Master—An Ainu Story provides a rare insight into the lives of modern-day Ainu (an indigenous people of Japan).Photographer Adam Isfendiyar lived in Hokkaido, Japan with Kenji Matsuda from 2016 to 2018. Through the personal experiences of Matsuda san, this series tells the story of survival and adaptation of the Ainu. It shows how the effects of laws imposed by the Japanese government instilled a lasting shame in the Ainu people due to their cultural heritage.

Matsuda san, known as “master” (which roughly translates to “boss” in English) to his family, colleagues and patrons, has grown up sandwiched between two generations of Ainu which have very different attitudes towards their heritage. While his grandparent’s generation encouraged their children and grandchildren to assimilate for fear of discrimination, recent generations have started to demand recognition of their indigenous status, which was finally given in February 2019.

How to View

During the day, the installment can be viewed on monitors inside the ICP Museum and during evening hours, images are literally “projected” onto the windows of the ICP Museum; they can be viewed from the sidewalk outside the Museum and are most visible after sunset. Learn more about Projected.

About the Artist

Adam Isfendiyar is a London-based photographer whose passion is in telling the stories of individuals and their connection to their environment.


Image: © Adam Isfendiyar