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Coexistences: Interview with Maya Sekine

Talk Event

May 21, 2019

Discover one of the many stories in the Coexistences: Portraits of Today’s Japan exhibition by documentary photographer Laura Liverani. One of the artist’s photo subjects, Maya Sekine, will join us for a conversation at The Japan Foundation, Sydney.

Sekine is of Ainu heritage, a student and a cultural promoter based in Tokyo. Her community and home is in Nibutani, a small village in the town of Biratori in Hokkaido, Japan. Nibutani’s population of around 400 people is of approximately 80% Ainu descent. Sekine will be interviewed by Sally McLaren, a journalist and academic specialising in Japanese society and culture. The interview will reflect upon Sekine’s personal and collective experiences as a member of Japan’s indigenous population, and her experience as a photo subject for Liverani’s wider portrait series titled Ainu Neno An Ainu, meaning “Human-like Human”.

This talk is part of the event program for Coexistences: Portraits of Today’s Japan, a free exhibition on display at The Japan Foundation Gallery from April 12 to June 21, 2019.


Maya Sekine is a Japanese university student whose ambition is to share her Ainu culture with the world. She has received awards in Ainu speech contests as a child, has taught the Ainu language in a radio conversation class in 2018, and was selected to record announcements in the Ainu language for local buses. Sekine has recently started a YouTube channel with her peers, which aims to spread and teach Ainu language and culture. She aspires to create a world where people everywhere know about the wonderful culture and spirit of Ainu, and hopes that the Ainu people can live with pride far into the future—that they can continue to be proud of their heritage and culture.


A journey of exploration of native identity in contemporary Japan, the series reflects upon what it means to be an Ainu today, in everyday life practices; it addresses the sense of belonging within a community in the double process of both preserving and reinventing their own culture, in the aftermath of a prolonged assimilation that almost effaced their society and language. Most people portrayed are ethnic Ainu, although others ‘became Ainu’ not by bloodline, but by adoption into the community and by actively participating in their elective culture, within a native social practice called utari. Every portrait of this series reflects a personal and collective story: stories of activists, artists, and above all ordinary people.

Written by Laura Liverani


May 21, 2019 (Tuesday)
6:30pm-7:30pm (Doors open 6pm)


The Japan Foundation, Sydney
Level 4, Central Park
28 Broadway
Chippendale NSW 2008


Free, no bookings required.


(02) 8239 0055

Top image: Laura Liverani, Maya Sekine stands in her fishing gear in the river near her family home in Nibutani during summer vacation, Biratori, Hokkaido, 2016.


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