Between 2012 and 2018, Japanese photographer Keijiro Kai has photographed five primal festival around the world: Shrovetide Football in Ashbourne, England; Take-uchi in Misato, Japan; Tinku in Macha, Bolivia; Lelo in Shufti, Georgia; and the lighting of flames at Dosojin Festival in Nozawa Onsen, Japan. These are wild festivals with long histories, involving men and violence, blood, fire.
Divided into five chapters, Kai’s photographs document these events from within. His camera captures the tension before the events start, the chaos and mayhem, and jarring peacefulness once they’re over. The photographs stimulate our senses, we can feel the bodies colliding with Kai, smell the sweat and the smoke, hear the noise. Kai’s photograph highlight the proto-sport character of these events, which precede modern games, but also the spiritual character involved.
“Festivals are said to be spaces in which people communicate with the spirits of their ancestors, with their gods and nature. When we think of natural ohenomena or the gods as ‘visiting’ the towns during the festivals, then we could understand ritualistic fighting alos as an embodied representation of the force of their arrival. When natural phenomena arrive with all their force, we humans struggle to deal with the challenges these ‘arrivals’ entail.” (from Keijiro Kai’s afterword)
The book concludes with an essay by Kazuyoshi Kondo, a conversation between Keijiro Kai and Yuka Ishii, and an afterword by the artist (the latter also included in English translation).