` Ainu Art in Contemporary Life

iPhone case © Kohei Fujito

Ainu Art in Contemporary Life

The Ainu are an indigenous people native to the Hokkaido region in Japan that have developed their original identity, culture, and language since the 12th century. Despite their ancestral roots, the Ainu people have historically suffered from various forms of discrimination and disputes with the rest of Japan, being officially recognised as indigenous to the country only as recently as 2008. Their unique language and traditional culture are at serious risk of being lost and only a few Ainu artists remain.

In this talk, Mr Kohei Fujito, an emerging Ainu artist from the younger generation based in Akan, Hokkaido, will give a talk along with a small demonstration of his artworks. He will talk about the history and future of Ainu art based on his recent artworks.

This event is organized in collaboration with Hokkaido Prefecture in order to promote the NATIONAL AINU MUSEUM, which will open in April 2020 in Shiraoi, Japan.

About the contributors
Kohei Fujito is an Ainu artist, born in 1978 in Akan, Kushiro-city (Hokkaido). He is the son of Takeki Fujito, who is highly respected both domestically and internationally as a woodcraftsman representing Hokkaido and as an artist who passes on the traditional sculpting techniques of the Ainu. Fujito runs a local folkcraft shop “Kuma no Ie” (House of the Bear) in the hot spring town Akanko Onsen on Lake Akan. He is also in charge of the product design for the project “Utilization of Timber from Hokkaido”, run by Kushiro city and various cities across Hokkaido. Fujito was commissioned to create a symbolic monument for the International Festival of Indigenous People (Italy) in 2017 and his work Ikupasuy (an Ainu ritual tool) was added to their collection. Fujito’s works, including an iphone case and Yama Katana (an Ainu mountain knife), are on display at the National Museum of Japanese History and the National Museum of Ethnology. In 2018, he took part in the LEXUS NEW TAKUMI PROJECT as a representative from Hokkaido, and he has also created frames for sunglasses out of wood.

Professor Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere (moderator) is Professor of Japanese Art and Culture at the University of East Anglia, and was the founding Director of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 1998. She has been the Research Director of the Sainsbury Institute since 2011. She is currently the IFAC Handa Curator of Japanese Arts in the Department of Asia in the British Museum. Her translation of Tsuji Nobuo’s History of Art in Japan was published by Tokyo University Press in 2018 and won the special cultural translation prize from the Japan Society of Translators.




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