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Costumes for Noh Theatre
The Sato Yoshihiko Memorial Yamaguchi Noh Costume Research Center: The Collection

19.01.2011 to 01.05.2011

In conjunction with the Japanisch-Deutsches Zentrum Berlin and the Sato Yoshihiko Memorial Yamaguchi Noh Costume Research Center, Kyoto.

To celebrate the opening of diplomatic ties between Japan and Prussia 150 years ago and to coincide with a performance by the Konparu Ensemble in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, the Museum of Asian Art has joined forces with the Japanisch-Deutsch Zentrum and the Sato Yoshihiko Memorial Yamaguchi Noh Costume Research Center to present a selection of fabrics and masks made especially for Noh theatre.

The exhibition presents both old and modern costumes and fabric patterns held at the Sato Yoshihiko Memorial Yamaguchi Noh Costume Research Center in Kyoto. The team around its director, Yamaguchi Akira, and his daughter, Yamaguchi Tomoko, have spent many years examining traditional costume production methods by studying both old originals and experimentally designed copies. In the production of new costumes, the team primarily uses traditional techniques for weaving and decoration, as well as traditional materials that they in part produce themselves using historic methods. The exhibits here are distinguished by their elegant and subtle splendour for which Noh costumes have long been famed.

Noh theatre developed in the 14th century under the patronage of the aristocracy and was derived from older continental-Chinese and popular indigenous folk forms of dramatic art. It has been regarded as the highest traditional form of theatre in Japan ever since. Performances often take place over New Year as the culmination of festive events. Noh is acted exclusively by men and is always accompanied by music. The main actor wears an oval-shaped mask. On top of the dramatic portrayal of complex psychological relationships and the inclusion of surprising dance elements, one of its most impressive aspects is seen in the magnificent costumes involved, which are nothing less than an eloquent testament to the high standing of Japanese textile art.