When two waters meet
On the bridge over the Nakatsu River that runs near the Cyg art gallery where many people stop to look for salmon every fall. A river where salmon return flows to Canada, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, where it has been an indispensable part of people’s lives since ancient times. For the past 35 years these two cities, Morioka and Victoria, have recognized a ‘Sister-City’ designation that has resulted in cultural exchange.
This exhibition, pairing new and recent work by Sakura Koretsune and Dylan Thomas focuses on the existence of salmon that is common to both lands as a project to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the relationship between Morioka and Victoria.
Sakura Koretsune listens to the stories of salmon that derive from various cultures, and creates works based on those stories and what she saw during a recent research trip to North America. Her approach is like weaving cloth from the collected threads to reinforce similarities rather than difference.
Qwul`thilum Dylan Thomas is an Indigenous artist of Coastal Salish descent who presents new perspectives on traditional imagery and composition. Dylan’s harmonious designs and muted colours are rooted in mediation and reflect the movement of fish and the geometry of the moon, among other natural occurrences.
We hope you can think of the story of a distant land through the appearance of salmon drawn by the two artists.
“When two waters meet”
In the Nakatsu River, which flows through the center of Morioka City, in the fall, you can see people looking into the river from the bridge. Everyone is looking at the salmon that has returned to their home river from a long journey.
There are folklore about “salmon oosuke” in various parts of Tohoku. Every autumn on a fixed day, a big salmon called a salmon oosuke screams and pulls up the family and goes up the river. Anyone who hears the cry will die. That’s why I don’t fish before this day. The salmon monster is also known as the king of salmon and the youkai of salmon.
In Iwate Prefecture, there is a story that a person who was kidnapped by a large eagle returned to his hometown with the help of a salmon oosuke (former Takekoma Village / now Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture), and when Tono was a lake, Kesenguchi. There is a story that a man who came on a salmon from Iwate was the beginning of a human who settled in Tono Township. The story of the intersection of the human world and the salmon world is also found in Hokkaido and North America, and seems to be spreading throughout the Pacific Rim.
For thousands of years, salmon have been the primary food source for Northwest Coast Indigenous Peoples and are highly respected. Some People of the Pacific Northwest coast believed that Salmon are immortal humans who live in villages deep under the ocean. In the springtime, these immortal humans put on Salmon disguises to offer themselves as food to the people. It was believed that the runs of salmon were lineages, and if some were allowed to return to their home rivers, then those lineages would always continue. The WSÁNEC (Saanich people) believe that all living things were once people, and they are respected as such. The salmon are our relatives. … Out of respect, when the first large sockeye was caught, a First Salmon Ceremony was conducted. This was the WSÁNEC way to greet and welcome the king of all salmon. The celebration would likely last up to ten days. … Taking time to celebrate allowed for a major portion of the salmon stocks to return to their rivers to spawn, and to sustain those lineages or stock. [Nicholas Xumthoult Claxton]
The salmon, which return to the same river every year, would have been a mysterious existence for those who lived in the basin, going back and forth between the distant world beyond imagination. Times have changed, the world is small, and the distance is getting closer. However, in 2020, the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) made it difficult to travel abroad from Japan and to visit Japan from overseas.
But the salmon will surely return to the same river. After a 10,000-kilometer journey to the coast of Alaska and Canada in the North Pacific, salmon return to a river familiar to us in Japan. Just as people used to entrust various stories to salmon traveling far away, it may be possible to travel from here with the power of imagination in the form of salmon.
Dylan Thomas’s work, which will be presented in Morioka this time, tells us that there is a lifestyle and culture with salmon on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. Kotsune Sakura focuses on transformation from research on salmon folklore, which is being forgotten in Japan. She has created “a person who transforms into a salmon and his costume” as a guide to the imaginary world.
How far can we go when the two worlds guided by salmon meet?
The story of the intersection of the world of humans and the world of fish is told from the Tohoku region of Japan to Hokkaido, and to various parts of North America such as Alaska and Canada. Sometimes salmon appeared in the form of humans, and sometimes people who fell into the river became fish and went down to the sea and lived in the world of fish. Among the Indigenous peoples of the north, it is believed that all creatures have the same soul and only what they wear is different. Animals wear different furs, and humans wear furs and garments obtained from animals. In that world, the hunting practice of catching and eating seals, whales and reindeer is also an event in a series of souls.
If a person wears a salmon garment with the same soul, will people then travel to the distant sea with salmon?
Imagine the journey of salmon returning to the same river this fall, the world beyond the horizon.
Let’s make a kimono with the thread that spun the story from its scraps.
A person wears salmon.
What kind of design would you like to make such a kimono?
What kind of world do people see when they wear salmon?
When two waters meet is co-organized by Cyg Art Gallery with the Victoria Arts Council. A version of this exhibition will take place at the Victoria Arts Council in 2021.
We thank the artists for their work, Professor Tajima Kuwada from the Iwate Prefectural University, Faculty of Policy Studies [Globalized Community & People Development Challenge Week Through Art], Mr. Bill McCreadie from the Morioka-Victoria Friendship Society, Mai Fukioka of Cyg Art Gallery, and Kegan McFadden, the Executive Director of the Victoria Arts Council who put this project into motion, as well as the Province of British Columbia for their support.