Join this online event ‘Tonkori: Musical Conversations with Oki’ with Ainu musician Oki who will be invited to perform his tonkori music, introduced by Eiko Soga, an artist and a DPhil student at The Ruskin School of Art in Oxford, and Marenka Thompson-Odlum, a research associate and a curator at the Pitt Rivers Museum. In this event, they focus on the Ainu oral culture to learn from and explore the Ainu’s world view through music.
Developed on the northern island of Karafuto (Sakhalin), the tonkuri is the only stringed instrument in the Ainu musical tradition. Each tonkori is made from a single piece of wood from one tree, such as spruce, yew or magnolia. The instrument has been used by the Ainu to perform songs inspired by nature and the behaviour of animals and humans, as well as love songs and to accompany dance.
One tradition associated with the tonkori in the culture is that Ainu would play the tonkori at the bedside of a sick person throughout the night because the kamuy (Ainu god or spirit) of sickness is said not to like the sound. Another legend tells of a story that that during an enemy invasion, an Ainu woman (the most talented tonkori player in the village) played the tonkori, disorienting the enemy and leading to their defeat.
Oki was born to a Japanese mother and an Ainu father. In 1992 Oki received his first tonkori- a stringed instrument developed by the Ainu of Sakhalin. Although the instrument was regularly displayed behind glass in museums, there were virtually no active tonkori players at this time. Oki devoted himself to studying the tonkori and soon began making his own. In 1996 he released his first album ‘Kamuy kor nupurpe.’ Shortly after he established Chikar Studio in order to encourage other Ainu artists and promote the music of Ainu artists to the world.
Eiko Soga (Ruskin) lives and works in England is currently reading for her DPhil at The Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford. Through ethnography-led art practices, Eiko explores the interrelationships within historical, cultural, emotional, and natural landscapes and how an art can embody felt knowledge of more than the human world. Her research uses storytelling as a way to observe and document how minor, ephemeral, and sensory aspects of everyday processes can lead to bigger phenomena such as collectiveness and the development of culture. In doing so, she moves away from the social and educational forms imposed by colonial and imperialistic norms. The heart of Eiko’s work is cultivating a conversation about rewilding and decolonisation in response to societies that have been shaped by urban-capitalism-centric developments. Her work often takes the form of videos, photography, and poetry.
Selected exhibitions include: Video Forms Digital Arts (France), Learning from the Folklorist Tsuneichi Miyamoto, Ichihara Lake Side Museum (Japan), Kuroko, Index Festival Hub, Yorkshire House (UK), Bamboo Tori, Sapporo CAI (Japan), Nemagaridake, Uymam Art Project (Japan). Conferences and artist talks include: Relabelling Project, the Pitt Rivers Museum (UK), Imagining Our Digital Futures: The View From Japan, The University of Sheffield, School of East Asian Studies (UK), Blue Seas Thinking: A Workshop on Interdisciplinary Marine Social Science (UK), 3rd Tanaka Symposium in Japanese Studies, Pembroke College, University of Oxford (UK), Ecologies of Knowledge and Practice: Japanese Studies and the Environmental Humanities, University of Oxford (UK). Workshops include: Artistic Practice - Working With Displaced. Arts Catalyst (UK), THE ANIMUNCULUS, Oxford-UdK Berlin Partnership in Arts and Humanities (Germany and UK).
Eiko is a graduate of MFA Sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art and MSc Japanese Studies at University of Oxford. She is an associate lecturer at Chelsea College of Arts in London.
Marenka Thompson-Odlum is a Research Associate at the Pitt Rivers Museum and a doctoral candidate at the University of Glasgow. Her doctoral research explores Glasgow’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade through the material culture housed at Glasgow Museums. At the Pitt Rivers Museum, she is the researcher on the Labelling Matters project, which investigates the problematic use of language within the Pitt Rivers Museum's displays and thinking through ways of decolonisation through re-imagining the definition of a label.
This event is in collaboration with Pitt Rivers Museum and TORCH as part of the Humanities Cultural Programme.