed through the circulation of the objects that is the consequence of exchanges between individuals.

The Island of Luzon: arts of the cordillera

The Ifugao, Bontoc, Gadang, Tinggian, Kalinga, Isneg and Ilongot form a mosaic of linguistic groups living in the Cordillera in the north of Luzon, between the mountains and valleys where spectacular rice-fields cling to the contours of the mountainous landscape. The exhibition opens with these rice-based societies and their artistic expressions.

The themes examined here are: Būlul, the rice divinities; The universe of the Mumbaki; Being Kadangyan ; The refinement of the everyday; Personal ornaments; Becoming a Man.

Weaving the strands (basketry)

A "voyage through basketry" leads the visitor from the north to the south, successively presenting the perfection or strangeness of the forms displayed. 

Mindanao highlands: The metamorphosis of the warrior into a hero

This section is dedicated to the textiles, costumes and personal ornaments of the warrior. In Bagobo mythology, the wearing of a resplendent garment metamorphoses the character and identity of the wearer: the warrior is transformed into Malaki (a mythological hero).

Armure et chapeau probablement d'origine arabe et inspirés à la fois de la cuirasse et de la cotte de mailles. Fin 19e siècle, population bagobo, Davao Oriental. Résine, coquilles de cauris, sparterie © musée du quai Branly, photo Claude Germain. Ensemble restauré grâce au soutien de Monsieur David Lebard, bienfaiteur de la société des Amis du musée. - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Armour and helmet, probably of Arabic origin and inspired both by the breastplate and the mail shirt. Late 19th century, Bagobo population, eastern Davao. Resin, cowrie shell,
 - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Wickerwork © musée du quai Branly, photograph Claude Germain. Restored thanks to the support of David Lebard, benefactor of the society of Friends of the Museum.

At the heart of a maritime network

Au retour de la cueillette, femmes et enfants rentrent à la maison, Palawan © Pierre de Vallombreuse - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Returning from gathering, women and children going home, Palawan © Pierre de Vallombreuse

Here we leave the ahistorical area to discover the history of the maritime routes and commercial exchanges, both over long distance and by cabotage. The Indian, Indonesian and Arab influences on the objects presented are highlighted.

the island of palawan: hunting and offering

The objects belonging to the hunters and the offerings are associated with a display of contemporary photographs which shows the hunters using their weapons while moving through the hot atmosphere of the forest.

Paire d'embouts de ceinture-corde, trésor de Surigao, Xe-XIIIe siècle, nord-est de Mindanao, province Surigao del Sur. Or © photo Neal Oshima. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Manille - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Pair of belt cord ends, treasure of Surigao, 10th-13th century, north-east Mindanao, Surigao del Sur province. Gold © photograph Neal Oshima. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Manilla
Ceinture royale kandit, trésor de Surigao Xe-XIIIe siècle, nord-est de Mindanao, province Surigao del Sur. Or © photo Neal Oshima. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Manille - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Royal Kandit belt, treasure of Surigao, 10th-13th century, north-east Mindanao, Surigao del Sur province. Gold © photograph Neal Oshima. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Manilla


The influence of the sultanates (Mindanao and Sulu)

This section presents the penetration of Indian and Indonesian influences with patterns of patola, mandalas, tumpals and the tree of life. The vitalism of the forms borrowed from this tradition (flower buds, birds, branches etc.) is reflected in the surface of the objects.

The Golden Age of the cities

The Golden Age of the ports of the archipelago is presented through the treasures of Surigao, of Butuan etc., with the emphasis placed on the extraordinary technical expertise achieved in gold working, and an examination of the virtues associated with this powerful metal.

Archaeology: the funerary objects

The objects displayed include jars from the first and second funeral rites, and the objects found in these jars (gold, celadons, cornelian,glass and jade jewellery) which indicate early commerce. In addition to the affecting beauty of these works, this section explains the technical progress and history of these sites.

Exhibition media partners