Despite facing discrimination and prejudice in Japan, the indigenous Ainu people have maintained their own culture and art. The Ainu have developed their art through their everyday life and it has its own unique value and beauty. Surprisingly, Ainu art has been largely ignored in Japan but has received attention in other countries such as the UK.
In this seminar, Toru Kaizawa, an Ainu artist, spoke about his passion for Ainu contemporary art and about his work which is on display at the Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries, the British Museum from September 2018. Professor Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere then explained why she values Ainu contemporary art and how Ainu traditional art still exists in modern life. Professor Simon Kaner explored the beauty of Ainu art from a historical perspective.
This seminar aims to raise awareness of Ainu contemporary art and has been organised in collaboration with various institutions, including Hokkaido University and the Sainsbury Institute.
A video of the seminar can be found here:
About the contributors
Toru Kaizawa is an Ainu artist. His great-grandfather, Utorentoku Kaizawa was one of the two artists renowned for their skill in the Meiji Era. Whilst valuing the traditions inherited from his great-grandfather, he combines them with his own techniques to create original Ainu art which expresses his own personality and ideas. Kaizawa has won numerous prizes, including the Hokkaido Ainu Traditional Crafts Exhibition Hokkaido Governor Prize. His work has been exhibited in Japan and abroad, including in the Royal Museum of Alberta, Canada, and the Royal Museum of Scotland. His work will be exhibited at the British Museum Japanese Culture Corner in 2018.
Professor Simon Kaner
Professor Simon Kaner is Executive Director and Head of the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage at the Sainsbury Institute and Director of the Centre for Japanese Studies at the University of East Anglia. He is an archaeologist specialising in the prehistory of Japan and he led the first British commercial archaeological tour to Japan in November 2012. His publications include The Power of Dogu: ceramic figures from ancient Japan (2009), which accompanied a major exhibition at the British Museum. Other works include Jomon Reflections: Forager Life and Culture in the Prehistoric Japanese Archipelago by Kobayashi Tatsuo (2005), which he adapted and edited with Nakamura Oki, and An Illustrated Companion to Japanese Archaeology (2016).
Professor Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere
Professor Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere is the founding Director of the Sainsbury Institute and Professor of Japanese Art and Culture at the University of East Anglia. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 1998. From summer 2011 she is Research Director of the Sainsbury Institute. She is currently seconded to the British Museum as IFAC Handa Curator of Japanese Art in the Department of Asia. Her translation of Tsuji Nobuo’s History of Art in Japan has been recently published by Tokyo University Press (2018).
Professor Hirofumi Kato
Professor Hirofumi Kato (Chair) is Professor of Archaeology at the Centre for Ainu and Indigenous Studies, Hokkaido University. He is also Affiliate Professor of Archaeology at the Department of Archaeology & Ancient History, University of Uppsala. He is currently Research Fellow of Oxford Centre of Asian Archaeology, Art and Culture, Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford.