Cactus Gallery LA
ONI by artist Emily Ipolani
I made this Oni for my child having a great love for them and my own love of Chinese and Japanese folklore and culture. Part of our heritage is Chinese, something I’m proud we have a part of, so it means a lot to me personally as well.
Originally, my bub wanted me to make a “scary” Oni. I made several, but each one met with disapproval for being “too scary”. I was honestly relieved for these times having enough natural and unnatural disasters without adding a harbinger to the mix. I decided to create one that was benevolent, a protector, as it seems we might all need more of that.
The folklore is ancient and varies greatly through the ages and regions. Oni are representative of what Westerners identify with as demons, but they aren’t one dimensional, taking on many forms of malevolent, benevolent or a mix not so easy to define. Usually they’re depicted with mouths open in fierce grimaces, but I opted to make this one in the tradition of mouth closed symbolizing silent strength.
Tales of this type of Oni range from seeking out evil beings to drag back to hell, humorous tricksters, helping villages stave off natural disasters, warding off bad luck, to being guardians of the Buddha.
My little one likes the story Naita Akaoni (Red Oni Who Cried) by Hamada Hirosuke and so that is what this one means to him. To me it is a little extra protection in a chaotic world.
Mixed media, embellished with pearl claws on hands and feet, seashell teeth and horns, various gemstones encrusted in club. Entirely hand sewn cloth body and garments with sculpted face, hands and feet, 7”w x 10”h.
Hanger on back for wall mounting (does not stand).
This second one goes into more depth about the author’s intention and the historical/cultural reasoning behind his tale:
Emily finds the backstory fascinating in historical context, but also really moving, for at one point Oni being used and depicted to encourage xenophobia. The author quite effectively rid the Oni of this while causing readers to think more deeply on their prejudices and act with more compassion to others. The story resonated with my little bean, though he does say it’s a very sad story. He’s not wrong. ❤️