Arts Exhibition: Ainu Treasures: A Living Tradition in Northern Japan

January 20, 2013 - May 5, 2013
Mānoa Campus, East-West Center Gallery, John A. Burns Hall

The Ainu are an indigenous people of Japan. “Ainu” means “human” in the Ainu language. They once inhabited northern Honshu (Japan’s largest island), Hokkaido, southern Sakhalin, and the Kurile Islands. Most Ainu now live in Hokkaido, with a limited number in Tokyo, in other parts of Japan, and abroad.

In recent decades, indigenous people throughout the world have taken the initiative to revive their traditional cultures and the Ainu are no exception. One of the examples of such an attempt is a project for Ainu artists to make replicas of Ainu artifacts owned by various museums. This activity is helpful for the Ainu people to regain what has been lost and integrate the traditional skills of ancestors into contemporary works. Moreover, these new cultural resources inspire both innovation and creativity among Ainu artists.

This exhibition features modern Ainu masterpieces and reproductions of Ainu artifacts held by Hokkaido University’s Botanic Garden Museum; early 20th century Ainu handicrafts from the Bishop Museum in Honolulu; historic and contemporary photographs of Ainu craftsmen; and video clips showing historical and social context.

Curator: Michael Schuster
Guest Curator, Photographer: Koji Yamasaki
Additional research: Masaru Kato, Nanako Iwasa, Vincent Mitsuharu Okada
Exhibit design: Lynne Najita,Michael Schuster
Guest visual artists and lecturers: Toru Kaizawa, Jirota Kitahara
Guest performers: Oki, Marewrew, Shusei Toko, Ikuo Yamamaru

The Ainu Treasures project was made possible by generous support from The Japan Foundation and Hawaiian Airlines.

Additional support provided by the Hawaii Pacific Rim Society, Friends of Hawaii Charities, Honolulu Festival, The Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture, The Ainu Association of Hokkaido, and contributors to the EWC Foundation, including members of the EWC Arts ‘Ohana.

Event Sponsor
Arts Program, East-West Center, Mānoa Campus

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