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| Art |

Spread Healing Creating Mythical Japanese Creatures Today

Center for Visual Art is inviting people to create Amabie over Zoom.
Center for Visual Art is inviting people to create Amabie over Zoom.
Illustration by Shunsuke Satake / CVA

The Center for Visual Art has been hosting the Socially Distant Culture Club at 4 p.m. every Wednesday, and during today's Zoom workshop, you can create a version of the mythical Japanese creature called the Amabie.

"Throughout history, people have faced plagues and pandemics of influenza and cholera," writes CVA educational director and artist Katie Taft. "Knowing this history actually gives me more hope for our current situation; we will get through this and return to some kind of normalcy. Let’s look to history to see what people before us have done to cope with these times."

Taft will host the CVA workshop, which will look at Japanese mythology and a creature that brought hope to a community in southwestern Japan during the cholera pandemic of 1846.

"There had been a glow coming from the water for days," Taft writes. "An official of the town went to see what it was all about. A yokai appeared; it had the scaled body of a fish, the beak of a bird, long flowing hair and three lower limbs. The yokai, called Amabie, predicted 6 years of good harvest. This was good news, but the official told the spirit that many people in the province were sick. Amabie instructed that to heal the sick, the people of the town were to draw pictures of it and show them to anyone who was sick. An image of the yokai was printed in the paper in hopes of healing the sick."

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As news of COVID-19 spread, images of the Amabie began appearing on social-media channels around the world.

"The modern Amabie takes many forms and has the possibility of reaching more people than ever," Taft writes. "The Amabie images serve to unify us across cultures, across countries, across oceans, as we work together to slow the spread of the virus."

You can join Taft at 4 p.m. today, April 8, on Zoom; participants should "bring whatever supplies you can get your hands on," she advises. "Pencil and paper? Digital tools? Collage? A bird mask and a wig? Personally, I would enjoy seeing a performance piece inspired by the story."

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