Catalog from the Exhibition of the Ainu Robes: Celebrating the opening of the National Ainu Museum (JP & EN)
BY: The Shoto Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan
In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which the Japanese government endorsed and, at the same time, adopted a resolution calling for the Ainu people to be recognized as indigenous people of Japan. In 2019, they enacted the Ainu Policy Promotion Law, specifying for the first time in law that the Ainu people are indigenous to Japan. The recorded information of the full-blooded Southern Kuril Ainu died in 1956. However, there may be several tens of thousands of people who don’t claim their Ainu heritage due to fear of discrimination.
Indigenous woven textiles of the Ainu people were chiefly called attus, a woven cloth of bast fiber, inner barks of Manchurian Elm (Ulmus laciniata). Through trade with mainland Japan and northeast Asia, the Ainu people obtained and utilized cotton, silk, and some woolen textiles to make special occasion attire as well as to decorate attus to create robes and other articles. Earlier Ainu robes utilized animal hides, feathers, and salmon skin in addition to attus. Some scholarly accounts date Ainu ancestors back to the Paleolithic (35,000--13,500BCE) and Jomon (13,500--400 BCE) periods. The Ainu lived in the northern part of the Japanese archipelago and are linked with the Tungusic peoples of the Amur River basin and north-central Sakhalin and the Gilyak. For further reading: Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People, 1999, Arctic Studies Center, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution in association with University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-96734290-2 (paperback)
Their powerful animistic designs and curvilinear motifs as decorative elements resemble those found on ancient Jomon figural pottery and Shang Dynasty (1600 to 1046 BCE) bronze motifs. Thomas Murray, textile researcher, collector, and dealer, notes in his book Textiles of Japan that the similarities in motifs suggest a continuous ten-thousand-year cultural tradition, a concept further supported by recent DNA research and the study of comparative tooth structure. For further reference, see Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection, 2019, Penguin Random House, New York. ISBN 9783791385204
This catalog is beautifully illustrated with the best examples of Ainu ceremonial or special occasion attire and accessories, mostly 20th century, from the major collections, namely, The Foundation for Ainu Culture, Aizu Museum at Waseda University, The Japan Folk Crafts Museum, Tokyo National Museum, and the National Ainu Museum.
Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park, the center for the revival and development of Ainu culture, opened in 2020 in Shiraoi in Hokkaido. The Shoto Museum of Art in Tokyo organized the exhibition to celebrate and commemorate this historical event.
Exhibition dates: June 26 to August 9, 2021
Exhibition organized by: The Shoto Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan
96 total pages, 63 color pages. Japanese & English text. 7.6875 x 10.5625 x 0.25 in. (0.82 lb)
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