Egyptology, archaeology, life in Asia, America, and the Middle East, music, thoughts, and ideas. From the perspective of an independent academic and traveller.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Washing the Book, an explanation
For a long time, I've been thinking about creating a blog that can serve several functions at one go: an outlet for whatever is on my mind, a place to write freely, and a way for those who might be interested in similar diverse topics to indulge with me. The title, "Washing the Book," comes from a Japanese kabuki play I saw last week in Tokyo at the world-famous Kabukiza theater. The play was called "Six Poetic Geniuses" (Rokkasen Sugata no Irodori), and featured in particular the character of the legendary beauty, Ono no Komachi. Komachi was a famous poet who lived during the Heian period (ca. 825-900 AD). In the final act, Komachi is overheard reciting one of her own compositions (a waka-poem) prior to a competition. Her evil competitor attempts to disqualify her by writing Komachi's new composition into a book of the classical poems of the past. When confronted with this false evidence, Komachi "washes the book" and the fresh ink swirls off the page, and she is vindicated. The image and its implications had powerful meaning for me as I struggle with writing, with creating something new and indelible, and as I struggle with other peoples' perceptions of me and my work. So this blog in a way is my own attempt to "wash the book," a form of inscription and a form of cleansing.
Some amazing ukiyo-e (woodblock) prints depict Komachi in the act of "Washing the Book"- I've posted one above.
Egyptologist, archaeologist, and citizen of the world. I've been working in Egypt at the sacred site of Abydos since 1988, and now direct my own excavation, which centers on the monuments of King Ahmose (ca 1550-1525 BC). I've taught at universities, worked in museums, and travelled a lot. Right now, I'm living between New York City and Hong Kong, with lots of travel on the side. I'm interested in a lot of topics aside from ancient and modern Egypt, however, including all periods of art, art history theory, narrative, languages ancient and modern, and performing arts such as theater, puppetry, and music. Another huge fascination is the religion and culture of India- a place I have not yet visited. Life seems to hold lots of mysteries yet!