Even the untrained eye can see kimonos are great works of art, but to the trained eye, each kimono tells a story.
This summer, two exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria will showcase dozens of historical kimonos and tell their fascinating stories.
From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru returns to Victoria after travelling North America for more than a decade, most recently at the Textile Museum of Canada. This extremely rare and prized collection, which was donated to the AGGV, once belonged to Ichimaru (1906-1997) one of the most famous geishas of the 20th century.
Ichimaru’s story, which includes becoming a recording artist in the 1930s, is presented through her magnificent kimonos and personal belongings. Combining her experience as a geisha with an extraordinary talent as a vocalist and musician, she became a unique figure in the social history of modern Japan.
From Geisha to Diva opens alongside Kimono: the Japanese Culture in its Art Form on June 27 and both exhibitions run through Oct. 19.
“The details and features that characterize kimono culture are not well known in the Western world,” says Kimono guest curator Hitomi Harama.
“To understand the true beauty of the kimono, knowledge of its unwritten code is essential.”
The sleeve length, material, colours and design, all speak to whether the person who wore it was married or single, their age, gender, class, as well as what season the kimono was for.
Kimono showcases codes, artistic forms and complexities of kimono culture, along with the etiquette of kimono attire for different seasons and occasions.
“The exhibition will include both my family’s and local Victoria resident’s collections,” says Harama, whose family has operated Owmiya, a high-end kimono business for more than 85 years. “All of my family’s collections have been shipped from Japan.”
Kimono also contains a digital component to display valuable Kimono examples physically unavailable for display at this time.
For more information, please go online to aggv.ca.