At the Crossroads: An Analysis of How Ainu Participation in the Global Indigenous Community Influenced Cultural Promotion Strategies and the Arts: 1980- Present
CitationMicek, Christina. 2018. At the Crossroads: An Analysis of How Ainu Participation in the Global Indigenous Community Influenced Cultural Promotion Strategies and the Arts: 1980- Present. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThe artistic production of the Ainu of Japan, an indigenous population, may be dismissed by some as a marginal body of work within a rich artistic Japanese tradition. Yet, close study of these “marginal” works is repaid with fundamental insights that can inform our very understanding of indigeneity, national identity, and human rights. It has been argued by certain critics that Ainu art revitalization can be understood as a creative response of an indigenous culture to the devastating effects of colonialism, assimilation, and industrialization. Ainu art of today shares formal similarities to historical antecedents, but is created within a framework of expectations, guidelines, and production priorities very different from past times. These artworks—traditional cloth appliqué and embroidery, wood carving, woven baskets and bags—indeed represent a continuum of Ainu motif and medium, previously incorporated into items mostly for family or personal use, and now employed to produce artworks for national and global audiences. These contemporary artworks, however, can be seen to retain traditional designs which function to reassert Ainu identity and pride, to reaffirm the special native status of the Ainu, and to create a sense of political belonging to an indigenous community. This thesis will explore the ways in which the tradition of Ainu art, so understood, has located itself within a global movement among aboriginal people to represent their own cultures within existing institutional constructs, revealing universal human themes of struggle and triumph.
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