Anchorage Museum exhibition explores the deeply spiritual culture of the indigenous people of Japan
September 24, 2007
"Ainu Ramati (Soul of the Ainu): Art and Craft of Northern Japan"
On view Oct. 7 through Dec. 16
Opening reception 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7
The Anchorage Museum presents "Ainu Ramati (Soul of the Ainu): Art and Craft of Northern Japan" Oct. 7 through Dec. 16 with an opening reception from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7. The Ainu are known as the indigenous people of Japan. In the mid-1400s, the Japanese extended their influence over the northern island of Hokkaido where the Ainu lived, and the Ainu waged and lost major battles throughout the ensuing centuries. After the Battle of Kunashiri-Menashi in 1789, the Ainu fell completely under the control of the Japanese. Under the government policy of assimilation and given the status of aborigines, they were prohibited from following their traditional lifestyle. In the late Meiji era at the turn of the 20th century, discrimination replaced oppression and remains today.
Despite their troubled history, the Ainu have maintained their language and culture, which has much in common with traditional eastern Siberian and Alaska ethnic groups. This people of this intensely spiritual culture believe gods and man exist in a relationship of mutual assistance and that gods disguise themselves as humans, animals and plants to help humans. The exhibition "Ainu Ramati (Soul of the Ainu): Art and Craft of Northern Japan" showcases 90 art and craft pieces reflecting these influences in both older and contemporary examples of Ainu life. The exhibition features kimonos, tools, jewelry and woven heirloom sword hangars. Powerful graphics and scrolling designs adorn clothing and characterize wood carving. The basketry and mat-making on view in this exhibition is similar to many Yupik styles of weaving.
To the Ainu animals, especially bears, are intimately linked with nature and are particularly important in the culture's complex religious rituals. This is beautifully depicted in this exhibition in a number of carvings of bears and owls. Also on display are elaborately decorated wood carved bowls, dishes, platters, special offering and ceremonial sticks, ikupasuy (libation sticks), men's pipes with tobacco containers and knives.
"Ainu Ramati"offers an intriguing look at a resilient and deeply spiritual people and their fascinating culture. For more information, call 343-4326.