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Japanese Funeral: The Chief Mourner

Japanese Funeral: The Chief Mourner

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  • Tue 26 Sep ’17, 5:00pm – 7:00pm
  • Wed 27 Sep ’17, 11:00am – 4:00pm
  • Thu 28 Sep ’17, 11:00am – 4:00pm
  • Fri 29 Sep ’17, 11:00am – 4:00pm
  • Sat 30 Sep ’17, 11:00am – 4:00pm


Elam School of Fine Arts, 20 Whitaker Place, Auckland CBD


All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Free Admission

Please join for the opening of ‘Japanese Funeral: The Chief Mourner’ - a documentary photographic exhibition by Summer Shimizu. A short artist’s talk will be at 5:30pm, the opening.

Opening Preview and Refreshments: 5pm, Tue 26 September
Artist’s (very!) Short Talk: 5:30pm, Tue 26 September
Gallery Hours: 11am-4pm, Tue-Sat, 27-30 September

*Note: Viewer discretion advised due to the sensitive content.
No food or drink inside the gallery.
No photography.

‘Japanese Funeral: The Chief Mourner’ is a record of the funeral ceremonies of the artist’s own grandmother on the 12th -13th of December, 2012 in Japan.

Many of us refuse to face the realities of loss and mourning until we are confronted with them. For most of us, death is something we only see on TV or in film and the actuality of death is something that never occurs in our lives. For many people, death is a taboo and unpleasant subject. In many ways, death is dealt with in a way that keeps it from being too personal.

There is no right way to deal with death when it happens and yet we continue to find ways to cope. Time will certainly comfort many but the sense of loss will never completely fade away – and not should it. It gives us an opportunity to appreciate people and the time we spend with them rather than prioritising our own lives.

Religion also plays a part in how we confront death and how we appreciate people. The funeral and memorial ceremonies bring people together and we may see our own and others’ lives crossing and merging. Our spiritual response to death may be one of calmness and repose.

At the moment when Japanese people pass away, their souls and bodies instantly become a Buddha. Ice is packed around the body in the coffin and the immediate family spend the night in a 'Tatami' room before the funeral ceremony is conducted. Incense burns continuously over a few days and then the body is cremated.

A Japanese funeral is a miniature depiction of Japanese society and its unique mixture of Japanese 'Shinto' and Buddhist traditions. The funeral reflects Japan’s rich history, culture, identity, tradition, food, protocol, manners and etiquette as well as the complexity of hierarchical relationships and Japanese commonality.

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