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celebrating AANHPI Heritage Month

May has been for celebrating AANHPI Heritage Month,

and this year, I celebrated in some new ways! (see glossary at end of post)

I had a lovely opportunity to share my work at co-mrkt's AANHPI artisan market at Kibō Nobori Children's Day Festival held at Terasaki Budokan in Downtown Los Angeles' Little Tokyo. This was my first time celebrating Kodomo no Hi, a Japanese holiday to celebrate and wish for health and good fortune for all children. Kibō means "hope" and nobori means "flags/banner" in Japanese, and in addition to Faith-Ann Kiwa Young's flag art installation, kiddos ran around in festive form continuing the tradition of flying koinobori.

It was so special to be a part of such a happy event and soak up the experience of sharing my work in Little Tokyo- a place that holds so many fond, lifelong memories for me and my family. The day was filled with a taiko drum group performance, Japanese dancing that wove gradually around the space- colorful yukata adding to each movement, and a singer/musician who sang playful children's songs in Japanese with the kiddos. A Hawaii'an hula dance class that meets at Terasaki Budokan performed as well, each movement both precise yet with a feeling of being gracefully effortless.

(my lovely boothmate Jennifer, Laotian American incense artisan behind Magixstyx)

(dear Kristina of Cheery Human Studios and her husband Darren visited us)

(my cousin Mayumi, sibling Britt + friend Chris of Geek Between the Lines stopped by to visit)

It's been sometime since I had a yukata of my own, so when I discovered Chiharu of Kimonoyala at the event, I was eager to visit her shop. The mix of graphic black leaves with more delicate, outlined versions had my heart at hello. Now, I just need to find myself an obi to match! I have a red one somewhere, but I'm thinking something black with a bit of gold, yellow, or green would be nice!


For this month's Guided Creative Retreat, we boarded the Cat Bus in delightful company with a ticket to the imaginative lands of Studio Ghibli. Here are some of the lovely creations that transpired!

Amy | @worm.dark sketched these magical drawings with colored pencils, combining settings, objects, characters, and quotes from different Ghibli films.

Bella | @bellasinclairdoodler spent a week drawing and carving the pages of a book, infusing all things Ghibli.

Bronwyn | @bronwynleigh_ worked with watercolors and the quote, "Turn your face toward the sun, and the shadows fall behind you" (Tales from Earthsea).

Carolina | @challglass drew this wonderful piece pulling from the quote, "A heart's a burden" (Howl's Moving Castle) and imagery from various films including Ponyo and My Neighbor Totoro.

Sarah | @teardrop_city wrote this delightful short story, pulling inspiration from a variety of Ghibli films.

Kimberly Kuniko | @lacelit | Having recently watched Howl's Moving Castle, I was drawn to the imagery of Howl's secret garden where he practiced magic as a child, encouraging the flowers to bloom. The words 'refuge' and 'sanctuary' were offered by other retreats and they rang true as I considered the idea of a place feeling both still and alive at the same time. I decided to reimagine such a space in collage form with use of origami paper, translucent vellum, and embroidery thread. I'm still working on filling in the threaded knots for a robust floral hillside, but good things take time. ^.^

I'm also fascinated by the textures forming on the reverse of the page as I created rows of knots. I think I'll turn this page into a piece of it's own after I'm finished with the secret garden!

Did you celebrate AANHPI Heritage Month this year, friends? I'd love to hear!

♡ Kimberly Kuniko

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AANHPI Heritage Month // Asian American + Native Hawai'ian + Pacific Islander Heritage Month. AANHPI heritage encompasses the continent of Asia, the Hawai'ian islands, and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia), and Polynesia (New Zealand, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).

koinobori // koi (carp fish) streamers flown on poles outside of public buildings and private houses to bring luck and good fortune to the children inside. Koi are believed to be strong, spirited fish, and are revered for their determination in fighting as they swim upstream and through powerful waterfalls. Koinobori symbolize the desire for children to become brave and strong indivuduals.

koto // Japan's national instrument made up of a long zither with movable bridges and typically 13 strings. It lies on the ground or a low table, and the strings are plucked by picks worn on the fingers of the right hand while the left hand alters the pitch or ornaments the sound of individual strings by pressing or manipulating them. Listen to ENOKIDO Fuyiki koto performance for Japan House London.

obi // A broad sash worn around the waist of kimono and yukata.

taiko // This Japanese word can mean a Japanese drumming style, a drum group, drum music, and a drum itself. Taiko drums range in shape and size and have developed through Japan's history in various traditional art forms such as Noh, Kyo-gen, Nagauta, and Kabuki. Watch BIG DRUM: Taiko in the United States documentary film.

yukata // An unlined cotton summer robe, worn in casual settings such as summer festivals and to nearby bathhouses. Note: Yukata are often mistaken for kimono, which are made from more luxurious silk or brocade (embroidered silk) and worn as a reflection of elegance. In contrast, yukata were first worn when visiting the onsen (bathhouse or hot springs) and eventually came to be worn in more casual public settings, particularly during the summertime. The left side is always crossed over the right (the reverse is only used when dressing the dead).


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© Kimberly Kuniko

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Welcome to the personal blog of of Kimberly Kuniko, a Nikkei American illustrator, collage artist, poet, and host of cozy, virtual guided creative retreats with a new theme each month.

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