This painting, entitled Mujina, was the image used for the Powell Street Festival‘s 2016 event “Spatial Poetics XV”. This event featured newly commissioned interdisciplinary works by Linda Uyehara Hoffman, Eileen Kage, Kisyuu, Jay Hirabayashi, Barbara Bourget, and Stefan Smulovitz — all curated by me! The theme this year was “ghost stories”; early on in the process, Jay, Barbara, and Stefan had mentioned that their piece would be inspired by the traditional Japanese tale, “Mujina, the Faceless Ghost”. This truly creepy folktale tells the story of a Tokyo man who was following a road at night when he encounters a weeping woman along the wayside. Stopping to see if she needs aid, the man was frightened to discover that she had no face. In fear, he races further up the road until he sees the dim glow of a lantern in the distance. He sees that it is a food vendor known as a soba. Grateful to find another living soul, the man explains his experience to the vendor, but he stops short of explaining her face exactly, being still too frightened to recall the experience. The soba man, moving from the shadows into the glow of the lantern, asks if perhaps she looked like this. To the traveler’s horror, the soba man, too, has no face. Suddenly the lantern is extinguished and the man is alone in the night with the faceless Mujina.*
The image features three Mujina, accompanied by cherry blossoms and birds… I suppose I assumed that the Tokyo man ends up becoming a faceless ghost as well, which may not be entirely correct (do Mujina recruit? I don’t honestly know).
Barb Yamazaki beautifully took the image and created the poster for Spatial Poetics, which can be seen below. Mujina joins Kendo Bird as an ongoing exploration of my Japanese heritage. Hopefully more will soon follow!
*Courtesy of the blog “Strange State”, which can be accessed HERE.