Kami deities have been worshipped for centuries in Japan, as part of the religion Shinto. At the Cleveland Museum of Art, an exhibition of visual art representing these gods has gone on display, marking the first exhibition devoted to Shinto art drawn from collections in the United States and Japan. Covering a broad historical period, the works on display are from the Heian period (794–1183) to the Edo period (1615–1868).
The exhibition includes around 125 artworks, which will be shown in two rotations due to the fragile nature of some of the objects on display.
Initially worshipped as a god of thunder, more recent myths and folklore from Shinto describe Tenjin as the god of academic studies and learning.
The works on display include calligraphy, painting, sculpture, costume and the decorative arts.
Speaking to the Art Newspaper, Sinéad Vilbar, curator of Japanese art at the Cleveland Museum of Art said of the kami on display: ‘Some of them get petty, some of them get really cross, they are jealous of one another sometimes, and they get angry over things people do.’
‘One of the reasons for worshipping them is to keep them happy,’ Vilbar concluded.