Archived Story

Experience the stunning art of Japan

Published 6:04pm Saturday, August 9, 2014

By Grace Heimsness

Education and Marketing Coordinator

Those inclined to look up will find something unique in the Turbine Gallery this year, thanks to Peggy Keener.

Keener, who moved to Japan with her husband in 1962 and spent 30 years living throughout Asia, will share a few stunning pieces of Japanese culture with her fellow Austinians during the Austin ArtWorks Festival.

Hanging from the ceilings will be Japanese nobori (pronounced no bo ree) — long, banner-like flags traditionally hung by families to announce the birth of a son. While the banners you and I are familiar with hang horizontally, these nobori hang vertically from a bamboo pole, and can sometimes reach as high as 30 feet.

Their coloring is perhaps their most striking feature; despite their age (Keener’s are close to 100 years old) and long exposure to the elements, the nobori retain their vibrant designs, which are identical on both sides.

You may also notice several designs along the nobori. Fish, or koi, decorate one banner in particular and represent an entire subset of the flags known as Koinobori.

The koi is reputed to be an especially spirited fish, with the strength and resolve to fight its way upstream. In the hopes that the koi would inspire these same traits in their sons, families traditionally flew Koinobori depicting one fish for each son, with the largest fish reserved for the eldest.

Koinobori, which have evolved to resemble what we know as windsocks, now fly throughout Japan each spring in honor of Tango no Sekku, or “Children’s Day.”

While we’ll be celebrating something a little different later this month, the presence of the nobori will serve as a reminder that if you take the time to look, you can find art in all corners. Until next week.

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