Friday, 16 December 2016

"The Dolls of Japan" Exhibition

During my last walk I finally managed to check out this beautiful traveling exhibition sponsored by the Japan Foundation dedicated to Japanese dolls as artifacts and extraordinary pieces of culture.
Walking throught the exhibition, I had the impression of the pieces being placed kinda randomly, so I'll follow the presentation of the catalogue and my own tastes rather than the actual display.

So, let's start with the dolls that are part of spiritual, more than cultural traditions.
The first contribution is dedicated to the Hina Ningyo, the dolls for the Hina Matsuri, usually known as the "Festival of Girls", celebrated on March 3 with huge exhibitions of a whole cast of dolls featuring a married couple and their servants, symbolizing a happy household and a nice future for daughters.

The dolls featured at the exhibition were dressed as the Imperial family of Heian period.

Right next to it, are the dolls dedicated to the Tango no Sekku ("Festival of Flags"), celebrated on May 5 and dedicated to the boys.
Besides many other symbols, in recent times it also started to feature statues of Japanes heroes, as to wish the boys a similar fate filled with heroic deeds.

Here you can see the standard display for a Gogatsu Ningyo featuring a young samurai during his uijin, his first battle , and a doll inspired to the hero Kintaro.

Next are the dolls inspired by the cultural traditions of Japan.
We start with the No Ningyo, dedicated to the characters and pieces of traditional theatre.

Right after No is Bunraku, classical puppet theatre, with its Bunraku Ningyo, used during the shows.

Oyama Ningyo, with their beautiful clothes and poses are inspired to the scenes and heroines of popular Kabuki plays.



Here are the peculiar Oshie Hagoita, pieces of arts rather than dolls, designs affixed to the hagoita, wooden plates used to play hanetsuki, a Japanese counterpart of badminton.

The detail above features Tatsugoro, the chief of Edo fire fighters.

Ichimatsu Ningyo are realistic dolls portraying children.
Their name and features come from Kabuki actor Sanogawa Ichimatsu, who was specialized in those kind of roles.
Above you can see the reproduction of the piece given to the USA during the exchange of dolls as a sign of friendship on 1927.

Next is the dolls coming from areas with a tradition of doll-making.
So we start with Kyoto and its Kyo Ningyo, characterized by stunning clothes with amazing details and embroidery.


Then it's the turn of the Hakata Ningyo, clay dolls native of Kyushu, with their beautiful, vivid colours.



Then it's the turn of traditional and popular artcrafts in the form of dolls.
It's impossible to not start with the Kokeshi Ningyo!

Above you can see examples of traditional and creative kokeshi. The first were first manufactured in Northeast regions, spreading throught the nation during Edo period; the second display freedom of interpretation from the individual artists and were produced after World War II.

Kimegomi Ningyo are wooden dolls with actual fabric pasted on their surface. The final effect is quite refined.
Above you can see a courtlady reading poems.

Gosho Ningyo, or "Imperial Palace Dolls" feature little, chubby children with pure white skin and big heads doing kid's stuff.
Above you see a little child crawling in awe.

Of course, dolls featuring children doing what children do are quite popular, and often associated to Japanese culture.
In the picture above you can see one of them: it's a children portraying a character of a famous Kabuki play featuring a careless servant.

In the end, a large section was dedicated to dolls crafted by modern artists.

I picked two touching examples of "dolls playing with dolls" to place the accent on the mix of creativity and tradition and how the market for such pieces is still busy and highly rated.

The exhibition is free to access and the pieces are truly beautiful, so I highly suggest you to take a peek!

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