When thinking of what to do for this assessment I was stumped. I didn’t know which way I wanted to go in terms of topics and found myself procrastinating heavily through the weeks and putting it off. It was a few weeks before I had to present this Digital Artefact to a group of people in the tutorial that I had an epiphany that guided me to the topic that I have chosen for my DA. Originally for another class, I’m creating a paper origami crane art piece. This involves making as many cranes as possible in the time frame, tying them to fishing wire then hanging them from the roof from three metal meshes.
In order to tie this subject/idea of origami paper cranes to this subject, I have chosen to do some ethnographic and specifically autoethnographic research. Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing which seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand a cultural experience. In order to “do autoethnography,” I have chosen to investigate the history behind origami and paper cranes while also drawing my experiences with making these cranes for my art project.
The word “origami” comes from the Japanese language where “Ori” means folded and “Kami” is paper. The art of paper folding infiltrated the Japanese culture more strongly than any other. However, the traditional art of paper folding didn’t just exist in Japan alone.
During the 6th CE, paper was introduced into Korea and then into Japan by Buddhist monks. The process of folding origami become an art form as well as a religious ritual for formal ceremonies. It was also practiced in the Japanese imperial court where it was considered amusing and an elegant way to pass the time.
An earlier example of paper folding called “Shide” is a method where the paper is cut into zig-zag shapes. This method of paper folding was used in Shinto purification rituals and are found tied around and in objects, shrines and sacred spaces as an indication that spirits and Gods are present.
When the art of folding paper become recreational as well as ceremonial a book was published in 1797 by Akisato Rito, which documented recreational paper folding called ‘Folding 1,000 paper cranes’. Before this book origami was taught by elders to the younger children but after this book was published the secrets of origami were recorded and allowed for many people to learn how to fold origami.
Akira Yoshizawa is also considered to be one of the instigators or modern origami. He developed a system of folding patterns which used symbols, arrows, and diagrams that were published and became widely available which contributed to its global reach and standardization. As the art of origami became widely available the methods of folding started to develop and mix together into origami that we usually see today. Many of the origami models found in Europe tended to have a grid crease, pattern with squares, rectangles, and diagonals while ceremonial folds from old Japanese methods tended to have judgment folds where the location of the creases was up to personal taste and interpretation of the individual.
Paper cranes are usually the first thing people think of when origami is concerned. The paper cranes carry heavy symbolism and meaning in Japanese, Chinese and Korean cultures. In these cultures, cranes represent good fortune and longevity. In Japanese culture the crane is known as the “bird of happiness”, Chinese culture also believes them to be heavenly and full of wisdom. In these cultures, the wings of the crane were believed to be able to carry souls up to heaven and carry people to higher levels of spiritual enlightenment.
Mainly in Japan, the crane is known to be a mystical creature which is believed to be able to live for thousands of years. As a result, these animals are held in the highest regard and has become a symbol of hope during challenging times. Because of this, it has become popular to fold 1,000 paper cranes or “senbazuru” in Japanese. The cranes would usually be strung together on strings and given as wedding or baby shower gifts.
The story of Sadako Sasaki was the reason why folding 1,000 paper cranes became so popular. Sadako survived the Hiroshima bombing when she was only 2 years old, as she grew older her injuries grew worse and she notices her glands were becoming swollen and purple spots appearing on her legs. She was later diagnosed with leukemia – a cancer of the bone marrow. While she was deteriorating Sadako made the decision to make 1,000 paper cranes, she made the cranes as a way to let out her pain, suffering, and boredom. Sadako hid her suffering and pain through making paper origami cranes and ended up making 644 cranes out of her 1,000 goal. She ended up passing away before reaching her goal so friends, classmates, and family members came together to finish it for her and she ended up being buried with her cranes and a promise of a wish.
So far I have made around 200 paper cranes and am hoping that I will be able to create another 200 for my art piece. Folding paper cranes have become somewhat therapeutic for me and it’s something that I will continue to do in my free time. I originally used Youtube as a source to understand how to fold the cranes properly because the diagrams available were quite confusing and hard to figure out. When I used Youtube as a source I found that other people who were helping me make them also found it easier to understand which was also helpful. When the art piece is finished and marked I’m planning on keeping it and hanging it somewhere in my room somehow. I think that the story and history behind the origami art form is a beautiful one that I think will definitely stick with me beyond the university assessments I have completed about it.