Cynthia Waihenya (Kenya)
Masters course student in Hokkaido University
ABE Initiative 5th batch participant
Art in everyday life reflects the culture of the country
Seasons come and go as an accepted passage of time. Summer, winter, spring and autumn which in Kenya, vaguely translates to hot and dry, cold and rainy seasons. If one asked me what summer would feel like I would say the month of January in Kenya, when the sun was hot with no drop of water in sight. Winter would be June but with snow. Movies of making snowmen in winter, cold drinks and barbecues in summer did not prepare me for a true season change. With the extreme temperatures of summer and winter came unexpected conditions, the humidity and the wind but one year down the line I have been able to fare through and take it one day at a time. Consultation of my weather app has become a near daily occurrence, it can, having the essentials like raincoat, proper shoes and clothes, the difference between a smile and an uncomfortable frown.
In my brief stay in Japan a few things have stood out for me, attitude, mannerisms, human interactions, popular culture among many others. I can not possibly rank the aspects that are completely culturally different as I believe each has its own weight and significance. Not all are created equally but even equality is not truly equal. One area has piqued my interest, namely art in our day to day lives. Different in its own way but a reflection of a country’s culture.
Art is a form of expression that has stood the test of time with different cultures having found their style of conveying it. From the ukiyo-e and sumi-e styles to the popular manga comics, art in Japan is still a very expressive force, renowned around the world. The manga comics sector provides entertainment for all generations and gender and has provided a great way for artists to express themselves. Earlier comics were all about adding Japanese flair to the American comics but have since evolved to having many genres like action, technology, science, romance with complex plots and emotional depth. The manga comic industry has become a booming and diverse industry. In Kenya there is an intriguing art form that has gained popularity in the past years, ‘Matatu graffiti’. Public transport 32 seater vehicles have become a canvas for young painters and designers. The vehicles have images of popular television programs, influential people or just unique creations based on the owner’s or artists interests. This culture has evolved, challenging the young minds to do bigger and better to showcase their talent. To top it all off there are competitions that evaluate the work done based on art, interior design and performance of the vehicles on the road. Some may consider the art a bit crazy but it is a beautiful, thought provoking kind of crazy. Art can change, evolve but it is still art. The concept of the global market is providing unique ways for countries to express their own culture through different mediums. Japan doesn’t need to have Matatu graffiti to portray the art culture, (animation characters can be found on some buses though), just like Kenya may not need to have comics, (although it is cropping up) to express art.
With the formal black, grey and white colors popular in everyday life in Japan would make one think that colourful outfits are not a part of the culture but the arrival of the summer brings the Yukata, brightly colored decorations, celebrations and dance, a stark comparison to the winter time in Hokkaido colours. The fireworks displays showing a multitude of colours and designs with spectators decked in the Yukata to celebrate the summer brings more life and colour to the occasion. The colors and vibrant energy reminds me of weddings in Kenya, where it’s all about enjoying a wedding celebration, beautiful brightly colored outfits, song and dance in joyful celebration of a lifelong commitment. Each person, decked out in their favorite outfits and colours to join in celebration, truly joyous occasions. Weddings are an event bringing friends and family together, dressing up in one’s favorite colours a key aspect to the wedding events. Wedding dances vary with the audience, time period but always music that all can dance to and enjoy. A certain freeing feeling accompanies such events. The summer events and vibrant nature make me smile and remind me of home.
I believe each culture has something that can be gained from it, there is beauty in the differences, similarities and looking at the bigger picture helps me appreciate each culture even more.
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