Alsu in Wonderland! Impressions of the British Museum’s Temporary Exhibition: Manga (Alsu Akhmetzyanova, ITP 2019, Uzbekistan)

Written by Alsu Akhmetzyanova, Project Manager, Arts and Culture Development Foundation (ITP 2019, Uzbekistan)

Konnichiwa, I am Alsu, and today I am going to tell you about my experience of the British Museum’s special exhibition: Manga. Manga is a Japanese visual narrative art form which is very similar to modern comics. As my favourite fairytale character said: “What is the use of a book without pictures and conversations?” (Alice in Wonderland). This is what generation Z needs in today’s visual culture. People read less and less, but social media platforms like Instagram are gaining more popularity.

This year, the British Museum opened a new temporary exhibition wholly dedicated to Manga, to the “world where anything can happen.” This exhibition is the largest exhibition of Manga ever to take place outside of Japan. You can ask what the British Museum has to do with Manga, but you should always remember that this museum is for the world, so it mostly orientates on the people’s preferences. At the moment, there are millions of fans around the world, including my home country (Uzbekistan), and my little sister is one of them. I have never understood her interest, and simply supposed Manga to be a waste of time. However, this exhibition and conversation with all of the people who worked on it just turned my world around.

Many people say that Manga existed even in 1200 AD, but the true development of it started in 1880 when Kawanabe Kyosai illustrated an amazing 17-metre cloth with scary characters after he had drunk some sake. The cloth is also on the display of the exhibition, people can even see the footprints of the great artist on the artwork!

This exhibition is not only enjoyable and inspiring, but also any visitor can gain new skills like how to read and draw manga, and learn some basics of Japanese language.

The British Museum clearly understood that not all the people know a lot about Manga, that is why the exhibition is separated into a few sections like reading rules, history and development, different genres, the impact on society, and iconic works. However, people at any age can remember some of the characters represented there, such as Pokémon, Sailor Moon, and Naruto.

The unprecedented loans let the visitors have the great joy and pleasure to see the original drawings and to feel the power of drawings. Behind the scenes, there is an immense amount of work of British Museum with OPMA, publishing editors and artists. Overall there are about 235 loans from 45 artists.

I am very grateful to British Museum to be a part of the ITP family and to have a chance to dive into the rabbit hole that is Manga.

Now, I want to read Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama, see you later…