New exhibition by Japanese artist opens at Big Pit

Comparing life at the coal mine in Japan and Wales 

With Wales only days away from their first game in the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, back home in Blaenavon a new exhibition focusing on the artworks of Japanese artist Sakubei Yamamoto will open at Big Pit National Coal Museum on 14 September 2019. 

Artist Sakubei Yamamoto (1892 – 1984) lived and worked as a coal miner for around 50 years in the Chikuho region in Japan. In his sixties, he started recording his memories of life at the coal mine, through ink drawings and then watercolour paintings. 

This new exhibition focuses on the artist’s memories of life at the coal mine, through high quality digital reproductions of his ink drawings and watercolour paintings. Images will be displayed around the Big Pit site, creating a trail leading to an indoor exhibition area that will provide more information about Sakubei’s work. 

Images from Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales’ collection will also be displayed, creating a comparison between the nature of coal mining in Wales and Japan, with particular reference to the impact on people and the communities. 

Sakubei’s detailed folk art paintings and writings are recognised as rare and highly significant records of a personal experience of coal mining society in Japan. In 2011, his collection was the first Japanese works to be awarded the Memory of the World status; one of three major heritage programs sponsored by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). 

Dai Price, Head of Big Pit, said, “This exhibition is an opportunity to continue to celebrate the strong partnership between Wales and Japan which was developed during the Kizuna exhibition at National Museum Cardiff in 2018. 

“The artworks are very Japanese in style but any Welsh mineworker will recognise the type of work and the characters depicted. 

“The exhibition provides an opportunity to display some of Japan’s cultural assets at a site that creates a direct connection with the lives of miners in the south Wales coalfield.” 

The exhibition will be on display until the end of September 2020. 

The exhibition is a partnership with the Japan Society, Japan Foundation, Embassy of Japan, Bridge Together Project, Beyond 2020, Tagawa City Coal Mining Historical Museum, Tagawa City and Japan-UK Season of Culture 2019-20. 

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales is a family of seven museums and a collections centre, which are all free to enter thanks to the support of the Welsh Government. Together, it is home to the nation’s art, history, heritage and science collections, which will continue to grow so that they can be used and enjoyed by both present and future generations. 

One of its museums, St Fagans National Museum of History which explores the history and culture of Wales, won the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019.

As a registered charity, Amgueddfa Cymru is grateful for all support. The events and exhibitions programme is supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.  

Posted on: Tuesday 17th September 2019