Ancestor and Descendant

ANCESTOR AND DESCENDANT (2008-)

Exhibited at Thermostat Art Gallery in 2018

and then with the new series at Gilberd & Marriott Gallery in Wellington in 2013

The new series of drawings have been displayed at Zimmerman Art Gallery, Palmerston North



Ancestor and Descendant is a drawing installation about my feelings regarding my ancestry and my family’s obscure, nostalgic admiration for the samurai era.

 

I am from a samurai family, and am in fact the last descendant of the main branch of the Tsutsumis, a family which originated in the southern region of Japan. But I don't have any inheritance or family treasures like swords, armour or written manuals about swordsmanship; my only legacy from that era is my name. "Naga" is part of my given name "Naga-taka”, My father name is Naga-aki, my grandfather's is Naga-michi, my great grandfather's Naga-nobu and so on; I can trace my ancestry back for 400 years. Naga, in Japanese long or leader, is a name that you must adopt when you are born as the first male child into the main branch of the Tsutsumi family. Naga~ would be respected by other members of the family and expected to be a good man. Since the samurai era ended 140 years ago when Japan decided to westernise itself, the Tsutsumi, like other samurai, gave up their swords, and instead, for four generations Tsutsumi's eldest sons devoted themselves to working for the Mitsubishi group, newly (at the time) established by another samurai family, Iwasaki...until my time. I am the first eldest son of the Tsusumis who does not work for Mitsubishi and who lives outside Japan. I used to hate my given name because it was so uncommon and uncool, and moreover because it was a symbol of very old traditions.

 

However, now and then something makes me uneasy about having totally rejected what my forefathers did. But what can I do? That old tradition and way of thinking—discriminating, not only against women and second sons but also branch families--in this non-samurai era and non-samurai world is so ridiculous and so out- dated, yet something makes me wonder if it may be a big part of myself. Do I have some hidden admiration for samurai warriors? Are my feelings a mixture of being ashamed and proud... Am I just getting old?

Installation View:

at Thermostat Art Gallery, 2008

Exhibition at Thermostat Art Gallery, 2008

and at Gilberd Marriott Gallery, 2012

STATEMENT

 

 

Ancestor and Descendant is a series of drawings about my perspective of ancestries and future generations.

 

I am from a Japanese samurai family, and am in fact the last descendant of the main branch of the Tsutsumi, a family which originated in the southern region of Japan.  But I don't have any inheritance or family treasures like swords, armour or written manuals about swordsmanship; my only legacy from the glory era is a family teree book made about a hundred years ago and my name.  Naga is part of my given name "Naga-taka”, My father’s name is Naga-aki, my grandfather's Naga-michi, my great grandfather's Naga-nobu and so on; I can trace back my ancestries for 400 years.  Naga, long or leader in Japanese, is a name that the first son of the main branch of Tsutsumi family have to carry to identify the position.  Naga swould be respected and expected to be a good man by other members of the family.  But the samurai era ended 140 years ago when Japan decided to westernise itself, and the Tsutsumi, like other samurai families, gave up their swords.  For four generations Tsutsumi's eldest sons have devoted themselves to Mitsubishi Group, established by another samurai family, Iwasaki...until my time.  I am the first eldest son of Tsusumi who does not work for Mitsubishi and who lives outside Japan.  I used to hate my given name because it was so uncommon and sounded uncool, and moreover because it was a symbol of traditions, and conservatism.

 

However, something makes me feel uneasy about totally rejecting what I come from.  But what can I do?  That old tradition and way of thinking in this non-samurai era and non-samurai world discriminate women, second or third sons and other branch families.  It seems so ridiculous and so outdated, yet something makes me wonder if it may be a big part of what I am.  Do I have some hidden admiration for samurai warriors?  My feelings are a mixture of  ashamed and proud...  What should I teach our descendants in the future generations?  Am I just getting old?