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Origin of the Girl's Festival
Every Sunday, I saw her sitting in her wheelchair by the window. In some regions of Japan, for example, Tottori and Wakayama Prefectures, events during which dolls are set adrift on the water are still practiced today. This is certainly a vestige of the ancient Chinese ritual. The reason why the event, originally held on the first day of mi in March, later came to be held on the third of March is because it was influenced by the Chinese idea that the day matching the number of the month, such as the fifth of May or seventh of July was a cause for celebration.
During the Heian period , playing with dolls was called hiina-asobi and was very popular not only among young girls but also adult women of the nobility.
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The term "hiina" derived from an old diminutive used for small and charming things and meant a doll in those days. This play consisted mainly of a pair of female and male dolls together with some miniature furniture and household effects. Naturally, the month of March was not the only time when people played this.
Mention of the hiina and hiina-asobi often appears in literature of the Heian period. For example, in the "Tale of Genji" there is a description of young ladies being absorbed in such play on New Year's Day, while in a collection of poems by Emperor Murakami , he wrote about hiina-asobi on the Tanabata Star Festival Day, the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar.
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These examples alone prove how much such play was loved and enjoyed among the nobility in their daily lives. In the "Pillow Book" by Seisho Nagon, the first known Japanese essay, hiina is defined as a term to describe beautiful and charming objects. Furthermore, the "Gossamer Years", a diary by a noblewoman of that period, describes how court ladies sewed and dressed costumes on hiina dolls, from which we can imagine how much they enjoyed such activity.
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It is said that the hiina doll, which was hand-made by the court ladies, began to be made professionally by the sculptors of Buddhist images or noh masks during the Muromachi period , following the introduction of aleurone whitewash to doll making. Before the Heian period, hiina-asobi had been just like the children's game of playing house of today. This may not have led immediately to the present Hina Matsuri Doll Festival or Girl's Festival , however one can say that the festival originated in the hiina-asobi as a form of girl's play.
The Hina Matsuri is today an established regular annual event, integrating this hiina-asobi and the Serpent Day Ritual. From the Edo period and thereafter, the term "hiina" became "hina". As the culture attained full maturity, the Hina Matsuri Doll Festival or Girl's Festival gradually became more elaborate. Towards the middle of the Edo period, dolls representing a noble male and female couple of the Imperial Court dressed in formal costumes and in a sitting position, became popular in Kyoto and spread throughout Japan. The pair was called "Dairi Emperor and Empress -bina", as they were both dressed in miniature Imperial costumes.
The reason why the hina doll is also called Dairi-bina today, is because as a form it descended from this Emperor and Empress style. Furthermore, upon reaching the middle of the Edo period, the Hina Matsuri grew even more opulent, with additional dolls and furniture being decorated in tiers together with the Emperor and Empress dolls, and paper hina dolls.
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In those days, the festival display in Kyoto and Osaka, consisted of a two-tiered stand; the upper tier consisted of ornaments such as a palace with the Emperor and Empress dolls in it, paper hina dolls and other court officials, ladies and guard dolls, miniature cherry and mandarin orange trees, paper dogs and dolls in fashionable costumes. While the lower tier consisted of some furniture, a court carriage, kitchen utensils, candlestands, individual tables with rice cakes and white sake.
Meanwhile the display was even more elaborate in Tokyo, having three- or four-tier stands.
The main dolls were similar to those of Kyoto and Osaka, but instead of a palace, a folding screen stood behind the Emperor and Empress dolls, while other popular figures, such as five musicians, gods and priests, dolls in fashionable costumes, mechanical toys, and a sacred horse and crane, replaced the court officials, ladies and guard dolls. It was during the middle of the Edo period that the Hina Matsuri took root as an event to celebrate a girl's birth on the third of March of her first year.
Along with this, the custom of giving hina dolls became popular; the dolls together with other gifts were placed on a palanquin and carried to the girl's family. Kohlmann has a seemingly relentless approach to creation. Driven by a urge that makes her an extremely prolific artist, her work appears as a necessary output for everything her attentive eyes, ears and hands absorb from the world outside.
With roots in the DYI punk culture, self— publishing and fanzines — the joy of creating something for the pure pleasure of creative exchange emanates still from her work. When it comes to her subjects and semiotics, Kohlmann embraces the body in its imperfections, desires, and frailties. She exposes it in its entirety, overcoming the taboos that normally inform its depiction, therefore making it political. Her figures — human, animal and vegetal — morph into each other in a communion which feels like physical and metaphysical at once.
With her touching representation of sex and desire, she offers us a different and tender perspective on sensuality, as source of empathy and profound connection between beings.