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Decolonising Museums and Exhibitions on the Indigenous Ainu in Japan

by Richard Meckien - published Jul 30, 2018 03:50 PM - - last modified Jun 15, 2023 01:18 PM

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de May 29, 2023 - 10:00 AM
a May 29, 2023 - 12:00 PM


Alfredo Bosi Room, IEA

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+ 55 11 3091 1687

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Clique aqui para a versão em Português

This presentation examines the practice of decolonising museums. It particularly focuses on the museum exhibits related to the Indigenous Ainu and promotes museal consciousness towards the issue of decolonising Ainu culture.

Ainu, the earliest settlers of northern Japan, had been colonised and marginalised by the Japanese for centuries. They were also collected, exhibited, and subjected to othering in expositions and museum exhibitions. Meanwhile, the Ainu people themselves created some collections as part of their ethnic movement. The Ainu hosts also organised ethnic tourism in the Ainu settlements.

In 2020, the Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park opened as the first national museum specialising in Ainu culture. While the movement to establish a national museum had started earlier, it became part of the government’s campaign to showcase the diversity of Japanese culture to the international audience only after Japan’s bid for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The museum adopted various methods to decolonise the earlier representation of Ainu culture. However, since its opening, the museum received much criticism, especially due to its approach to storytelling from a first-person perspective of the Ainu. Museum exhibitions are media that convey the museums’ messages directly to the audience; they are also sites of tension, negotiation, and contestation among the stakeholders.

Accordingly, this presentation aims to analyse the aforementioned process in which the complexity of decolonising museums is at stake. It will also assess other museum exhibits on Ainu culture for comparison and measure how museum practices have changed over time.


Mariko Murata (Kansai University)


Ilana Goldstein (Federal University of São Paulo)


Michiko Okano (Federal University of São Paulo)
Sandra Mara Salles (Afro Brasil Museum)
Susilene Elias de Melo (Worikg Museum)
Suzenalson da Silva Santos (Kanindé Museum)

Free and public event | No registration required
Online and on-site event | No attendance certification will be provided
The event will be held in English and there will be simultaneous translation into Portuguese | Live transmission at


IEA's Research Group Fórum Permanente: Cultural System Between Public and Private


Olavo Setubal Chair of Art, Culture, and Science