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Exhibit showcases art and craft of Northern Japan

Submitted by Kerynn Fisher
Phone: 907-474-6941


Photo caption below.
Photo by Chris Arend, courtesy of the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center
"Ainu Ramati ~ Soul of the Ainu" showcases 90 works of Ainu art and craft from Northern Japan. The special exhibit runs through March 30 at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

A new exhibit at the University of Alaska Museum of the North gives Fairbanks residents and visitors a chance to experience the Ainu culture of Northern Japan. "Ainu Ramati ~ Soul of the Ainu: The Art and Craft of Northern Japan" opens in the museum's special exhibits gallery on Saturday, Jan. 26 and runs through Sunday, March 30, 2008, with an opening reception the evening of Friday, Jan 25. The exhibit showcases 90 works of Ainu art and craft, including historic and contemporary clothing, knives, jewelry, ritual implements, wood carvings and weavings.

"This exhibit represents a wonderful cross-cultural opportunity for Alaska and Japan," says museum exhibit director Wanda Chin. "Ainu culture shares many similarities with the cultures of Alaska. Local residents and our Japanese winter visitors will both appreciate the artistry and skill represented by the Ainu materials on display."

The Ainu are the indigenous people of Northern Japan, with their roots on Hokkaido Island and the neighboring Sakhalin Island and Kurile Islands, now part of Russia. They traditionally lived in small villages and combined subsistence hunting, fishing and gathering with farming. In the mid-1400s, the Japanese began settling on Hokkaido Island, displacing and oppressing the original inhabitants. In 1868, Japan annexed Hokkaido, and the official Japanese policy was to assimilate the Ainu and to prohibit them from following their traditional lifestyles. Despite their troubled history, the Ainu retained a language and culture distinct from mainstream Japanese. In the last 60 years, they have re-asserted their identity and their rights. Today, the Ainu live primarily on Hokkaido Island, with an estimated 50,000 people who consider themselves Ainu and many more who share Ainu ancestry. The Japanese government now recognizes the Ainu as the aboriginal inhabitants of northern Japan.

The museum will hold an opening reception for "Ainu Ramati ~ Soul of the Ainu" from 6 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25. Following the reception, the museum will show the film "Ainu Past and Present" in the auditorium. Museum film curator Leonard Kamerling will introduce the film and will lead a discussion afterwards. Both the reception and film screening are free and open to the public.

"Ainu Ramati ~ The Soul of the Ainu" was organized by the Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Traditions. The traveling exhibit features objects from the collections of the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples, the Japan National Museum of Ethnology and the Ainu Cultural Research Association of Japan. Many have not been seen outside of Japan.

Admission to the special exhibit is included in the museum's general admission price: $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $5 for youth 7-17 and free for children 6 and under. Museum members and UAF students (with valid ID) also receive free admission. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week and from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends. Information on the museum's programs and exhibits is available at 907-474-7505 and online at www.uaf.edu/museum.

CONTACT: Kerynn Fisher, University of Alaska Museum of the North communications coordinator, at 907-474-6941 or 907-378-2559.

Note to editors: Images are available on request.