Special Theme
Ethno-graphic Collaborations: Crossing Borders with Multimodal Illustration

Turning Points

Laura Haapio-Kirk Department of Anthropology, University College London
Megumi Ito Independent Artist
DOI: https://doi.org/10.51002/trajectoria_022_02
(Published March 31, 2022)
Explore the audio embedded in this painting by clicking or tapping the image.
(© Megumi Ito)


Megumi Ito is an artist living in rural Kōchi Prefecture, Japan. In this painting she depicts her life course as she approaches the age of fifty, capturing how she sees her life as composed of contrasts: day and night, mountain and river, countryside and city life, sorrow and joy. She also depicts the move that her family made from Tokyo to a small rural town in Kōchi Prefecture following the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown that brought devastation to Japan in March 2011. Her explanation of the meaning behind the various elements of the painting are embedded as audio files in the artwork that the viewer is invited to explore in a non-linear way. Megumi uses traditional Japanese materials such as washi paper, handmade brushes, natural pigments, and glue to make her paintings. The pigments are the same ones that she used 25 years ago when starting out on her artistic journey, and are derived from nature, including oyster shells and minerals. Using these materials connects her to the craftsmanship that goes into their production, celebrating precious knowledge and skills.

Laura Haapio-Kirk conducted ethnographic fieldwork in the town where Megumi lives in 2018-19. Two years after returning from fieldwork, through a remote collaboration combining digital tools and analogue artistic methods, Laura and Megumi discussed how Megumi’s thoughts and perceptions about life had changed. Megumi’s painting, shown here, was used as a medium for object elicitation during the interview. The piece combines both Megumi’s painting and edited interview clips, demonstrating how such collaborations between researcher and research participant can creatively combine elicitation tools and modes of dissemination. The life story method is adapted to the non-linear graphic and collaborative format, inviting the viewer to make connections between different visual and narrative elements as Megumi does when thinking about the interconnectedness of life events across time and space.
Key Words painting elicitation, migration, Japan, ikigai, life purpose


Laura Haapio-Kirk

Megumi Ito