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Soma Nomaoi Festival

Date Published
13th September 2018

Earlier this year I was back in Sydney to exhibit my latest work on Aogashima at Artsite Galleries. This was during the Sydney Head On Photo Festival, so I took the opportunity to visit several other photo exhibitions while I was in town.

One such exhibition was in the busy shopfront of Kinokuniya near Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building. Japanese photographer Noriko Takasugi was displaying a collection of beautiful portraits of Samurai from Fukushima prefecture, highlighting the issue of their loss of identity as their town, community and the Nomaoi festival were displaced by the disastrous tsunami and issues with the nearby nuclear reactor.

It turned out Noriko was friends with Seto-san from Place M galleries, the darkroom where I produced all my prints for exhibition in Sydney. We got to talking, one thing led to another, and soon I found myself tagging along with her to visit this year’s Nomaoi Festival.

The festival takes place over three days, and includes processions of samurais on horses through the streets, horse racing and horseback flag catching. It draws a large crowd every year and is indeed quite a spectacle. The armour these men and women wear is incredibly ornate, and the bonds they share with their horses are clearly evident.

Noriko’s project focuses on one particular group of these Samurai from the town of Odaka, and with her I got to witness some additional events such as horse wrangling and blessing at Odaka shrine.

Noriko has been working on this project for 8 years, and with the 10 year anniversary of the disaster approaching she is hoping to produce a new book displaying her work.

We are currently in talks to collaborate on a video introducing her project, the festival and these people, which we hope to film during the 2019 Nomaoi festival. Stay tuned for more info!