The bustling streets of Metro Manila are vibrant, but most of the time, we see it as a fast paced and unforgiving jungle that drains us. But as we absent-mindedly look through the windows of our PUVs, on the rare happenstance, we will see art on those gray walls. One of which that you might see are KOOKOO RAMOS’ murals breathing in life to the streets here in the metro.
Anna Korina “Kookoo” Ramos is a multi-faceted Filipina graffiti artist that has graced countless of places with her artwork. Ranging from the gray walls of Ortigas to the heart of Bonifacio Global City, her murals embody the urban lifestyle of the country with a touch of feminine sensibilities. With graffiti having a masculine image, she flips the script of the art form while maintaining its freeing and rebellious nature. Arts and Kookoo are kismet. Her childhood was simply prepping her for the future that reads spraypaint and Manila’s urban jungle. “My younger years summed up my realization that I really want to pursue the visual arts.” She tells us. “When I was a kid, I think around 3 or 4 years old, I already had a glimpse of myself wanting to be an artist,” she continues. “I usually doodle on my sisters’ old notebooks once they leave our house going to school or draw on our wall using crayons. When I was in high school, I love projects and extra curricular activities that involved any form of art,” she sums up her childhood’s foreshadowing her artistry.
Drawing on her childhood walls with a crayon was replaced with a spray can in hand and a bigger wall too —the walls of Manila. Her university years paved her way to the world of street art. She started as a spectator. But one day in 2009 changed all of that. “I usually watch them and take photos of the painting. Finally one day in 2009, I picked up my own spray paint and started painting my own “piece” on a wall. From then on, I fell in love with it,” she reminisces.
Kookoo’s art is not constrained by a museum, and Manila became the canvas she chooses to work with everyday. “I find more potential and beauty in dirty, busy, noisy, old or abandoned public spaces,” she admits. “Maybe because I think the ‘charm’ of the community living in those kind of spaces are much more raw and stimulating. Also putting up art in busy spaces reaches more people during their everyday lives,” she further explains.
She fills the walls of the city with murals of beautiful women, capturing their essence and beauty as she highlights their vulnerability. She make sure that her art is felt. Her street art trashes the misconception of this nation that street art equates to mindless vandalism. Her art reminds people to feel and to appreciate the beauty found in the uncommon places. Kookoo was dubbed as one of the seven major players in the street art scene by in Art Radar Journal back in 2014. She’s also one of the female street artists from Southeast Asia that was invited to paint several streets in Singapore during the Revel Daughters Convention back in 2014 as well. It was first time to be out of the country. Recently, she’s featured in Globe’s Kaleidoscope Series. She eventually grew to the artist she’s meant to be.
“Before, I used to be conscious like ‘oh no, my art looks like this and that blah blah’ but apparently I realized, the more I get conscious, the more I get frustrated and it radiates in my output — my art feels stiff and awkward,” she shares her sentiments about her growth as an artist. “When I realized that, I let go and just let my ideas and visions flow naturally.” She reflects. She only has one thing to say for future artists that’ll take their vision into the busy streets of Manila. “Do not be intimidated and start doing rather than over thinking. We all have to start somewhere. Execution is really important,” is her heartfelt advice. This is to hoping that she continues to grace us with her murals that carry this soft rebellion of taking beauty in the gray walls of the city.
By Rogin Losa