Tsubaki Anna (b. 1970)
Shami Rock
Japan, 2008
Hanging scroll, ink and color (digital print) on handmade Japanese paper (washi )
Copyright: Tsubaki Anna
Loan from the artist

Tsubaki depicts a young woman (probably a geisha or a courtesan’s apprentice) strumming a shamisen, a three-stringed musical instrument, with an ivory plectrum. Shamisen music in Japan dates back to the Eiroku era (1557–1570), and was extremely popular in brothel districts such as the Yoshiwara throughout the Edo period (1615–1868). In order to convey how sultry such music sounded to listeners of that time, the artist transforms the musician into a contemporary rock star who grips her shamisen like an electric guitar.