*This article is not related to a religious organization.
I have met a great piece of art aggregated many Buddha images at Tokyo International Forum exhibition, and it was definitely sending me an irresistible power and some kind of message. Sen Nin Butsu (Millenary Buddha) Project is the art project that aggregates a thousand pieces of Buddha drawings from people in earthquake-stricken region. I interviewed the central figure who organizes this big project.
We, as artists, visit temporary housings in the region suffered from Great East Japan Earthquake continuously and instruct the people how to draw a Buddha in order to heal their hearts. We aim to gather a thousand pieces of Buddha charcoal drawings which were drawn by people in the earthquake-stricken region. This art will be exhibited in the museums so that it will be a symbol of contemporary Buddha in order to pass down the earthquake disaster in future ages. This is a contemporary art project which all the people in the earthquake-stricken region share the significant goal of “reconstruction of heart”.
The custom of Sen Nin Butsu (Millenary Buddha) that is well known for Sentai Senju Kannon Ryuzo at Sanju Sangendoin Kyoto, originated from the story that people used to pray and craved Sen Nin Butsu when there were famine and convulsion of nature in order to heal the spirits of the dead. This custom exists all over in Japan, and people bless for not to cause a natural disaster again.
After graduating the art university, I worked as a graphic designer and at an advertisement agency for a few years.
Since I wanted to be related to paintings, I became an art instructor at a consistent junior & high school located in Tokyo for 15 years. I started holding a painting class for adults at a café in my neighborhood once a month just for hobby in 2006. It was interesting for me to experience the high level required in teaching adults, and I officially started my art school in 2009.
A year after Great East Japan Earthquake, I met one of the employees at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu LLC. He has asked me whether we could do something for the people who stays inside of the temporary housings all the time in order to heal their hearts through painting. Since I am a painter, I think delivering joyance of drawings is better than anything else. Therefore, I sent a proposal of Sen Nin Butsu Project to Tohmatsu LLC.
We held our first workshop in 2012 at one of the space in the temporary housing. When I proposed this project to the region, there were pro/con arguments.
“We are still confusing.”
“It sounds too heavy to draw Buddha.”
In the actual workshop, we heard the following words from the people;
“My heart became calm as through drawing Buddha.”
“It is becoming like the face of my husband I lost in the earthquake.”
Since they were drawing along with some peaceful Buddha face samples, their face became peaceful as well. The workshop has a very positive atmosphere, and people enjoy drawings with an occasional touch of humor and a lot of chats.
I teach them with the same tone of my regular art class, but I try to enjoy communication or would like them to enjoy conversation rather than instructing difficult techniques. I intentionally talk about extra things and become conscious of “delivering the communication”. Some of the female stuff built up the close relationship with elderly people and laugh together.
First, I just would like everyone to feel the art simply as it is. A thousand pieces of Buddha drawn directly by the people in the earthquake-stricken region, which is the conglomerate of mental rust from these people, their self-portrait, and also their wish against Buddha. If you know these background of the art, you can gradually feel and think a variety of things.
Our goal is to make a symbol of “memory of the earthquake disaster”, which hopefully will be remained even after a hundred year. We call this thousand pieces of charcoal drawings “documentary drawings”. The lead roles are the people in the earthquake-stricken region. We are the artists, art instructors, photographers, designers, picture farmers, and web designers. We take the background role, but we intentionally show our names on a credit title like a documentary movie. We are sometimes criticized because volunteer activity is normally anonymous. However, we work as professional artists with our pride. That is why we put our names as well, and the art project is almost completed with high perfection level.
I especially appreciate for the artisans at Tokyo Mounting and Hanging Pictures Cultural Association, and their effort was truly the big part of this project.
From today’s interview and the reaction of the audience who saw the project, I learned that a social contribution through the art is very powerful. What would you like to do next?
It might be too heavy to use the word of “social contribution”, and I think art is rather closer to our life and something fun. It can enrich your spirit and release stress. Sometimes it even expands the communication with many people. I would like to think deeply the possibility of art as a professional artist and expand my work.
The count down to a thousand has already started!! If you would like to see the moment of accomplishment, please check the following link;
Sen Nin Butsu Project http://senninbutsu.com/
Art School “LUKANOSE” http://www.lukanose.com/