Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Japanese Master Carver, Hideta Kitazawa, at the Pitt Rivers Museum


Man sitting cross legged on a  small stage carving a mask.
Japanese Master Carver, Hideta Kitazawa © Pitt Rivers Museum 


In February 2017 Hideta Kitazawa, a Japanese Noh theatre mask carver visited the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, to demonstrate his skills to the public. Kitazawa-san was visiting the UK to deliver a mask that he had recently carved that was to be used in a Noh theatre performance in London, and was running a range of workshops and demonstrations as part of a trip funded by the Japan Society UK.


Close up of a chisel being used to carve a wooden mask
Carving a Noh Mask © Pitt Rivers Museum

This short film shows the artist at work on the Clore Learning Balcony of the museum. It was an incredible success. Kitazawa-san is a natural performer and communicator and the public were mesmerised by his work. Some people sat and watched for up to three hours, and on the Saturday the museum received a record number of visitors, over three and a half thousand.

Hideta Kitazawa had previously visited in 2009 to run similar workshops. In 2015 the museum commissioned Kitazawa-san to carve three masks to show the processes that he uses. These are now on display in the museum (PRM 2015.28.2-4) as part of an HLF funded re-display and public engagement project  Need Make Use. There is no doubt that he is a master carver and my personal favourite is a mask that he was commissioned to make for the Williamette Theatre in Oregon US, it’s a mask of Frida Kahlo.

Hideta Kitazawa carves a mask of Frida Kahlo
Carving a mask of Frida Kahlo © Pitt Rivers Museum

I feel very privileged to have worked with Kitazawa-san on two occasions. I particularly enjoyed being referred to as Andy-san. The highlight for me was when Kitazawa-san ran an informal workshop with students from Rycotewood Furniture Centre as part of the museum's HLF funded Need Make Use project. The two-way discussion of tools, materials and processes was truly inspiring. I’m looking forward to the next visit. This is a picture of my son wearing one of Kitazawa-san's masks.

Child holds up a Not Mask in front of his face
Wearing one of Kitazawa-san's Masks© Pitt Rivers Museum

Andy McLellan
Head of Education and Outreach
Pitt Rivers Museum 2017