Knitting the Sky
Image Credit: Yasuaki Igarashi with first Sora Ami install in Kaikōura. Photo by John Lake
Sora-Ami (Knitting the Sky) originated in 2011 with a voyage made by the artist Yasuaki Igarashi after the Eastern Japanese Earthquake. During this journey Igarashi found himself on Miyakejima, a volcanic island in the Pacific - south of Tokyo that erupts about once every 20 years. Here he met a local fisherman who taught him how to knit fishing nets. Since the encounter in June 2011, Yasuaki has brought people together “to knit” in nine different locations throughout Japan. These locations include the temporary housing facilities in disaster-stricken areas like Kamaishi City of Iwate Prefecture and the Urato Islands of Shiogama City in Prefecture Miyagi, to Asakura Jinja in Tokyo – the Shinto Shrine whose shrine crest is a net.
Image Credit: Yasuaki Igarashi knitting Sora Ami for Kaikōura. Photo by John Lake
Having previously installed his works for Shared Lines: Wellington (2017), SLC invited Yasuaki Igarashi to Kaikōura for a month-long residency coinciding with the SL:K festival. The aim of Igarashi's residency was to work with the community to create a Kaikōura specific 'Sora Ami' public installation. During this month Igarashi taught locals the traditional Japanese technique for making fishing nets, expanding his creative practice that explores connection and understanding beyond language. Having worked with displaced Japanese communities, non-verbal children in South America and multiple nationalities in Antarctica, Igarashi was well versed in turning seemingly disparate individuals into creative collaborators – art being the shared language.
Image Credit: Net knitting tools for Sora Ami. Photo by John Lake
Throughout the month of February Yasuaki popped up in various settings. From beneath a blue gazebo, Igarashi engaged with locals and tourists alike. Most people spent five to ten minutes learning the technique and worked their way through a spool of rope while others made repeat visits - dedicating hours and days to the project. At the marae on Waitangi Day, toddlers wove in and out and under the nets being knitted by elders and visitors. Some hands well versed in raranga picked up the technique easily, others fumbled but grasped it with the help of those who’d spent time with the net.
Image Credit: Kaikōura Sora Ami being installed at the Southern Wharf, Kaikōura. Photo by John Lake
The first Sora Ami was installed across a foot-bridge overlooking the Northern end of the town. This existing net was created with Japanese fishermen from various islands off the coast of the mainland. A second Sora Ami was installed in Christchurch at The Arts Centre, it acted as both a physical and symbolic statement of unity between two places which share fault lines, history and experience. A few days afterwards, at the Southern wharf end, near the uplifted seabed, the freshly knitted Kaikōura Sora Ami was raised, connecting the vista of mountains, coastline and sea. The net was gently bellied by wind – moving like a collective breath in a shared environment.
Sora-Ami Install: Shot and edited by John Lake