• BeaReyes


Updated: Oct 28, 2019

Today's feature on my blog will be a couple from Chicago: Genecer Villamater and Mike Fertig are creative artists and creators of Kayumanggi. 

Kayumanggi is a project that Gen and Mike have been working on. Kayumanggi is “Brown Skin” in Tagalog. They both agreed and said “We wanted to dedicate this project to all the halo-halos ( which means mix-mix in Tagalog) mixed breeds who never felt accepted or fit because they looked different the brown skin people who had titos and titas always felt the need to comment snd criticize the dark skin color and shoving the idea of skin whitening soaps.”

They are both inspired by the culture to showcase those filipinos who felt ashamed of their skin color and for those who are proud to be Filipino. Villamater stated that she has always been artistic since she was a child. She always sketched & hustled bootleg comic books and sold them to family members. Growing up as an only child, it has helped shape her to have the imagination she has today. Then around her teenage years and 20’s , she grew a deeper appreciate for street art.

According to Villamater, “I’ve always had the vision but just didn’t have the ability to create them. Then a mutual friend of ours set us ( Mike Fertig) up on a “blind date” and everything was just history. Not only did I meet someone to join forces with, an artist who can finally turn my vision and create magic with it but I legit gained my life partner.”

While Fertig has always loved to draw and when he was younger he would watch his older brother doodle away in a sketch book so he wanted to copy what his brother was doing. “It got so crazy that everything he was doing, I wanted to copy. Then everything I saw on tv I also wanted to draw and copy. I was heavily inspired by comics and video games, it then transitioned to learning how to draw anime at an early age. Also seeing a bunch of street art around my area, Bob Ross was also a big inspiration when I was kid”, Fertig stated.

For Villamater, being Filipina she is proud that as Filipinos we have the ability to transform nothing into something. She explained how someone can have 3 bites of food to their name but they manage to still always share what they have with others. She added, “I’m proud of how selfless we can be, always willing to help others out.”

Growing up as a young Brown girl in the 90’s was difficult for Villamater. She continued by expressing how it was hard to be able to look up to someone who you can find relatable to on television and magazines. She added on by saying that having a lighter complexion was also highly glorified in Filipino movies & media. “I then became a Mother to a little girl, I wanted her to embrace and love her beautiful brown skin. I always had this vision to inspire & uplift my Brothers and Sisters. When I met Mike in 2018, and realized we had the same beliefs & ideas it only made sense to join forces and create this brand. It just flowed organically”, Villamater said. 

On the other hand, Fertig loves being Filipino and the traditional attire of our people. He stated that there is nothing better than crossing the styles of both modern new to come up with something truly unique. 

What inspired Fertig to add Filipino flavor to their are was the appreciation he has for being a proud Filipino. “Our people (though it’s out there) are emerging into the art scene in a heavy way and I just want to contribute my appreciation for our culture by adding it into all of the the future artworks”, Fertig stated. 

Sometimes within the Filipino culture it is unfortunate how their beauty standards are not diverse. As a creative artists, they want to change that. Villamater believes that with the power of social media we have more resources now to connect with other Filipinos to discover, share, appreciate each other’s beauty and the to see the diversity of our people. “It was so rare for me growing up to be able to relate to someone who looked like me. Growing up amongst the Latinos and the Filipino kids I always stood out & never felt like I belonged anywhere.  Fast forward to present day, I get to meet tons and tons of people who look just like me. And just with this piece we put out, the best feedback we have gotten is reading comments like “I finally feel seen”. That is ultimately the objective of this project, to unite” The Chicago resident said. 

The picture that started Kayumanggi was such a one of a kind picture. Fertig said that it was all Gen’s (Villamater) vision that inspired the piece. He continued by stating how his inspiration came from Villamater’s  daughter as the subject wearing the traditional Maria Clara Gown and sneakers to represent the respects of tradition with a flare of personality. 

Fertig and Villamater started Kayumanggi as a project because they wanted to make a piece that showcased his illustration ability combined with her vision to create something that had a great meaning and value to both of them and delivered something that people can relate to. “We want to keep creating this kind of meaningful inspiring art style going for the future pieces of Kayumanggi to come” the Chicago residents said. 

A lot of fellow Filipinos liked and shared their picture on Instagram. Additionally a lot of them shared it. To know that so many can relate to the picture Fertig was touched because he has never done a piece that lead to emotion and being relatable. Most of his work in the past was never intended to touch people. “It was definitely an inspiring feeling to get such positive feedback from everyone. It has inspired me as an artist to do more art that have a significant value to people and myself. I’ve gained an even greater appreciation for my own Culture” Fertig explained. 

Aside from creating art & prints Villamatar and Fertig want to transform their art into apparel. They are both heavily into streetwear so their ultimate goal is to fuse the two down the line.

But most importantly they want their pieces to inspire the youth, to be proud of their roots and to never forget about our heritage. They both proudly stated, “We want the older generations to feel the nostalgia and bring them back memories. Every piece has a meaningful message behind it, whether you are Filipino or not we hope someone can take something meaningful from it.”

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