Shared Lines: Ramat Koro Kur exhibiting artist
Oshikesaranip / woven attus bag
Details of kaparamip garment/cotton
Akemi Shimada (Shizunai Ainu) - embroiderer, cultural practitioner is an Ainu elder, activist and award winning artist. She was raised by Ainu speaking parents in the river valley town of Shizunai. She moved to Tokyo in her early twenties and hid her Ainu identity for fear of discrimination. It wasn’t until later in life that an encounter with Māori inspired her to start learning more about her culture and share it with others.
Part of her journey to revitalize cultural practices has been to learn the art of Ainu embroidery. Although traditionally it was an art form passed down from mother to daughter, for Akemi it meant learning from other Ainu trying to revive the practice, while studying the patterns from old photos and artifacts in museums. The patterns are geometric, but organic in nature and distinctive to each region. They often serve as protection for the wearer, aided by the feelings the maker imbues in the clothing during the making process.
Akemi has become a voice for Ainu living in Tokyo to have their rights recognized by the Japanese government. She frequently visits schools, universities and communities throughout Japan as cultural advisor to gives talks and workshops to introduce Ainu culture.
Every year during harvesting season she travels back to Shizunai, and heads to the forests with her siblings to forage for indigenous foods.