JFND’s new exhibition celebrating Katsushika Hokusai is a treat for manga lovers

The exhibition, which approaches Hokusai’s manga from the perspective of contemporary Japanese comics, invites viewers to ponder their notions about manga by comparing works from different periods

JFND’s new exhibition celebrating Katsushika Hokusai is a treat for manga lovers
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Murtaza Ali Khan

After a long lull owing to the pandemic, The Japan Foundation New Delhi (JFND) seems to be on a roll with its commitment to promoting cultural exchange through some very unique international traveling exhibitions. Following the success of the exhibition titled ‘TOHOKU - Through the Eyes of Japanese Photographers,’ the foundation has come out with its second exhibition this year.

This time the focus is on Hokusai’s manga with the exhibition titled ‘Manga Hokusai Manga: Approaching the Master’s Compendium from the Perspective of Contemporary Comics’. The venue for the exhibition is Tenshin Okakura Gallery, JFND, New Delhi. The exhibition will be on display till August 20.

Given the growing popularity of manga, they are often seen as mere entertainment, but there is no denying that the medium has attracted interest as a subject of research and criticism. “Over 200 years have passed since the first volume of Hokusai manga was published and even today the visual brilliance of Katsushika Hokusai as well as other artists continues to enthrall us. By introducing some of the similarities and differences between modern Japanese manga and Hokusai’s manga, the exhibition endeavors to bring to the fore the different aspects of this facet of the Japanese culture,” explains Koji Sato, Director General, Japan Foundation.

The exhibition, which approaches Hokusai’s manga from the perspective of contemporary Japanese comics, invites viewers to ponder their own notions about the manga by comparing works from different periods while exploring the diversity on offer. Sato adds, “We hope that this exhibition will allow the viewers to experience the rich cultural history as well as the different aspects of manga. I would like to extend my gratitude to exhibition’s director, Jacqueline Berndt, curators Ito Yu and Takahashi Mizuki, art director Sobue Shin, and all those who have made this event a reality.”

The decision to hold the exhibition in India for the first time was made in recognition of the growing popularity of manga among the Indian youth. The exhibition features Katsushika Hokusai, the creator of the global icon ‘The Great Wave,’ and seven contemporary comic artists have created commissioned works specifically for this exhibition. One of the most versatile and innovative painter-illustrators of his time, Hokusai (1760-1849) gained popularity in Europe and North America in the late 19th century, beginning with his manga.


Interestingly, Hokusai has made several appearances as a character in manga series since the 1970s. However, the character’s physiognomy differs significantly from Edo-period portraits which mostly show him as an old man.

Contemporary manga narratives featuring Hokusai, on the other hand, exhibit much greater diversity, encompassing a wide range of ages from actual to fantasized and stretching stylistically from realistic representation to various imaginative interpretations by fans. “We are delighted that we are finally able to bring these exhibitions to India after the impasse created by the pandemic. This is the second physical exhibition. It’s essentially a traveling exhibition and after the run in New Delhi we want to take it to other parts of India as well,” reveals Aoi Ishimaru, director of Arts and Cultural Exchange, Japan Foundation.

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