O Sonho de Akinosuke

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Playlist #46 Mafalda Santos and Manuel Mesquita, curated by Nuno Ramalho with Hugo Brito and Miguel Seabra, Candelabro, Porto

O Sonho de Akinosuke (The Dream of Akinosuke), video by Mafalda Santos and Manuel Mesquita, is based on a japanese folktale, that tells the story of a wealthy farmer who falls asleep under a large cedar tree on his property while drinking and talking with his friends. He is awakened by the visit of a delegation of men to take him to the king, who offers his daughter´s hand in marriage. He is sent to the island of Raishu, where he becomes governor, living a rich and peaceful life with his new wife, with whom he has five sons and two daughters. After 24 years of idyll, his wife falls ill and eventually dies. Heartbroken, he buries her, erecting a monument in her honor. Called by the king, he leaves the island.

On the return trip, Akinosuke awakens to find himself still under the cedar tree surrounded by his friends. Confused, he tells them of his incredible dream; they tell him that he had only been asleep for a few minutes, however, they report a strange episode: while he was sleeping, they saw a yellow butterfly fly by his head and be carried away by ants to a hole next to the cedar tree. This butterfly reappears out of the ground the moment Akinosuke wakes up. Together they investigate and excavating they find a colony similar to that of Akinosuke’s dream and yet another nest where a small stone is found over the deathbed of a dead female ant. Akinosuke had lived a life within a dream as if his soul had been captured to this animal kingdom.

Just like the moment we are currently experiencing, a parenthesis opens up, a parallel “unreal” reality settles in. Like a tale turning into a nightmare, the narrative is deconstructed. The ants, symbolizing effort, cooperation and social structure, kidnap a butterfly. The beauty and lightness of life is hoarded, and carried like a puppet, staging a new story yet to be written.

The emolument and most noble position

Power to bring down cities and lands –

The wise man considers these things

Like nothing different from swarming ants. ²

The Dream of Akinosuke (inos き の す の の Ak, Akinosuke no Yume) is a Japanese folktale that became known outside of Japan through the translation of Lafcadio Hearn, in his book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies on Strange Things– a collection of ghost stories (kwaidan) and small, non-ficcional, studies on insects.

The Dream of Akinosuke is itself an adaptation of the Tang Dynasty’s tale “The Governor of Nanke”, written by Li Gongzuo.

Access here photos of O Sonho de Akinosuke video – installation at Galeria Presença.

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