Keiko Mukaide’s Residency by Lila Matsumoto

Walking down Dunbar’s High Street, I see our beach hut art resident Keiko hard at work, dressing the window of the Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland Charity shop with origami boats. This gentle maritime army casts pleasant shadows as they catch the summer sun. I pop into say hello. The small boats, made from pages of old dictionaries, have bright-blue painted sides and are strung onto string, which Keiko stretches from ceiling to floor of the charity shop. (Later that week, she installs another row of boats in the entry archway of the battery on the Victoria Harbour.) The shop is busy: several customers politely ask to see some clothing items from the window, which are sharing display-space with the boats.

A few hours later, I join Keiko down at the beach hut. She is sitting outside, tending to her ‘workshop’ where passersby are invited to sit down, make origami boats, and have a chat. The interior of the beach hut is used as a gallery space for her origami crane installation. Like the boats, these delicate birds (made by Keiko’s friends in Japan out of Japanese dictionaries) are suspended on string, and are immediately intriguing for the sense of order and calm they emanate. These beautiful paper birds are symbols of hope, and have been made in tribute to the victims of the 2011 tsunami disaster in Japan.

An integral aspect of Keiko’s project is to link Japan to Scotland, and more specifically Dunbar to the fishing and coastal communities in Japan who have suffered much hardship as a result of the tsunami. On a recent walk with geologist Fiona McGibbon, Keiko learnt that a tsunami had hit Scotland in 6100 BC. Her project invites us to contemplate the various ways in which the sea links people the world over, but also more broadly about the ways in which it is imperative for human beings to communicate and cooperate with one another, especially in the wake of such disasters. No one is exempt from hardship and sadness. Through the act of taking out a small portion of our day to make origami with others, for instance, Keiko hopes to illuminate the fact that it is the small moments of peace that make our lives worthwhile.

The concept of ‘art in the community’ has become pervasive to the extent that it has almost been rendered a cliché. But Keiko’s practise is successful for its subtlety, and for its genuine warmth. By the end of the week, so many people recognise Keiko, for her presence down by the harbour, and for her origami displays in various places in town. I think of John Muir, whose lifelong aim was to preserve and protect the wilderness in order for others to be able to enjoy it. Muir’s recognition of the connection between nature, art, and humanity was perhaps developed during his youth in Dunbar:

With red-blooded playmates, wild as myself, I loved to wander in the fields to hear the birds sing, and along the seashore to gaze and wonder at the shells and seaweeds, eels and crabs in the pools among the rocks when the tide was low…

Keiko’s residency was from 7th July to 13th July.

Keiko’s fishing boats are on display at the Dunbar Library at the Bleachingfield centre for the rest of the summer.

Lila Matsumoto