South Barbarian Screens

Hikaru Fujii’s video works are a product of unearthing the appropriate documents, analyzing them, and carefully shooting and editing the material. He sheds light on the invisible connections between art and a variety of systems, historical events, and people’s memories that are intricately intertwined with it. For this exhibition, Fujii began by examining the museum collection. He became interested in a group of photographic replicas of Namban screens (depicting the arrival Europeans in Japan in the 16th and 17th century).

The screens are housed in Portugal’s National Museum of Ancient Art, and the National Museum of Art, Osaka commissioned Ikko Narahara to take the pictures in 1982. The project grew out of a budgetary provision of the Fiveyear Plan for Education, Exhibition, and Document Maintenance, implemented at the time the museum opened in 1977, which placed a strong emphasis on showing the relationship between Japanese and foreign art. In addition to the photographic replicas, there are 20 partially enlarged images of the screens. Recognizing Narahara’s intentions, which went for beyond simple reproduction, Fujii decided to focus on the non-western figures, which were depicted as servants or slaves in the screens. What role did they play in the trade relationships between Japan and Portugal? How were our lives affected by these trips between the two countries? And what was the result of circulating such images more widely through the screens? Fujii’s work raises a host of questions related to the representation of black people in film and the visual arts as a whole.