I had the pleasure of viewing a new exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) today, called “Samurai: Beyond the Sword”.
I didn’t know about the exhibit until I received an invitation from Shihan Joseph Striker, who was organizing a trip to the Institute for his students (and for parents of his young students). It was a pleasure to join them on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Joe owns and operates the Hakkoryu Senshinkan Dojo in Bay City, Michigan, USA.
I don’t visit the DIA as often as I should; this trip reminded me of that, and shame on me since I’m not that far away. Their fixed exhibits are excellently presented and encompass Africa, Egypt, the South Pacific, and the Indigenous Americas; Asia and the Islamic World as well. Native American, Canadian and United States of America history, too. Of course there is art and history specific to the State of Michigan and especially the City of Detroit.
From my point of view, that of someone who’s always been interested in Japanese culture, I thought DIA did a fantastic job with this exhibit. They provided us with personal audio players that allowed us to input an exhibit number to hear commentary specifically related to that subject via headphones. A different set of numbers was tailored for youth versus lecture for adults.
Exhibits included items and art from the Heian period (year 794) all the way to the Meiji Restoration (1868). Emphasis was placed less on the military aspects of the Samurai, more on their role in culture.
I confess that I’d like to go through the entire exhibit all over again, but using the “youth” setting for the audio narration. One of the younger people in our group was staring up at a suit of armor while listening intently to the pre-recorded narrator, then looked up to her father and said “look Dad, they said Darth Vader’s helmet was made to look like a Samurai helmet”. And she was right – and the people responsible for the narration of the exhibit were right. Ralph Mcquarrie was the artist who came up with that look for our favorite villain in the 1970’s; the connection was intentional, according to him. One example of how a historical piece of Japanese culture has impacted Western modern culture, for sure.
“Samurai: Beyond the Sword” Is a collaborative work between the Detroit Institute of Arts based on the original exhibition Lethal Beauty, curated by Dr. Andreas Marks for the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture, with tour organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC, USA.