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Kristian Kabuay


Kristian Kabuay was born in the Philippines and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He spent his college years in the Philippines where he honed his knowledge about the native ancient writing system, Baybayin. Kristian is a self-taught artist influenced by calligraphy, graffiti, abstract art, indigenous culture, technology and Asian writing systems. 

As a leading authority for the propagation and instruction of the Philippine script, he developed a modern performance style of the writing system called Tulang Kalis (Poetry of the Sword) and introduced it as Filipino Calligraphy with a series of live demonstrations and lectures at the Asian Art Museum in October 2012. He has spoken at numerous schools and institutions such as Stanford University, UC Berkeley, Harvard University, University of the Philippines, National Anthropology Museum of Madrid, and Tokyo University. 

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Artistic Statement

My work explores pre- to post- Filipino culture in the diaspora. Using Baybayin, the nearly extinct indigenous Filipino writing system as a foundation, I incorporate and deconstruct calligraphy and graffiti methods. Didactic in nature, my works both entertain and instruct while exploring themes of identity, poverty, death, love, and duality. By blending the ancient script with contemporary aesthetics, my work bridges time and space, as well as challenges the necessity of economic value to prove our cultural heritage worthy of preserving.

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Currently based in San Francisco, Kristian has been tirelessly advocating a reawakening of the indigenous spirit through decolonization and Baybayin. Conscious of the role he plays, Kristian launched his own company around the script specializing custom art, translations, books and apparel. This lead to collaborations with t-shirt, hat and skateboard companies. Kristian completed a European tour of Paris, Madrid, London, and Brussels in July 2013 and is currently working on his 4th book, documentary and online school.

Why preFilipino/prePhilippine

When I internalized what Baybayin meant to me, I realized it was a gateway to our pre-colonial past and what it meant to be living in a post-colonial world. As a kid, it blew my mind when I learned about how we were named "Filipino". I also learned about the 1849 Clavería Decree where we were given last names for tax purposes. Since then, the name Filipino has always struck a chord with me. It's what we're known as. An umbrella term that also marginalized other indigenous cultures within the Philippines in favor of Manila/Tagalog based one. Instead of saying pre-colonial script, I coined the term PreFilipino script in 2011 to describe Baybayin as a social experiment. I recall getting funny looks and questions to explain what I meant by PreFilipino because they've always thought of us a Filipino. I've been making shirts since high school as a way to express ideas. I did get into that whole Sun & Stars but it became superficial. I wanted something deeper so I scrapped all the designs I knew that would sell and strictly used Baybayin and a PreFilipino lens when designing. While the design is important to me as an artist, the message is more important. It's my intention that people look at the apparel and dig deeper into their own history to live in the present and seed the future. Each piece has a story about the duality of the Pilipinx diaspora that may not always have answers but will definitely raise questions.

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