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Sayo Ogasawara
Shared Lines: Ramat Koro Kur exhibiting artist

Sayo Ogasawara.jpg

Ainu language karuta cards






Sayo Ogasawara (Shizunai Ainu) - illustrator/designer


Sayo Ogasawara is a self-taught illustrator who turned professional after an unexpected job request from a museum. Since then she has illustrated for several museums including the Museum of Japanese National History. Her work has spanned books, calendars, educational resources, animations and truck side advertising. 


A dancer, musician and former member of the Tokyo-based band, the Ainu Rebels, Sayo is also an accomplished embroiderer. She combines embroidered designs with Ainu narratives, including animal deities in their natural environment. In 2019, she took part in the National Gallery of Canada’s exhibition Àbadakone, featuring work by more than 70 contemporary indigenous artists from 16 countries.


Raised in a Japanese speaking environment, Sayo has worked hard to learn the Ainu language as an adult. Language acquisition is a latent motif in many of her works which combine illustrations with Ainu words, reflecting her aspiration to be more a proficient speaker of Ainu. She also creates them as a language learning tool for other students of the Ainu language. 


In recent years Sayo has been learning Ainu using a strategy developed for language revitalisation based on the Māori total immersion method Te Ataarangi. As inspiration for future work, she would like to explore some of the similarities and differences between Ainu and Maori culture in her illustrations.

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