Tuesday, June 1, 2010

etegami crosses borders (israel)

Recently I've become fascinated by how etegami artists outside of Japan use the traditional etegami method and style to depict non-Japanese motifs. I think you'll understand better what I mean by this when I tell you about Keiko Porat who draws etegami while living in a kibbutz in Israel.

Keiko drew the attached etegami for her nephew in Japan, in celebration of his graduation from middle school. It shows a branch of olive leaves, and is accompanied by the words, "Boys, Be Ambitious," a quote from the famous farewell speech made by William S. Clark (1826-1886), former president of what is now Hokkaido University.

While the Clark quote is well-known throughout Japan, olive leaves are not a familiar motif in Japanese etegami. When I asked Keiko why she chose this subject for her nephew, she replied that souvenirs marketed for tourists in Jerusalem are often decorated with the image of a dove flying with an olive branch in its beak, and that in addition to being a widely recognized symbol of peace and hope, she saw it as representative of Israel itself. (Note: This image originates in the Hebrew scriptures, where a dove brings an olive branch to Noah after the great flood, as a sign that the waters are receding and life is returning to the surface of the earth.)

Olive trees are very hardy trees that resist drought, disease and fire. They grow slowly and can live for hundreds of years. In drawing an olive branch and combining it with the famous Clark quote, Keiko had composed a message of encouragement to her nephew-- an expression of her hope that, as he leaves childhood behind, he would press boldly forward, on his chosen path, into manhood.

Visit Keiko's blog at HANA ichirin to see more of her etegami, as well as her sumi-e paintings.


  1. Thank you, Debbie.
    I wish my nephew received special feeling by word of William S. Clark.


  2. Thanks so much for sharing your art with us, Keiko!

  3. A very touching article! People in my region believe that olive oil gives them excellent health, to be consummed without moderation! I'll think of other subject, Debbie.

  4. Thanks Yun! I look forward to seeing your French-motif etegami. :D