Becoming Naburok

The artist.

Before there was Naburok, there was ‘Maburok’. Before that: Aleanah Joy De Jose. When she first realized that she wanted to create an Original Character (OC), Naburok’s mind turned to the dictionary rather than the drawing board: she needed to find the right adjective, a single, simple word that could encapsulate one’s character or essence. There she finally stumbled upon the Filipino word (“I wanted the word to be Tagalog”) ‘maburok’, meaning one with chubby cheeks. 

De Jose’s OC-creation did not end there, however, as she soon found that ‘maburok’ was no longer “original” where social media was concerned. The name had been taken up on Instagram and De Jose knew just how important it was that she defined and determined her own presence online. And so, Naburok was born. 

Although she now has a distinctive and active presence online, Naburok had begun as a traditional artist. She took to digital art when, as a student, she enrolled to a Multimedia Arts program. She learned the trade quickly but never forgot her roots; today, her practice synthesizes traditional and digital as she draws her studies and compositions digitally before transferring them onto a canvas. Naburok creates and inhabits an infinite world: its spaces, landscapes, interiors are modular, each one fitting the other like a jigsaw piece, regardless of orientation and order. Though a solitary world, her OC exists in multiple, roaming the intricate details of as they connect seamlessly in endless combinations. 

A distinct feature of Naburok’s of worldbuilding is her flat art style, which itself hearkens back to her childhood, growing up a fan of cartoons. Back then, she had found the process of building backgrounds tedious, but since transitioning to digital processes, she has grown fond of the challenge: “I learned how to love how backgrounds and elements bring story and movement to the whole composition and how my character interacts with them.” 

In Serious Play for Cartellino, Naburok’s ‘Embracing Memories’ and ‘I still like trains’ once again expand her jigsaw puzzle world. Although they are not diptychs, the two pieces can interlock with one another whether side by side or when stacked vertically. Still, they tell two stories individually, like two separate windows into Naburok’s life and character. The former is a reflection on the artist’s childhood hometown. “It brings back mostly happy memories, with a focus on small, joyful moments,” she says. There we find her old house and a sunflower—the first flower she tended to. “Even as I’ve grown and moved to a different house, I’m grateful to carry these memories with me.”

‘I still like trains’ similarly depicts something Naburok has cherished in spite of changes throughout various stages of her life: her essence. “The young me is still a part of who I am,” she continues. “I used to question whether it was too childish to still enjoy the same things I liked in my youth. Nowadays, I don’t overthink it.” Naburok still likes trains, even if she now sees them daily on her commute, and that’s made and continues to make all the difference in how she sees the world—like the colorful world she builds on and on: with a sense of comfort and belonging. 


Naburok joins BITTO, Cholo Cardenas, Rachel Anne Lacaba, Littlespaceboi, Angelica So, and Karyl Nerona in the group show Serious Play, which runs from November 7 to December 7.

About the artist

Naburok is both the artist name and character in a series of interconnected digital and traditional illustrations forming an enormous artwork. Naburok inhabits a world influenced by her experiences, preferences, imagination, and harmonious blend of geometric shapes, and spontaneity, resulting in a delightful imperfection. Throughout the illustrations, the artist’s passion for patterns and architectural structures is evident. She describes her creative process as a blend of careful planning and playfulness.