In May, The Japan Foundation, Kuala Lumpur brought to Malaysian shores a travelling exhibition showcasing the distinctive appeal of Tohoku?fs traditional craftsmanship. Beautiful Handicrafts of Tohoku, Japan was initiated in 2012 to commemorate the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country?fs eastern coastal region in the previous year.
The 70 objects on display?\encompassing pottery, lacquerware, textiles, basket weaving, metalwork and woodwork?\demonstrated to viewers the highly-developed techniques of local artisans and the functional elegance of daily implements used since medieval times. Also featured were pieces by artists who found inspiration in the crafting heritage and cultural spirit of Tohoku.
The first of the planned two-city tour was hosted at Galeri Shah Alam, which sits imposingly at the edge of the Shah Alam Lake Gardens. The old-world charm of its Malay architecture, set against a backdrop of lush greenery, lent the gallery an atmosphere of historical reverence that matched the exhibition collection.
The opening ceremony was officiated by Y.B. Tuan Amirudin Shari (Selangor State Executive Councillor for Youth Development, Sports, Cultural and Entrepreneurship Development) while Bhg. Prof. Raja Dato?f Zahabuddin Raja Yaacob (Member of the Board of Trustees, Yayasan Seni Selangor) and YBrs. Tuan Said bin Abu (Director, Galeri Shah Alam) were the guests-of-honour. Students from the National Arts, Culture and Heritage Academy (ASWARA), UiTM and University of Malaya were among the 60-strong crowd that joined us in marking the occasion that afternoon.
During the exhibition period, a cultural day was held to further enhance visitor appreciation. Members of the public both young and old learned to fold origami, play kendama, tried on yukata and created hair accessories using tsumami-zaiku.
A few neighbouring schools and universities even organised tours, with one in particular performing a lecture right in the gallery space!
Having completed its Selangor run, the exhibition then moved to the Penang State Museum, housed in a handsome colonial building in the heart of George Town. The cultural day here doubled in length and scope, as attendees experienced a weekend of colouring contests, language lessons, cooking demonstrations and film screenings in addition to the same activities enjoyed by their peers in Shah Alam.
Interspersed among the fun was an opening ceremony and Hari Raya open house. Y.B. Tuan Wong Hon Wai (Political Secretary to The Honourable Chief Minister of Penang) graced the event with his presence, as did Haryany Mohamad (Director, Penang State Museum), Kiyoshi Itoi (Japanese consul-general in Penang) and Kenichi Nishizawa (Japanese consul in Penang).