For her first exhibition in Japan, Anna Boghiguian depicts a narrative based on the history of Japan’s silk industry, which is renowned throughout the world.
The Silk Road, known as a trade route between East and West, began before the common era. It was also a route that connected Egypt and Japan. Buddhism was also introduced to China from India via the Silk Road, and eventually to Japan. Boghiguian sees the Silk Road as not only a trade route, but also “an intellectual, spiritual, and cultural road.” The development of the sericulture and silk manufacturing industries, which brought prosperity to the Japanese economy during the Meiji period, had a great deal to do with the Meiji government policy of enriching the country and strengthening the military, as well as boosting industrial development. The government-run Tomioka Silk Mill, established in 1872, also employed a French engineer, Paul Brunat (1840-1908), while French women were responsible for the education of the silk workers. The labor of these women was indispensable to the spreading of the silk manufacturing industry throughout Japan, and the Itohiki Uta (literally, song of silk spinning), which is included in Yamamoto Shigemi’s (1917-1998) book Ah, Nomugi Pass, gives us a glimpse of the sorrows of such hard labor.
Boghiguian is interested in the fact that behind the industries that contributed greatly to the nation’s acquisition of foreign currencies and economic development, there was the hard labor of girls who helped to support their impoverished households. She is also fascinated by the fact that the spirit and technology of Toyoda Sakichi (1867-1939), who completed Japan’s first power loom in 1896 and continued to contribute to the silk industry through his numerous inventions, was linked to that of Toyoda Kiichiro (1894-1952), Sakichi’s eldest son and the founder of Toyota Motor Corporation, which has developed into a global automobile manufacturer today.
On display are these stories, consisting of twelve paintings suspended from the ceiling with numerous silk threads and twenty-four drawings and a map on the walls. The relationship of individuals to the fate of nations and their eras, as well as that of the world to events in specific regions, emerge in Boghiguian’s grand narratives.