The Living and The Lived
For Light Grey Art Lab's "The End is Nigh Exhibit" in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As the show's theme centered rituals, objects, cultures, and lore around death, I thought a lot about my family culture's relationship with ancestors and memories. The Okabe household butsudan (a type of buddhist altar) sits permanently within the wall of my grandmother and uncle's home in Ōfuna. My uncle leaves rice and water for our ancestors every morning and often leaves other items like fruit, snacks, and small toys.
Though when we would go visit, I would ask permission to eat the bananas that would often sit there...I think my would ancestors want me to eat more fruit than chips so maybe they were okay with it. During those summers, I think I remember leaving tiny drawings and definitely key chain charms from day trips. Probably a lot of Hamtaro or Doraemon things.
This illustration isn't an exact replica of the butsudan, but has mostly similar elements. Looking back, I like this idea that I was having a conversation with family members through small treasures and objects. Especially considering how I've always been barely fluent in Japanese, I appreciate that there was some non-verbal exchanges. And how there's this casual, ritualistic co-existance with life and death in a home. .
Image Description: A cropped illustration of a Japanese buddhist family altar (butsudan). The color palette consists of browns, reds, and oranges. Ancestral offerings include fruits, candy, toys, and a small drawing. A light smoke wafts from the lit incense.