About PROJECT Chiyo-ni
Project Chiyo-ni began as the brainchild of artist Kazu Nakagawa.
The 2011 headland Sculpture on the Gulf (hSOTG) exhibition featured an installation by Kazu titled /ændǽnti/*, where members of the public were offered umbrellas to protect themselves from the elements (mainly sun). As they made their way around the various artworks dotted along the walking trail, wittingly or unwittingly they became an integral part of an interactive artwork with umbrellas snaking around the hills. These umbrellas were designed by Kazu as props to engage participation in his work, only fully realised when they were being carried.
At the end of the hSOTG event, the exhibited umbrellas were returned to Kazu. Shortly after, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami shook the land of his birth, an unparalleled natural disaster in modern times. He watched from afar as his family and friends living in Tokyo suffered upheavals in its aftermath. Like many New Zealanders he wanted to help those caught up in the disaster with something that would give them strength for what lies ahead, something tangible. The umbrellas, which he had designed to be used for protection against the elements struck him as symbolic of more than a rain or sun shield. Along Japan's eastern coast were millions of people who could not be protected from upheavels in the Earth's crust and the wrath of the ocean.
He donated 108 of them to set up Project Chiyo-ni. The number is significant. In Japan, at the end of the year, a bell is chimed 108 times in Buddhist temples to finish the old year and welcome the new one. Each ring represents one of 108 earthly temptations (Bonnō) a person must overcome to achieve nirvana. A sense of symbolic significance lies at the heart of Project Chiyo-ni. Symbols, gestures of friendship and kindness, matter to people faced with hardship—hope lays the foundation for recovery.
"I feel that while the basic needs will be taken care of, it is the emotional and spiritual recovery of the people that will need more support" says Kazu. The name 'Chiyo' literally means 'a thousand years—or long life' and it is from this word that 'Sendai' was born. The word also has another layer of meaning, one that Japanese people would understand very well—wishing you a long life. "Beyond food and water, people need to know that others are thinking of them. I know, from Kobe (Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995), that many people talked of loneliness and isolation, I can only imagine this will be the same, but on a far bigger scale."
* /ændǽnti/phonetic term of Andante : (as a direction) in a moderately slow tempo.