SOAS University of London

Master - An Ainu Story

Ainu Ladies Fuki - Ainu women watching a traditional dance during the Marimo Festival, Lake Akan, Hokkaido.  ©Adam Isfendiyar

Date: 12 October 2018Time: 10:30 AM

Finishes: 15 December 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: Exhibition Rooms

Type of Event: Exhibition

Growing up in Japan has never been easy for the Ainu people. Since Japan took over Hokkaido in 1869, they have struggled to be seen as equals in their own land - only being officially recognised as the indigenous people of Japan in 2008. 

Through a series of photos taken by Adam Isfendiyar, the exhibition will take the audience on a journey through the recent history of the Ainu people, incorporating stories shared by Kenji Matsuda - head of the Akan Ainu Preservation Society. 

Over a two-year period, Adam lived with Matsuda san in the Ainu community of Akan - one of the 3 main Ainu settlements in Hokkaido. Matsuda-san was directly connected to the generations who saw some of the worst treatment of the Ainu people. His life story will offer an insight into the harsh realities of being Ainu in Hokkaido and will highlight some of the causes of the continuing legacy of shame within the Ainu community. 

Matsuda-san’s story is a common one within the Ainu community. Many have abandoned their Ainu past, some have embraced it and most live with a lingering resentment about how they and their ancestors were treated by the Japanese. 

Despite there being estimates of up to 200,000 Ainu people currently living in Japan, there is very little documentation on them in English, and not much is known about them even in Japan. This exhibition gives a rare and interesting insight into their culture and shows how they have adapted to Japanese society adopting customs but retaining their own unique culture. 

Adam’s main intention on starting this project was to help to preserve what is left of the richness of our shared human story that has been eradicated by the expansion of modern cultures. By looking into the life of Matsuda-san, Adam hopes that the audience will gain a better understanding of the impact that the forced eradication of indigenous cultures has on individuals and communities. 

We are in danger of disconnecting ourselves from the myriad perspectives of the human experience if we believe that one cultural paradigm has all the answers’ Adam Isfendiyar 

More details on the photographer and his work can be found here: 

You can contact Adam at isfendiyara@gmail.com 

Sample Images