Transcending invisible walls with Japan's orangcosong

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Chikara Fujiwara and Minori Sumiyoshiyama with Anthropology students
Chikara Fujiwara and Minori Sumiyoshiyama with Anthropology students

By Uyanda Ntloko, School of Journalism and Media Studies student


Rhodes University's Anthropology Department recently hosted one of its 'Anthropology in the Making' Seminar series events to introduce orangcosong, an art collective from Japan, to students, academics and the community.

The Seminar Series is curated by Rhodes University's Melusi Dlamini, a lecturer in the Anthropology Department. It is aimed at national and international scholars and practitioners in the Anthropology space.

orangcosong is a collective of Japanese artists Chikara Fujiwara and Minori Sumiyoshiyama, whose work seeks to break down and transcend the 'invisible walls' that separate people and places.  Fujiwara was born in 1977, is based in Yokohama and works as a critic/artist/curator/dramaturg. Sumiyoshiyama, born in 1986, is an artist and dancer who studied architecture at the Kyoto Institute of Technology.

orangcosong will be exhibiting/performing their unique guided Engeki Quests each day as part of the National Arts Festival (NAF). These quests are part factual, part imaginative adventure tours that take place in cities and towns around the world and involve real-time walks through various spaces to discover them from a new perspective.

The NAF's Creative Director connected orangcosong with the Anthropology Department at Rhodes University because of their mutual interest in ethnographic methods to engage and get to know places, people and the other-than-human world from multiple perspectives. 

The orangcosong have offered experiential method workshops to the Anthropology Honours cohort.  These are focused on exposure to new methods of working with research collaborators and looking at space and place from unexpected angles.  In addition, their way of incorporating movement and play into learning created a space that represents an essential shift in pedagogical approaches more conducive to improving mental health for students. 

Rhodes University Postgraduate Coordinator & Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, Dr Dominique Santos, has been developing a new course in Ethnographic Methods at second-year level that seeks to transform some departmental approaches to teaching. She explained this transformation as "moving from a 'book' approach to one rooted in experience and experimentation, combined with solid historical contextualisation and a critical engagement with the history of anthropological methods as both intertwined with the colonial project while being able to critique it".

"The chance to work with the Japanese orangcosong has led students to think differently about themselves and the places they go. It has been an amazing opportunity for all of us," said Dr Santos.

She believes it is meaningful to expose students to ideas that create doubts about what they hold to be certain and create alternative frames of reference for how they might see and engage their world and their lives. "orangcosong's contribution to our department has been exceptional. We hope to extend our collaboration to next year," she said.