Anafe Nemenzo’s humans and mandalas

Anafe Nemenzo. (Photo courtesy of the artist herself)

She calls herself as sexy artist. In fact, she is. And Anafe O. Nemenzo shows her “sexiness” through her works, since those art pieces are always rendered in full, vivid colors.

To be honest, this isn’t the first time that I wrote about Anafe. In fact, I have featured her in a magazine that I edit and my only reference about her is a simple, one-page resume that has her picture and pictures of some her works on it. And I have to admit, I fell in love with the works of this artist who hails from the southern part of Metro Manila but now living in the Province of Cavite.

Images of Human Beings

One of the most glaring features of her work is that it focuses on people—a group of people, moving people, an individual person. It is actually the recurring theme in all of her works, thus giving me an impression that Anafe has this fascination, not only on human figures, but to the subject itself—a species called “human beings.”

She often paints about people, their activities, and of course, their stories.

And I realized, why not? Besides, human beings are one of the most intricate and most mysterious creatures of nature. Human origin has been the subject of lots of discussions—and debates—in science, and it also takes the center stage in the creation myth.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth,[1]” says the Bible, in the first chapter of the Genesis, the book allegedly written by Moses himself.

Based on the biblical “accounts,” human beings were created by God—man, Adam, was made out of clay, while Eve was made out of flesh and bone of Adam, hence the term, woman.[2]

Anafe Nemenzo 2
Anafe working on her painting resembling a mandala, a sacred art among Eastern religions.

In the Philippines, indigenous groups have their way of narrating how human beings came to existence.

Ancient Tagalogs believe that the inhabitants of the group of islands that will be known as the Philippines in the future came from a single piece of bamboo. Out of the bamboo came a man (Malakas) and a woman (Maganda).[3] However, among the Igorots, human beings were from reeds, transformed by the power of Lumawig, the Mighty Spirit.[4]

The B’laan people in Mindanao also have their own story on how people came to be. The story said that we are made of wax, fashioned by Melu, Fiuweigh, Diwata, and Saweigh.[5]

And because human beings were created by divine beings, they have a direct a relation to them, at least in the Visayan myths of creation.

“As in the case of the previous myth, there are a number of details which may not easily be accounted for by logical reason. We do not know for instance what was the manner of the skywoman’s sickness (although we are at least given a hint of the kind of remedy suggested: laying her inside a trough scooped around the roots of the wild balete which is reminiscent of a very common ancient belief, namely, of recovering strength through contact with Earth (D1778; D1833; G221.2). We are not told who created the sky-people, nor the sky, the sky-tree, and the tree under the primordial waters and the ground in which it was rooted. These and a thousand other details tease the logical mind. It would be fatuous to find answers to all these questions. The primitive mind prefers to leave them unasked and unanswered. No matter. The abiding truth is what myth is at pains to convey: there is an affinity between the earthdwellers and the people who inhabit the sky: they are blood relations; the animals are benefactors of mankind since the very beginning. The ducks saved man’s ancestress from drowning, the Toad secured the dirt for the building of the earth to be her and their home, and even today the back of Big Turtle is the support of the wide earth,” wrote the late Jesuit priest, a well-known folklorist, and a professor at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao, Francisco Demetrio, S.J. in 1968.[6] (Emphasis made by this author)

But because the Philippines now predominantly Christian, Filipinos believe human beings were created by Jehovah or Yahweh of the Bible, and they were of course, Adam and Eve. We are God’s ultimate creation and that is the very reason why, at least to my opinion, we were created the last. Moreover, we also share that breath of God, that Spirit, which made us somehow divine,[7] just like all other beings if you believe in the principle of Anima Mundi.

On the other hand, science has a different theory about the human origin, and it is far more complex than that of the aforementioned myths.

For scientists, our ancestors were the ancient monkeys, and our present form is but a result of a lengthy and tedious evolution, which took more or less six million years (6,000,000) to complete.[8]

Perhaps, Mother Nature herself has been very, very careful in creating one of the most complex and intricate, and sometimes, most unbelievable beings on earth—us, human beings.

A visual storytelling and a medium of “happiness”

Anafe’s work reminiscent of a Buddhist or Hindu Mandala

And when she paints, she paints about human activities—people having their good time; people who are working; a dancing doing some “moves.”

She paints about diversity, and perhaps, this is because she considers herself as “different” from others, that she has this strong desire to create something beautiful and colorful.

“Since I was in grade school, I find myself different from others. I am happy just being with the pencil and pad paper, while my classmates enjoying in the playground. I used to draw on leaves, on the sand, on walls even on water by dropping the melted crayon on it. Back then, of course, I don’t know about materials like canvases and paints, that’s why I am experimenting,” she said.

Five to 10 years from now, hope that I would have my own gallery-café. I love coffee! Besides that, I want the artist to have a room, or let’s say a home for them and for their painting so that they can show to other people how lovely their works are. I want to help, especially the budding artists that time, to have their own show. I believe that every artwork should have a better place to get displayed and be appreciated. For my fans out there, thank you for reading this. Just keep painting! Follow your passion and always look at the brighter side of things. Don’t give up because God created you as you. You are uniquely made, coupled with talent. Use it for good. But keep in mind that you should “paint with your heart.” Thank you!


Being closely connected to her environment, inspiration swells within her as she observes what’s happening in her milieu.

Finding some inspiration is not difficult for me… they are just around. All I have to do is to be observant. My heart and hand are connected, and act like one. Whatever my heart tells me, I just follow it,” said Anafe in a Facebook messenger chat.

But Anafe does not only paint about human beings in the move; she also paints about their stories. They were ingrained in each line, each color, each shadow, each movement and stillness of the individual and collective images that appear on her canvas.

When I’m creating my piece, there’s a hugot[9] in it. Looking at them (my paintings), you will see jolly, happy, colorful and detailed images but actually, there’s story behind them. It’s more of my own experiences and the experiences of other people. It is a celebration of their strength amid their struggles in life. It’s my way of giving hope to others, of making my audience happy, if not inspired,” shares Anafe.

Anafe’s Mandala

Aside from people, one of her unique pieces is her colorful mandala—which is actually a map of the development and the evolution of human consciousness or spirituality.

In the Eastern traditions like Buddhism and Hinduism, the mandala plays a very important role in healing one’s body, mind, and soul. Mandalas serve as a tool for attaining compassion and wisdom. It serves as a platform for the elevation of consciousness as for one who meditate in them.[10]

“In the many traditions where mandalas are used, there are different rites where the practitioner, at least metaphorically, establishes a dialogue with the symbol or deity at the core of the mandala by moving progressively from the outside towards the centre. Once within the centre, the practitioner connects with the central symbol or deity and he or she is able to perceive all manifestations as part of a single underlying whole and gets closer to the goal of enlightenment or perfect understanding,” explains Cristian Violatti in an entry for the Ancient History™ Encyclopedia.[11]

For the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung, the mandala is the geographical representation of what mystics and occultists call the “Higher Self.”[12] It also signifies, according to Jung, the occurrence where the ego is being unified with the thing he calls “psychic wholeness.”[13]

I do not know if she knows this or not, but her mandala painting is actually aligned with her philosophy of “bringing happiness and hope” to her audience and to the world through her artworks.

As she said in her Facebook chat with me:

Anafe Nemenzo is sexy, charo[14]t! Maybe it’s safe to say that I’m an artist who paints uniquely from the story of  life, creating art pieces that can bring positive vibes to those who see it, and hoping that the story behind the colorful images will give some hope to those who appreciate it.

This, as per my personal belief, is the real essence of a painting—to uplift the spirit of the viewer, to make her appreciate more the beauty and enigma of life, and of course, to learn a thing or two from the messages that the painting or a series of paintings wanted to convey.

As Pablo Picasso puts it:

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”[15]

She considers the General Santos City native, Emmanuel Nim and performance and visual artist Sam Penaso as her “idols” for they have “crazy minds and humble hearts.”

“Many painters and paintings inspire me, but I look at the artist’s attitude and heart,” she quips.

Other note 

To cap it off, the works of Anafe O. Nemenzo, at least for me, is admirable and important, not only because of its aesthetics (her style, which is a combination of pattern and decoration (an art movement that grew in the United States during the mid-1970s to the early 1980s) and the avant-garde movement of the 19th century, doing it with her own style, reminiscent of abstract imagists of the United States of the 1960s) but the values and the philosophy behind the work.

Though it can be considered as a total cliché, Anafe’s works are not made out of mere impulse, or a creative spur, but it was made with a specific goal in mind—to inspire and to make some positive influence to her audience. And this is what caught me.

Many may raise their eyebrows, but the recognition and the accolades that this young lass received because of her work are enough proof that she deserves to be in the roster of real artists of the Philippines who work more with her heart and soul than her hands. As she has already said, her hands are just the extension of her heart.

In the coming days, we will be hunger for more works like this as the world nowadays needs more work of art that are positive and can bring healing, for the humanity is terribly wounded. And you know the reasons why.


[1] Genesis 1: 26 – 28, American Standard Version

[2] Cf. Genesis 2: 7, 21 – 23

[3] D. L. Ashliman, “Creation Myths from the Philippines,” January 8, 2003, (accessed July 27, 2017)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Francisco R. Demetrio, S.J. “Creation Myths among the Early Filipinos,” Asian Ethnology 27, No. 1 (1969), 41 – 79, PDF, (accessed July 28, 2017)

[7] “Aaron,” “The Principle of Essential Divinity,” undated, (accessed July 28, 2017)

[8] The Smithsonian Institute, “Introduction to Human Evolution,” May 24, 2017, (accessed July 28, 2017)

[9] Hugot is a Tagalog term which speaks of underlying emotion or opinion of, or on, something.

[10] “Tibetan Healing Mandala,” undated, (accessed July 28, 2017)

[11] Cristian Violatti, “Mandala,” September 7, 2013, (accessed July 28, 2017)

[12] Carl Jung Resources, “Jung and Mandala,” 2017, (accessed July 28, 2017).

[13] Ibid.

[14] Charot is a Filipino gay lingo which means “joke” or “just kidding.”

[15], 2009


One Comment Add yours

  1. Bill Chance says:

    What a cool and interesting artist. Thanks for sharing.


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