In February, between the 19th and 26th, de Bibliotheek Utrecht organised the Manga and Japanese Culture Week in the Neude library. Co-organisers of this event were Himawari no Kai, the Japanese book club, MangaKissa, the only physical manga library of the Netherlands and JACCU, the Japanese Art & Culture Centre of Utrecht.
Our president Taciser Sevinc writes about the event after closing it with many good memories and a successful outcome.
A New Collaboration
When we met Roos Polman, the place maker of the Neude Library, at the end of January, four organisations had already been pondering on this event for two months. However, the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic and the policies of the governments on the art and culture activities left the organisers empty-handed.
Our dear friends in Himawari recommended Roos to contact JACCU as our rapidly growing network could provide the resource the event team was looking for. We were more than happy to respond with all our team. It was necessary to act very quickly and at the same time getting a quick response was crucial. With the agreement of the organisation team, we contacted eight different artists, groups and organisations, and we received a response from most of them in a short time.
At the beginning of February we finally knew our schedule, but the setbacks did not end. Two weeks before the event, first I tested positive for Covid-19, then JACCU’s marketing director and Roos had to go into quarantine with their entire family. But despite all the hitches, we had a great week with the strong cooperation of everyone involved in the event and we were able to proudly share it with the people of Utrecht.
Origami Workshop with Hanae Sasaoka
On Saturday the 19th, hundreds of new Manga books welcomed the visitors of the library. Alongside the library’s brand new manga collection was the precious collection of MangaKissa, Utrecht’s unique manga library. Enthusiasts came running, but passing by people were also curious about Japanese manga culture.
After setting up our JACCU table in the Great Hall, we opened with an Origami workshop. Visual artist and our colleague Hanae could not believe her eyes when she came all the way from Amstelveen despite the storm, rushed into the Laboratorium and saw 15 people waiting for her. And even after the first group left, new people kept coming for the origami workshop!
For the following days, Himawari set up a DYI origami corner, and all week long curious visitors had the opportunity to try this Japanese art of paper folding.
Shodō Workshop with Lanka Abe
It was unexpectedly crowded on Sunday as well. Calligraphy artist Lanka came from The Hague at our invitation. She gave a very professional shodō (Japanese calligraphy) workshop which was very well prepared. Thirty-two people had the opportunity to attend the workshop, which repeated four rounds in groups of eight.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to get another group, so we had to turn away those who were waiting at the door with apologies. In a secluded moment, I also was lucky to have had the opportunity to take my first shodō lesson. Lanka’s teaching method was really effective, I was very happy to see the improvement with my own eyes. We hope to organise more workshops with Lanka-san.
JACCU Artists Meeting
On Sunday afternoon, we held a meeting with artists who are collaborating or associated with JACCU. Although there were some who could not attend because they were on vacation, including me and Hiroko, eight professional artists got together and had the opportunity to get to know each other better. I would like to say that this gathering is only the beginning.
JACCU is a foundation dedicated to supporting Japanese art and artists. Our mission is to provide a central hub in Utrecht where we invite, unite and endorse all those interested in Japanese art, culture and society, and feel part of a community. For this reason, we are happy to see both Japanese artists who produce works in all branches of art and artists from all nationalities who perform Japanese arts and crafts.
JACCU Artists Meeting is a chain of events that we have created for all these artists to meet each other, collaborate, share and gain knowledge and experience, voice their problems and find solutions to these problems with the support of JACCU. Thanks to Bibliotheek Neude for generously hosting us.
Haiku Workshop with Haiku Kring Nederland
We made a great start on Wednesday evening the 23rd. We rolled up our sleeves to found the Utrecht Haiku group with Haiku Kring Nederland, which has active groups all over the Netherlands for 42 years.
The Haiku workshop was so easy and gezellig; even I could write a poem in Dutch. Haiku Kring Nederland’s director Arie came from Leiden to give this workshop and he handed the baton to Elyn from Leidsche Rijn to lead the Utrecht group. We will meet on the third Thursday of each month throughout March-June, in hopes of building a community that will get immersed in the sweet mystery of Haiku in Dutch. Moreover, Thanks to Roos Polman, de Bibliotheek Neude is pleased to be at our meeting location.
Shodō Performance by Lanka Abe
The online talk organised by Himawari on Saturday the 26th also attracted a lot of attention. Japanese Manga scholar Yu Ito of the Kyoto International Manga Museum gave a lecture on Japanese culture and manga. He discussed manga characters through “anthropomorphism” to uncover a deeper meaning. He showed how manga characters relate to Japanese culture and society. After the lecture, a spectacular visual feast awaited the library visitors.
Within the magnificent architecture of the old post office, the new library, the great hall witnessed a brief but profoundly impressive storytelling. Calligraphy artist Lanka, this time, was there with a theatrical performance.
In minutes, with her performance inspired by the indigenous people of Hokkaido, the Ainu people, she conveyed her deep respect to her culture and the nature and people of that culture.
Lanka wrote four characters, which stand for Ainu culture and philosophy:
Ainu people call God Kamui with respect. They believe that God exists in everything, in nature and animals, even in the things that humans made.
礼 Rei and 祈 Inori
Ainu people perform a ritual (祈) when they hunt animals to get food and make clothing to show their gratitude courtesy (礼) to god, so that the god comes back to them.
Finally, Lanka interpreted their unique myth about the beginning of this world in her own aesthetics with an abstract piece. Videos are in the JACCU Instagram account!
These works of Lanka will soon be exhibited at the Bibliotheek Neude. We will keep our followers informed about this on our social media platforms and newsletters.
Building a Community
We would like to thank the Utrecht library for working with JACCU, and to all the artists and organisations who responded to our call. This event allowed us to make a positive and promising start to 2022. We have established a good connection with the library and we are sitting at the table to organise many more events in the future that will bring together Japanese art & culture and people of Utrecht.
From artists to teachers, from private people to organisations, everybody is welcome to join JACCU to learn, teach, share, nourish and enjoy the art, culture and society of Japan. Join us in our activities that cover a wide spectrum of authentic Japanese disciplines and traditions. Together we build a community!
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