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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 is of approximately 80% Ainu descent. Sekine will be interviewed by Sally McLaren, a freelance journalist, editor and translator based in Kyoto. 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.


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 portraits were taken in Nibutani, a small village whose population of around 400 people is about 80% of Ainu descent. 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)


Free, no bookings required.


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


(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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