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GEISHA – THE ART, THE PERSON

ongoing until January 1, 2019

Museum of Civilization – Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions “Lamberto Loria” – piazza Guglielmo Marconi, 14 (Salone delle Scienze). Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm – full price ticket € 10, reduced price ticket € 5

Tel. 06 549521  |  www.museocivilta.beniculturali.it         

Geishas, between tradition and modernity in a photographs collection by Fabrizio and Federico Bonifazi. The exhibition brings together  a selection of 19th-century objects collected by Palermitan sculptor Vincenzo Ragusa with images of courtesans by Suzuki Harunobu (especially from his volumes “Ehon seirō bijin awase”) describing the ukiyo (the floating world) of culture and society during Edo period,its aesthetic values and a world view centered on the acknowledge and appreciation of imperfection.

Harunobu‘s geishas are depicted during their daily life routines, among the private rooms (oku) dedicated to their private moments. The young women are showing an ethereal grace during their body care and make-up time, and their elaborated hairstyles, dresses and related items gave them a particular charm. In these images visitors can appreciate their dedication and study of arts, fundamental for their entertainment activities: music, dance, flowers composition (ikebana), poetry study and calligraphy, are all instruments for an a refined seduction but also required knowledge for getting fame. During their relaxing moments geishas could find themselves smoking, reading, enjoying the company of pets, having fun with games; all these activities are part of their hobbies, and reveal a hidden and secret world behind the sliding windows.

Japanese society, always tried to keep a line for dividing them from others, trying to avoid contaminations from other cultures. During years, clearly some influences did occur, such those arriving from Europeans and the United States, and this lead to a change in society and habits. One of the few figures which was only slightly affected by these influences was the geisha, and today women and girls continue to choose this path, even if their number is negatively affected. Today, indeed, what concerns geishas world has changed, but strict rules are still observed for dresses, hairstyles, make-up, music, dance and singing.

The photos here, are mostly presenting Gion, a neighbour of Kyoto, where an ancient atmosphere can be perceived even today, despite modern changes. We can notice, how the particular dim lights are fading behind big neon signs, cars and motorbikes lights passing through the main street – where before were passing only the jinrikisha (rickshaws) – and even behind the same photographers’ flashes, trying to steal glances of geishas world.

 

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