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Speech made by JICC Director Futao Motai at the opening of the Embassy's Fleeting Beauty exhibition

15 Jun 05

Counsellor Motai delivers a speech

Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I offer you a warm welcome to this exhibition, Fleeting Beauty .

You may already have noticed that this exhibition is somewhat unique. As well as photographs on display, you can see tanka poems in English as well as Japanese. Obviously, the quality of the photographs is very important. Tonight, however, more important than the photographs themselves is the inspiration obtained from the tanka poems. This is because the 20 images created by Fine Arts students at York St John College which make up the exhibition were inspired by classical Japanese tanka poetry taken mainly from two revered anthologies, the 10th -century Kokin Wakashu and the 12th-century Shin Kokin Wakashu.

Inspiration is always a prerequisite when reading tanka poems. However, it is normally very difficult for foreigners to read these poems, mainly for two reasons: one is the language barrier and the other can be found in the rules of tanka.

To overcome these problems, Dr Hisashi Nakamura, Japan Project Officer at York St John College, first translated the poems into English but adhered to the tanka form. He then explained the differences between Japanese and Western aesthetics as well as Japanese culture from a historical perspective. This enabled the students to form their own original images based on the translated tanka and turn them into works of art. The process required tremendous patience. I would like to praise Dr Nakamura for what he did to make the students' achievement possible.

May I also pay tribute to the invaluable contribution of Ms Jane Charlton, Head of Programme, Art & Design, School of Arts at York St John College, in realising this project.

This exhibition consists of images created by British people inspired by outstanding Japanese literary works from the distant past. It can therefore be considered a unique joint venture that spans vast stretches of time. Fortunately, people in Japan will also be able to savour these works, as they are to be displayed at the Hida Takayama Museum of Art in August.

I do hope that you will enjoy contrasting your own mental images inspired by the English versions of tanka with the works you see in front of you, and that you will take away with you a heightened sense of the numerous possibilities for artistic expression presented by tanka.

Thank you.

Related links:

  • Featured Events: fleeting beauty exhibition
  • Anglo-Japanese Tanka Society

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