Media = Art + Message No.8— “Road of Light and Hope” exhibition- touring three historical Cities in 2019; Athens, Tunis and Nara

Our globally touring exhibition, “Road of Light and Hope (La Route de la Lumière et de l’Espoir) ” successfully concluded on the African continent, at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, the 10th venue in the 8th country!

2019 has this exhibition visiting three historical venues; Athens, Tunis (21st Sept- 5th Oct) and the haven of my heart, Nara (19th Oct – 4th Nov). 

“Road of Light and Hope (La Route de la Lumière et de l’Espoir)
at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis

Road of Light and Hope” aims to portray the universality permeating our ancient Hellenistic heritage as evidence of a multi-axial unity of East and West, of North and South connecting Greece and Rome, and even Tunis, on opposite sides of the Tyrrhenian Sea, and stretching along the Silk Road as far as Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital 14 centuries ago.

As an integral part of Japan’s diplomatic commemorative ceremonies both in Athens and Tunis, it was a great honour and a blessing for us to be able to send out a message that acknowledges and celebrates a unity of the heart between Greece and Japan as well as with Tunisia through the “Road of Light and Hope” exhibition series.

In Athens

Consisting of 46 photo art scrolls including the 8th century’s most outstanding Japanese National Treasures and Important Cultural Property of the Todai-ji Temple as well as the Kasuga-taisha Shrine, the exhibition in Athens was presented at the Byzantine and Christian museum to commemorate the 120th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Greece and Japan (Jan-Feb 2019).

“Road of Light and Hope” presented at the Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens
(Jan.-Feb. 2019)

At the opening ceremony, former Greek Foreign Minister Georgios Katrougalos, Madam Director Katerina Dellaporta of the museum as well as Japan’s Ambassador to Greece, Yasuhiro Shimizu, spoke. I concluded this round with my address as photo-artist and co-organizer of the exhibition.

Former Greek Foreign Minister Georgios Katrougalos at the kick-off event of the 120th anniversary of Greco-Japanese relations

“It was the perfect exhibition to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Greco-Japanese relations”, according to Ambassador Shimizu, “as this exhibition introduces the Hellenistic voyages to Japan to the Greek people”. The Silk Road did not actually end in Xi’an, but,  extended to Nara, Japan. 

Japan’s Ambassador to Greece, Yasuhiro Shimizu

In Tunis

In Tunis, the opening ceremony at the Bardo National Museum on 21st Sept. commemorated 50 years of the Japanese Embassy in Tunisia. Opening words by Tunisian Cultural Minister, Mohamed Zine El Abidine, following messages from Director Fatima Naityghil of the museum and Japanese Ambassador to Tunisia, Shinsuke Shimizu who addressed the close ties between Tunisia and Japan.

Tunisian Cultural Minister, Mohamed Zine El Abidine (middle), following messages from Director Fatima Naityghil (left) of the museum and Japanese Ambassador to Tunisia, Shinsuke Shimizu (right)

Then I spoke while showing some of my new photo scrolls: two Carthaginian masks (7th-6th centuries BCE and 4th-3rd centuries BCE) as well as a Mycenaean mask (Mask of Agamemnon: 1550-1500 BCE) and a Greek marble comedy mask (2nd century BCE)  by the courtesy of the Bardo National Museum as well as Athens’ National Archeological Museum.

Miro Ito’s speech at the opening ceremony, Bardo National Museum in Tunis

It was a great opportunity for me to present some examples of ancient interactions between Tunisia, the former Phoenician state —-including the Carthaginian Empire during the 7th–3rd centuries BCE—- and the Eurasian continent. Carthaginian territory once extended over North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, Sardinia and Sicily, having an influence, to some extent, comparable with that of the ancient Greeks and Romans on modern civilization.

Representing “universality” in art form: Carthaginian/Phoenician grinning mask (4th-3rd centuries BCE) and Japanese Bugaku mask (Chikyu) curved in 1185 CE
Permission by Bardo National Museum (Tunis) and Kasuga-taisha Shrine (Nara)

Director Naityghil welcomed our exhibition as it is capable of transcending religious barriers to stand up to terrorists with the power of art. 

In fact, there was a terrorist attack on the museum in March 2015 where 19 people, including three Japanese women, lost their lives. To overcome such tragedies we can keep inspiring the ideal of co-existence transcending race, colour and creed; that is the core leitmotiv “media = art + message” of my work over the past 15 years —after the events of 11th September 2011—- that I experienced firsthand in New York in 2011.

In Nara

The ties with Greece continue to this day as could be seen on 19th October, with Nara Prefecture hosting the 2019 Nara Silk Road Symposium, co-organized by the Cultural Agency of Japan and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

I joined this symposium as a panelist with key note speakers invited from the Byzantine and Christian museum in Athens: Father Periandros Epitropakis, Director of Exhibition, Communication and Education and Effie Meramveliotaki, Curator of East Asian Collection, following Nobuyuki Matsumoto, Executive Director of the Nara National Museum of Japan.

2019 Nara Silk Road Symposium

We jointly addressed the connection of Nara as the easternmost terminus of the Silk Roads and ancient Hellenistic heritage beginning with Alexander the Great’s exploration in 326 BCE.

Concurrently, my exhibition “Road of Light and Hope” launched at the same venue, Heijo Palace, the former site of Nara’s Imperial Palace (Heijyokyu Izanai-kan Project Exhibition Hall, until 4th November 2019) as the 11th venue in the 9th country.

Various hints and inspirations can be found in the histories of exchanges and fusions permeating the Silk Road that linked Europe, Asia and Arabia in one expansive network, through which I would like to search for a common ground fostering tolerance and solidarity in today’s divisive times.

Miro Ito, artist & author, producer & director, initiator of Media Art League

(C) Text and photos by Miro Ito/Media Art League. All rights reserved.

Road of Light and Hope” launched at the Heijo-kyo Palace, Nara’s Imperial Palace running until 4th Nov.2019

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