Let’s kazura!

Diary 2008.10.21

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Since my stone project at the cinnamon tree is finished, I turned to my kazura (Japanese for lianas and basically all plants that twine around trees) projects again. One project will be outside, at the bridge with the two stone lanterns. While preparing the job, many people passed by, wondering what we were doing on this small former rice field. They smiled at us and some even brought us cake, icecream and the famous regional drink Pocari Sweat.
The other project is an installation of kazura objects together with paper mache in the small shrine near the Kamiyama onsen (hot springs). One week ago we witnessed an interesting ceremony between this shrine and the big Oajama shrine. In the big shrine the female goddess has her habitat and in the small one lives a male god. They date once a year and to enable their coming together, the villagers perform a procession with a portable altar from the big to the small shrine. There two priests pick up the male god and bring him to his better housed beloved. After they spent the night together, he is brought back by the procession, accompanied by drums and flutes.


The story inspired me to concentrate the theme of the installation in the small shrine on the secret of life. Although we might know a lot more about our bodies (from the inner parts and the working of neurotransmitters to even DNA) than in the old days, I think we still don’t understand what life is and what it is about. Old traditions, like this Shinto festival, developed beautiful ceremonies that cherish the life of nature and humans. A life that starts for example with the union of the god and the goddess.
The kazura objects refer to this new life. The ‘cup’ , the basic form I have been working on in Kamiyama, also comes back here. It symbolizes the place where all life comes from. An open cup with many kazura arms dispersing in all directions as does the goddess Kannon, the one with a thousand arms.


As there is no kazura in my country, I usually work with the straight willow branches that are harvested in special places. In Kamiyama the kazura has to be harvested in te mountains. Although we received kazura from some villagers, most of it is cut by Pat, who regardless the weather circumstances or dangerous snakes and mukades climbs the mountains almost every day.
We were confronted with the special character of kazura: it turns and swirls the way it wants. Once you respect this, the kazura will reward you with a strong structure and starts a dance with your original idea. To use kazura in my object means that I have to be open for the right direction that it shows me. As I weave the plants up and down, circling left and right slowly a tight structure arises. It makes me think of the social structure of Kamiyama. Having been part of i talmost two months now it feels as open as the woven structure of kazura and certainly as strong as that too. New twigs like us, foreign artists get surprisinly fast and easy interwoven and nobody seems to be scared that we might change the pattern.

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KAIR2008 Artist

Articles by Karin


  • Beautiful, this Kazura object. Also very interesting to see the difference with the objects Karin makes from the willow branches in The Netherlands. They have a complete different shape and lines. Does this, beside the difference in the materials used, also tells something abouth the difference between the Dutch and Japanese landscape (or even culture and mentality)?

    10/21/2008 5:43 PM | egbert

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