Ode to Nebuta

2017 - 2018

“Rassela, rassela! Rasse, rasse, rassela!” The sounds of the Nebuta still echo within me.

During my research about Aomori, I found the story of the Nebuta. A summer festival during which floats are carried throughout the streets, accompanied by music. The visual language is striking and fascinated me immediately. The Nebuta’s have an almost harsh visual language, with strong shapes, vivid colours and bold characters. The characters seem to come from diverse backgrounds. From the world of old folk tales till figures from the digital era.

In my work I often reflect on the art history of a region. Through the visual language of the historical art, I reflect on contemporary situations.
For my series on Aomori, I was interested in two art forms. The Nebuta’s and Japanese woodblock prints. I had been fascinated with the works of Hiroshige and Hokusai for years, and I was hoping to finally have a chance to use my fascination with this art form.

After the first week, I figured out that using the works of Hiroshige and Hokusai was not specific enough. I had never been in Japan before, but while in Japan, I felt Hiroshige and Hokusai where too general. In Aomori, I found the Munakata Shiko Memorial Museum of Art. Coincidently, there was a long scroll displayed, which depicts the Nebuta. I knew at that instant: ‘this is it!’. I fell in love with that painting, as much as I had fallen in love with the Nebuta festival itself. That scroll became the blueprint for the artwork I wanted to create.

As the Nebuta’s are created with ink on washi (Japanse rice paper), I decided to use that same materials in finalizing my photographic collage. Hence, the final artworks are a combination of over a thousand photographs, printed, painted on and then later combined into three final art pieces.

Also the sounds of the Nebuta will play a role during the exhibition. They are an important element during the festival, and they have become important in our household.
As my one year old daughter was in my back carrier, while I was photographing the Nebuta parade, she became what I’d like to call ‘Nebuta-crazy’. Now, every morning she wakes up singing the sounds of the Nebuta. I wanted to teach her the importance of traditions. And I think the Nebuta has taught her well… Now, the Nebuta is a part of our family’s tradition as well.