Mon | May 27, 2019

National Museum Jamaica unveils Dolls of Japan exhibition

Published:Monday | April 15, 2019 | 12:07 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter
Renardo Reid browses the various dolls in the Kimekomi Ningyo “Wooden dolls dressed in kimono” display section of the Dolls of Japan exhibition at the National Museum. In the foreground stands the  “Shirabe: Melody” doll a figure of a young girl in ancient costume who is about to play the Biwa, a four-stringed Japanese lute.
Renardo Reid browses the various dolls in the Kimekomi Ningyo “Wooden dolls dressed in kimono” display section of the Dolls of Japan exhibition at the National Museum. In the foreground stands the “Shirabe: Melody” doll a figure of a young girl in ancient costume who is about to play the Biwa, a four-stringed Japanese lute.

To enhance others’ understanding of Japanese arts and culture, the Japan Foundation collaborates with overseas museums on a wide range of exhibitions, from traditional to contemporary arts. They have collaborated with the National Museum Jamaica, located at the Institute of Jamaica, on East Street in Kingston, to mount an elegant exhibition of dolls from April 12 until June 28. And assistant curator, Jerome Nelson, said that Jamaican children and adults alike can visit and enjoy.

“The Dolls of Japan exhibit, as would a travelling exhibit from any country, facilitates intercultural dialogue and exchange between individuals or organisations from different backgrounds. As a cultural agency, the Institute of Jamaica is sensitive to the educational needs of Jamaicans, and exhibitions, in this case, that of Japanese dolls, provide an alternative learning experience. Exhibitions like this, allow Jamaicans to develop a broader understanding of other cultures and the many wonderful customs that the human race has devised,” Nelson told The Gleaner.

The Japan Foundation engages in international cultural-exchange activities in cooperation with over 130 countries around the world, focusing on three major programme areas: arts and cultural exchange, Japanese language education overseas and Japanese studies and intellectual exchange. The foundation also organizes travelling exhibitions of paintings, craft, photographs, design and architecture. About twenty travelling exhibitions of various forms are being shown around the world. This ‘Dolls of Japan’ exhibition focuses on the arts and cultural exchange programme.

Nelson continued: “Not only art, but heritage items in general, are visually stimulating to our audiences and are truly representative of the aesthetic values, technical skills and life-ways of other people. In Japan, dolls have been a part of everyday life since ancient times and are made to exemplify their customs and aspirations. The day-to-day habits and relationships are portrayed in their dolls, as are Japanese traditional art forms such as dress, calligraphy, performance and, hairstyles and make-up, armoury as well as in the very attitude and stance that a doll is presented; all these speak of how the Japanese view themselves, of their ideals.”

The dolls are undeniably, beautiful and meticulously crafted works of art, and thus their purpose is not only to appease, but to educate. Dolls have been a part of everyday Japanese life since ancient times, reflecting the customs and aspirations of its people. They possess distinctive regional attributes, and over the centuries have developed in many diverse forms.

“We hope that the dolls in this exhibition will help visitors to appreciate these various aspects of Japanese culture,” the assistant curator added.

He asserts that the miniature recreations in the Hina Matsuri (spring Girls’ Day Festival) and military and sporting prowess shown during the Tango No Sekko (summer Boys’ Day Festival) will be revealing to Jamaicans.

“Jamaicans, especially children, will marvel at the detail and the creative skill used in depicting such lifelike and authentic looking dolls. There are traditional and modern dolls, royalty, samurai, mythic dolls, battle-paddle pieces, netzukie (closure) figures all finely done with fine materials with the greatest precision and faithfulness. The Sakura or Cherry Blossoms bloom and are celebrated with the Girl’s Day Festival.

“Our special feature invites visitors to strike a meditative pose, just like that of our ‘doll in thought’ in the alcove in our ‘Room of the Four Seasons’. Be inspired, write your message on a cherry blossom and add it to our cherry tree to help make it come into full bloom,” he said.