Collective of Monks Praying to Kill Owners of Corporation Responsible for Environmental Pollutions



Selected from GETXOPHOTO 


In 1970, the photojournalist Mitsutoshi Hanaga documented the actions of a group of Buddhist monks who toured Japan casting death spells against the owners of the country’s most polluting companies. They called themselves Jusatsu Kitō Shūdan (literally, “monks who bring the curse”) and they had decided to take the law into their own hands because of the increase in diseases caused by factories, mines and refineries. Armed with their banners and musical instruments, they organized processions and ceremonies, sang, prayed, meditated, chanted mantras, and visited the sick affected by what were called yondai kōgai-byō, new ailments of environmental origin caused by spills and toxic emissions from industry. The collective was soon joined by representatives of other branches of Buddhism, as well as students and activists, in what would become the first major environmental mobilisation in Japan’s history.

Mitsutoshi Hanaga was born in 1933 in Tokyo, Japan. He studied Art at Bunka Gakuin University in 1958. Inspired by Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy, he began experimenting with photograms and decalcomania. After his first solo exhibition in 1961, he became assistant to the photographer Imai Hisae. From 1962 onwards, he worked as a freelance photographer for weekly newspapers and art magazines. His work has been exhibited in such renowned venues as the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Venice Biennale, the Festival d’Avignon or the Centre Pompidou, among others. Mitsutoshi participated in the Jack Society and Video Hiroba art collectives, and in 1981 he was involved in the launch of Focus, one of the first photographic weeklies. From 1982 onwards, he increasingly exhibited his work on butoh dance both in Japan and abroad, especially in France. Since his death in 1999, his photographs have been exhibited by the Japanese galleries Kochūten and Aoyama Meguro, gaining particular international attention.

Getxophoto is an image festival created and managed by Begihandi, that has been taking place in Getxo—Basque Country, Euskadi—since 2007. This festival is part of a cultural ecosystem with the aim of being more participatory, hybrid, committed and sustainable. This thematic Festival is conceived as a platform that addresses contemporary challenges through different proposals, from visual storytellers around the world, in an attempt to create spaces for reflection and establish a collective conversation. Getxophoto is characterized by the radical defense of public space (both physical and online). For this reason, most of its programme is composed of outdoor installations, highlighting, on the one hand, the link between the image and the environment and, on the other, generating a more horizontal and participatory relationship with the public.
María Ptqk is the curator of GETXOPHOTO 2023.

Copyright © Mitsutoshi Hanaga and Getxophoto, all rights reserved

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