The Sackler Museum

By Chidera Obiwuma

It was an interesting and fun first experience of the Sackler Museum at the Smithsonian.

One of the most prominent artists was Japanese artist, Kitagawa Utamaro. It was interesting to me that a man could depict through his paintings what it was like to be a woman in the Edo period because, according to him, he knows women well. And indeed, he did; his painting depicted mostly the lives of Geishas and concubines within their residence. The paintings were truly beautiful and each has a unique story behind them. However, some of it did make me uncomfortable. For example, in the Geishas’ residence, seeing children running around. Also, of course life during the Edo period wasn’t all glamorous for all women. It was disheartening but also inspirational to see that Utamaro was bold enough to portray not only the good side of this time in history but also the bad side of it with the prostitution of girls and women. Many of them forced into the practice, catching diseases that led to their death, and even when they were freed, they didn’t know how to do anything else so they ended up right back in prostitution.

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