The Word Works

Consuming Japan


Dogû, a Cosmos

Published By: John on 09/03/12

“Dogû” is a Japanese term literally translatable as “clay figurines.” The following text is from the flyer advertising Dogû, a Cosmos, an exhibition at the Miho Museum in Shigaraki, Japan. image

The Jomon period had just begun when people began making small figurines of clay. Were there real women whose bodies were this surprisingly curvaceous? At first, the figurines had no heads or hands or feet. Sometimes the entire lower half of the body was missing. They were tiny, precious treasures, small enough to hide in the palm of your hand. Over the next several thousand years, the figurines acquired heads and hands and feet. The “Jomon Venus”  (designated a National Treasure) was born. Her face is heart shaped, her hair style exotic. The exaggerated breadth of her hips is striking. She was carefully buried in the center of a village. Was she buried to accompany the dead? Or worshipped as a goddess?

Another several thousand years passed. Now “goggle-eyed” figurines were painted with gorgeous colors.

During the more than ten thousand years of the Jomon period, these clay figurines were produced throughout Japan. For this exhibition, examples from Hokkaido to Kyushu have been brought together here in Shigaraki. In their powerful presence, you can see the roots of the Japanese people.


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