I went to Hokkaido earlier this month to cheer on my Ainu language students at the 16th Annual Ainu Speech Contest (Itak=an ro!) as well as to see the Ainu Art Exhibit ("Storytellers of the Wind") at the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art.
The day started with a trip to the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, which was filled with many familiar faces and bigwigs in the Ainu community. Unfortunately photos were not allowed in the exhibit itself, so I have none to share personally... however, there are a few photos that others have taken that are shared on AINU PRIDE PRODUCTION's facebook page.
It was an excellent exhibit starting with traditional crafts, particularly a thorough collection of exquisitely carved ikupasuy libation sticks and a look into the history of how woodcarvings of bears was introduced into Ainu culture. The exhibit also included the delicate embroidery of Mieko Cikap, abstract wooden shapes of Nuburi Toko, lifelike woodcarvings of Takeki Fujito, bold cloth designs of Noriko Kawamura, and more works from many modern artists.
The exhibit will be at the Hokkaido MOMA until March 24th, so definitely make your way there before it ends!
The Ainu Speech Contest began in the afternoon and ran for nearly 6 hours, featuring over 40 participants ranging from the very young in the children's division to grandparents in the adult divisions (which included both traditional oral performances and current speech presentations). It was reassuring seeing so many people putting such time and dedication to keeping the Ainu language alive.
In addition to the two Ainu-related events, there were quite a lot of Ainu-related things we saw here and there - the most prominent being the display in the main underground walkway of Sapporo.
Also the Super Kamui Limited Express train to Asahikawa... (kamuy means god/spirit in Ainu, not sure if it is appropriate to use for a train and/or in combination with "super")
Please come see our photo album on our Facebook page to see more photos from our Hokkaido trip!