A story about the land is a story of its people. Enfolded in the varied landscapes of the Philippine archipelago are communities that have remained rooted to place against great and unrelenting adversity: those whom we call “Indigenous.” From 2011 to 2020, Jacob Maentz paid visits to these communities to listen and learn from within, that is, from the people who have called these lands home since time immemorial.
What unfolds in Homelands is the photographic narrative of Jacob Maentz’s close and continuing collaboration with various Indigenous communities and groups who have been historically marginalized in the Philippines. Having lived in the archipelago since 2003, Maentz is ever mindful of the trust placed in him as honored guest, as well as the power of his position as an outsider. Needless to say, the stories and knowledge that these communities have chosen to share with Maentz have indelibly shaped his own journey of unlearning, inviting him to deeply reimagine the intimate, intricate, and inextricable relationships between place and people.
In a symposium of dialogues and essays, Homelands further reflects on Indigeneity as cultural identity, as rallying banner, and as multitudinous question. The text explores even as it introduces the diverse concerns of Indigenous communities: the importance of solidarity in the clash between self-interest and shared interests; the submerged history of political resistance; alternative education and Traditional Knowledge systems; food sovereignty; and the successes and challenges of reclaiming land recognition after centuries of colonization and modern development aggression. Finally, Homelands stands in support of Indigenous peoples as the environmental frontliners of the world: holding the line against irreversible ecological devastation. With his lens and his presence, Maentz listens to and holds space for those who have never left, and those who continue to fight to live.