How This Filipino-Made Rattan Chair Emerged As A Pop Culture Symbol To A Movement Figure

How This Filipino-Made Rattan Chair Emerged As A Pop Culture Symbol To A Movement Figure


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What may seem like a regular rattan chair from the Philippines, actually gave birth to a massive pop-culture symbol.

Rattan chairs offer a variety of styles, but there’s this one that captured the hearts of many— the “Peacock” chair.

Produced in Bilibid Prison, this iconic chair was first seen in a photograph from 1914 named “Jail Bird In A Peacock Chair” where a mother posed with a child on her lap.

This furniture is often described as “elegant”, “picturesque” and “majestic” when in fact, it was actually first seen with a mother who was allegedly in Bilibid Prison for killing her husband.

The nameless convict did not share royal blood nor was exactly powerful, but sitting on what seems like a throne of a chair made her.

Since then, the furniture had applied its versatility in various industries that you might be curious as to how it ended up influencing different sides of the spectrums.

It may sound like a reach, but it did.

The wicker chair first paved its way into the interior design field, benefiting the residents with its built that reduced indoor humidity. Hence the “Bringing Summer Into The House” feature by Sarah Leyburn Coe.

This styling tip remains observed by many Filipinos up until now, over a hundred years later.

Moreover, the wicker material dominated the game and was utilized to practically everywhere there can be sat on— from airplanes to resort hotels to baby carriages, and even wheelchairs!

Next is being a portrait photography prop.

Since it’s been known that the material reduces humidity, photographers back then figured that using wicker would be less of a hassle to their subjects that were exposed under harsh lightings.

Apart from lessening the warmness in the studio, the chair is also portable, lightweight and breathable, giving more comfort to the models.

The following industry that this furniture has infiltrated is pretty exciting to talk about— media.

Media cover vast scopes so we’re not just talking about the traditional media; we’re talking about music artists and U.S. Presidents posing with it.

But we’ll get to that.

Back in the ’60s, well-known people like movie stars, writers, politicians, and artists started joining in on the trend.

Due to its regal aesthetic, artists from different eras have had their photos taken with it to the point that it has become a visual message to generate propaganda.

In 1979, the Funkadelic’s “Uncle Jam Wants You” was released, along with its album cover that pays homage to two things: the “Uncle Jam Wants You” U.S. Army recruitment poster and the photo of Black Panther Co-founder Huey Newton sitting on the “Peacock” chair.

On the other hand, this rattan chair exudes polarising vibes— regal and grounded.

While commoners who posed with it transformed into someone with authority, some politicians who did it made them seem more approachable and down-to-earth.

From a mundane mother and child photo to being a symbol of reform, the “Peacock” chair goes to show that the most memorable things come organically.

So next time you take a photo, think how impactful it might be in the future.

Photo Credit: Vox Earworm Facebook Page

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