YOKO SEYAMA / Art & Scenography

< back to works


Manyoshu / Ten thousand leaves


Manyoshu is one of the oldest Japanese poetry collections from the 7th to 8th century which contains 4,500 poems.

Man yo shu, “Manyo” is translated into “Ten thousand Leaves”, or “Myriad of Leaves” or “Myriad of Ages”

Why “Leaves”?
In Japanese, the word “WORD” is “Kotoba” written as “Saying a leaf”.
People believed that there is a spirit in each word and the spirit is called “Kotodama”,  when you say a word, the spirit comes down to your world. Saying a word is to purify the world you are in.
Words are not seen, people thought they would never know the actual shapes of words but they never tried to know that. So words were used in celebrations or ritual occasions.

When I was picking up fallen leaves for my research, I felt it was also a kind of a spiritual moment, picking one specific leave from thousands of fallen leaves.
I made high resolution image scans to visualize more details by macro zoom. In a leaf I saw nerves, colors and scars, holes that are made by whole nature conditions which creates amap of the history of the leaf.
That is why I felt the fallen leaves have spirits but not the leaf when it was still connected to the tree.
I found a similarity of this spiritual moment to the making of poems, picking up right words from myriad of words and formalized into a certain style such as syllables (called Tanka)

For this installation performance by using leaf images and poems from Manyoshu, 5 poems were chosen. In the English translations, I tried keeping the order of sentences and the rhythm in order to give a similar imagination of the scenery.

June 23 2008, Binckhorstlaan 36, Den Haag, The Netherlands
Presented as a work in the Artscience MA, Royal Academy of Art Den Haag (KABK)