Wednesday, November 14, 2007
An interview with Iemoto Akane
Iemoto Akane, brought out all the features of Ikebana and Sogetsu in her wonderful demonstration that was the centrepiece of the 80th anniversary celebrations of the School, at Tokyo. Attended by some 6,000 delegates from across the world, the event was staged at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, the famous Sumo-wrestling auditorium, and graced by HH Princess Hitachi.
Here is a picture of Akane at the exhibition
I was moved by the “homage” she paid to previous Iemotos, unconsciously weaving their signatures into the show, as well as her solo exhibition titled “Ikebana Through My Eyes”. The demonstration incorporated stunning jazz drummers, powerful gospel singing, calligraphy and dance, along with lighting and other special effects, all complementing the Ikebana. The whole programme traced the seasons and unfolded in six acts.
On my return, Iemoto Akane graciously answered my questions on the show, via e-mail, and here are the highlights of our dialogue.
Malathi: The whole demonstration was spectacular and dramatic. Can you give us an idea of the process of collaboration between you as an Ikebana artiste and the singers and dancers?
Akane: Ikebana has great potential in correlating different forms of art. What I wanted to incorporate into the Sogetsu 80th Anniversary Commemoration Festival was "the power of voice" that gospel has, which I thought more primitive, moving and emotionally stirring rather than just music. What can we expect from the correlation between the human voice and plants? – I wanted to see it. This was the beginning of the interaction, and the best members that could be expected at that time were assembled - Yuka Kamebuchi, one of the best gospel singers in Japan, Kaiji Moriyama who showed us the soulful dance performance as if he was possessed by a dragon, and YAS-KAZ, jazz drummer who transmitted the vibrant rhythm of people and the earth in four seasons by the instrument. They all embodied my wish to express changing lives by comparing them to the four seasons through their own art. Empowered by them, I could also give a better performance than I had expected.
Malathi: How long have you been working on this project?
Akane: For about two years.
Malathi: I was fascinated with how you used the "still" bamboos and then broke the stillness with the use of stage lights. The bamboos seemed to dance. Integration of dance, music and calligraphy besides space, light and shade - would you say this has transformed Sogetsu Ikebana into a performing art? Can we look forward to more such performances in the future?
Akane: The pleasure of Ikebana is not limited to appreciation of completed works. I would like you to enjoy the process of arrangement, namely the creation of finite beauty out of nothing. You don't have to make large-scale arrangements. For instance, demonstrating a small arrangement using two or three flowers at a party would be enough to convey the enjoyment of Ikebana to the audience.
Malathi: At the same time, you had your solo exhibition, "Ikebana Through My Eyes", at Takashimaya, filling the entire exhibition floor. For someone like me who has been associated with Sogetsu from the time of Sofu, I could see the beautiful way, in which you paid tribute/homage to all the past Iemotos of the school. Would you agree?
Akane: I was not conscious of the past Iemotos at my solo exhibition. I pictured myself in the past, present and future while making arrangements for the exhibition. However, even if I am not aware of them, my heart is always with the spirit of Sofu, Kasumi and Hiroshi. In this sense, I think the past three Iemotos were present somewhere among my works displayed at the exhibition "Ikebana through My Eyes"
Malathi: What has been the most rewarding experience for you, after taking over as Iemoto?
Akane: What I find most enjoyable and rewarding now is creating something toward the same objective in cooperation with the Sogetsu members. Even if it was not working well at the beginning, we gradually opened our hearts to one another, and finally understood each other. I found this communication process with the members fruitful.
Malathi: What is your message for aspiring Sogetsu Ikebana artistes in India?
Akane: I respect the sincere attitude of the members in India who are always willing to study and master something. Although plant materials and tools the same as those in Japan are not available, I would like each of them to think about what they can do by taking advantage of living in India or what is unique to them, and express their own "Ikebana through My Eyes".
Malathi: I recall that the late Iemoto Hiroshi Teshigahara had experimented with a collaborative effort with the Indian classical danseuse, the late Ms Chandralekha. I was particularly interested since Ms Chandralekha was from the city of Chennai, where I live. Did you have a chance to meet her, and what were your impressions?
Akane: I met Ms Chandralekha a few years before she passed away. She had already been in ill health and lay on her bed in her backstage room when I visited her. The warmth of her hand shake when I greeted her made me feel her strength and tenderness. She was a deep and spiritual person.
Malathi: Lastly, can you enlighten us, on why the name Sogetsu was chosen by Iemoto Sofu, as the name of the new school?
Akane: It comes from the Teshigahara's family crest (Nezasa dwarf bamboo and Moon).
For me, visiting Sogetsu Headquarters in Tokyo is always like a homecoming, and the warmth and friendship of each visit lingers on. Through this association with Ikebana, I am on a constant, unending voyage of self-discovery - an eternal student.
Here is one image of the demonstration. I promise to post more.