May 26, 2010

Ainu Interns Come to Burke

This post is a part of a series about a year-long cultural exchange the Burke Museum is leading between the Ainu Association of Hokkaido and six tribal groups in Washington: The Duwamish Tribe, The Makah Nation, The Suquamish Tribe, The Squaxin Island Tribe, The Tulalip Tribes, and The House of Welcome Long House at Evergreen State College. In 2008 the Ainu were formally recognized by Japan’s government as the nation’s “first peoples.”

Not long after a group of Burke staff and Northwest Coast tribal representatives returned from their trip to Japan to visit sites of Ainu cultural revitalization, two young Ainu men from Hokkaido arrived in Seattle to begin a four month internship at the Burke Museum.

The two Ainu interns, Akira Kikuchi, 24, and Masashi Kawakami, 27, arrived in Seattle on April 13 and will stay in the United States through July to learn museum curatorial skills that they can take home and share with the Ainu community. Akira and Masashi are among the first Ainu people to travel to the United States to learn about museum studies.

While here, Akira and Masashi will spend their time developing an educational kit about Ainu heritage that will be available for use by educators in Washington State through the Burke Box program. The two interns will also curate a small exhibit of Ainu cultural artifacts purchased by and gifted to the Burke Museum. Finally, Akira and Masashi will contribute to a documentary film about Ainu culture that is being produced through the Native Voices film program at the University of Washington.

In this photo, Masashi (left) and Akira (right) stand next to a collection of Ainu cultural objects that were recently acquired by the Burke Museum. The patterned robe in the foreground is called an attush. It is a man’s robe, woven by female relatives out of elm bark and cloth, to be worn on special occasions.

This exchange is supported by a grant from Museums & Communities Collaboration Abroad (MCCA), a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State in partnership with the American Association of Museums (AAM).