Honor / Speak
- At July 27, 2016
- By anneblog
- In Annes Letters
Late November-Early December
Dear Family and Friends,
The news these days is always full of extreme contrasts, maybe more poignantly so this holiday time. Everywhere the abundance of this holiday season is juxtaposed with images of extreme deprivation, reflecting the widening gap of our time. Interestingly, a performance based on extreme contrasts came to Sendai the other day. As to be expected, its message and portrayal were very powerful indeed.
Actually many cultural shows and performances have come to Sendai and other areas of Tohoku since the disaster of March 11, 2011. Most are for sheer enjoyment, a way to ease people’s troubled minds and hearts. But recently there was a rather avant-garde drama that came from Aomori, a prefecture in Tohoku, but north of the devastated areas. This piece was in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. Its title was “Iwau-Iu”, which means “Honor-Speak”.
This play emphasized extreme contrasts: darkness and light, closeness and separation, dream and reality. All the costumes were either black or white, with a single red scarf on one actress. The lighting was very subdued, with a suggestion of people’s outlines piercing the darkness.
The language kept switching from one that was recognizable to others there were both beautiful and unsettling sounds. Despite those fundamental differences, the conversations flowed smoothly, allowing perfect understanding between everyone involved. The audience, too, had a sense of fitting in and of comprehending through imagination and the heart. Of course, the message of unity and understanding was very poignant in this age of political uneasiness between the three Asian powers.
The story began with hopes and dreams, travel plans of friends, laughter. But then everything shifted dramatically with violence and total disorder. That upheaval ushered in the long, hard anguish of collecting and piecing together shattered lives and souls: a process going on to this day.
There was eerie, hauntingly slow music broken by violent burst of shocking sounds and flashing lights. That cacophony raged outward the inner anguish that people lived through and are still feeling deep within. The music was played on traditional stringed instruments from the triangle of countries involved. Those instruments were embellished by a piano and a male vocalist. Together they painfully birthed the innermost turmoil of the soul.
With destruction and confusion everywhere, people turned to each other and eventually to performance as a way to glue their world together again. But more important than a reflection of the journey we have all been on, this highly disturbing, but very beautiful drama was actually a gift of permission. It opened a door, turning the inner outward. It seemed to say, “It is all right to grieve. It is OK to still feel pain. You have permission to consciously work on the process of deep inner healing.” This is very difficult anywhere, but especially in a country where saving face is paramount.
The outer dimension is slowly becoming more stable. Gradually the physical world is being rebuilt and reshaped. But the inner wounding is still very much part of an ongoing, mostly unseen experience that most people hold close within. This drama clearly stated that the time has come to move the suffering outward. Not through violence or despair, but through art, creativity, and new life.
And indeed, this powerful performance ended with hope. A Japanese man was talking to a Chinese woman. They had been together before and during the earthquake and tsunami and were meeting once again. He told her he was now married and had a baby. “We live in Fukushima,” he said. “Please come and visit us in the future.” And her reply was, “Thank you. Of course, I will.”