Storytelling for nature
“Photographer, whale dreamer, rainbow warrior, wall painter, garbage collector, long-distance walker, art teacher, baybayin teacher, biker, and globe trotter,” these are the names A.G. Saño uses to describe himself on his Instagram biography. Scroll through his feed, and you’ll find that all of these names ring true. Saño’s page is colored by previews of his work - rainbow-colored pedestrian lanes, customized sneakers, large murals, environmental photographs.
But, in all that he creates, it seems as if the artist consistently assumes one role. Above all, he is a storyteller for nature.
Mixing art and advocacy
It was Saño’s multidisciplinary nature that led him to create environmental art. In 2010, he mixed his art and advocacy by using his practice of painting murals to respond to an environmental threat.
“After watching the documentary film THE COVE, I found myself in grief and it was instinctive for me to paint a mural about the dolphins,” shares Saño. The 2009 documentary centered on the slaughter of dolphins in a cove in Taiji, Japan.
This revelation eventually birthed a campaign whose premise was simple yet impactful - for every dolphin in captivity, one dolphin would be painted. Sure enough, the campaign spoke to people, attracting hundreds of thousands of volunteers internationally and leading to the painting of 35,000 dolphins across 16 countries.
“The community mural sessions [even] became popular for schools, NGOs. LGUs and other institutions for environmental awareness campaigns,” shares the muralist.
In another project of Saño, he painted Filipina heroes and a Philippine Carabao on the Pre-War Water Towers in Barangay Socorro, Quezon City.
Zooming into climate change
In 2013, Saño's environmental art became more centered on climate change, following a firsthand experience of its effects.
“Being an environmental muralist and climate advocate at the same time, climate change art was an obvious subject for me to tackle,” says Sano. “But the beginning of the journey was when I lost a friend in Tacloban during the Yolanda super typhoon,” says Saño.
Following the catastrophic typhoon, Saño decided to shift his storytelling into “the great call of the vulnerable people on the ground.” His art became bolder and louder.
Whichever wall was painted on, his art would draw attention to how climate change poses a real danger and affects real people, especially in vulnerable countries like the Philippines.
While the Paris Agreement was about to be signed in 2015, Saño created art with other advocates on the streets of the French capital. Most notably, he painted a mural of his good friend Agit, who unfortunately lost his life in the Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Art, after all, can be an effective form of activism. And from dolphin mural campaigns to climate change art, Saño’s work and its outcomes are a testament to this ability of art - its ability to spark change, to inspire action, and to garner community support. Artistic work can tell stories, ones that emotionally draw people and cause them to listen.
Looking to the future
Artistic storytelling is something Saño shows no intention of halting, and his future plans include creating using various disciplines.
He’s planning to create print art from recycled paper, produce environmental murals locally and internationally, draw illustrations for a storybook, and finish setting up his website.
“[It’s] all for the sake of storytelling for nature,” Saño shares.
To tell a story worth listening to and to speak what cannot speak for itself, these are difficult yet crucial tasks. But Saño takes up the challenge in the many, many ways he knows how.
Check this: Saño shared a coloring book scan he created using Rocketbook. You can download it here.
by Danielle Ramos