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Assembling Personal Narrative (activity)

Native Song

Native Song, 1999. By Santiago Bose (1949-2002). Oil on canvas with mixed media and color process prints on paper. Gift of Malou Babilonia, 2007.80

Map of Southeast Asia

Map of Southeast Asia

Native Song
Map of Southeast Asia

Students will: 1.) Observe and discuss how artist Santiago Bose uses cultural symbols and artistic methods as post-colonial critique. 2.) Create an assemblage using found objects that conveys their personal identities. 3.) Interview a family member to uncover a photograph or symbol that recalls their heritage and include this in their assemblages. 4.) Write a first person narrative telling a story about their assemblages.

Common Core Standards: W4-5.8: Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; summarize or paraphrase information in notes and finished work, and provide a list of sources. W 6-12.10: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Content Standards (California): HSS 10.4: Students analyze patterns of global change in the era of New Imperialism in at least two of the following regions or countries: Africa, Southeast Asia, China, India, Latin America, and the Philippines. HSS 11.4: Students trace the rise of the United States to its role as a world power in the twentieth century. VPA/VA 5.2.7: Communicate values, opinions, or personal insights through an original work of art. VPA/VA 9-12.1.5: Analyze the material used by a given artist and describe how its use influences the meaning of the work. VPA/VA9-12.4.1: Articulate how personal beliefs, cultural traditions, and current social, economic, and political contexts influence the interpretation of the meaning or message in a work of art.

Materials: Artwork: Native Song; Other: small box; frame (small wooden frames from IKEA); personal photographs; personal objects; magazines and newspapers; glue; paper; scissors

Overview: Artist Santiago Bose addresses themes of colonialism and nationalism in his mixed-media works. In Native Song, he surrounds images of Filippino soldiers from the Phillippine-American War with covers from popular Filipino musical scores. Then, he layers a hand, knife, cross, and symbols and text on the photograph, recalling Spanish colonization.


  1. Discuss Santiago Bose’s Native Song with your students:
    • Observe and Describe: Have students look at Native Song for at least one minute. Ask: What do you notice?
    • Interpret: This artwork combines images of two soldiers from the Philippine-American War, alongside text in the indigenous language and a cross recalling the colonization of the Philippines by Spain. Ask: What do these images mean to you? What do you think they might have meant to the artist? Have students support their interpretations with evidence.
    • Draw a Conclusion: Santiago Bose used inexpensive, local materials and found objects as part of his social criticism. Ask: What message do you think he was trying to convey?
    • Connect: Santiago Bose used art as a way to criticize the colonization of the Philippines by the Spanish and the United States, and as a statement against traditional western ideals that were defining the global contemporary art movement. Ask: Have you ever felt like you were judged based on another culture’s criteria or values? Explain.
      • Have students interview a family member to uncover a photograph, symbol, or memory that reflects your heritage.
      • Then, have students create an assemblage using found objects that illustrates their ultural identity. They may use family photographs, meaningful symbols and objects, text, and at least one found object.
      • Finally, have students write a narrative in the first person, telling the story conveyed in their assemblage.

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