The face depicted in Gajin Fujita’s Demon Hanya State II (now on view in Kidspace’s exhibit, “Curiosity”) is unmistakably the female demon Hannya. Hannya, a Japanese demon whose name comes from 知恵, meaning “wisdom,” has a signature wide, leering grin, metallic eyes, and two sharp horns that identify her. This demon embodies female jealousy, and her expression can reveal both anger and sadness, depending on the angle.
What kind of emotion(s) do you see in this Hannya? Is there anything, besides her face, that helps you understand what the demon is feeling?
The Demon Hannya comes from Japanese drama, a form of classical musical theater that originated in 14th century Japan. During a performance, actors may wear masks (especially if they are playing a female role all actors are men!). A play where an actor wears a Hannya mask usually tells the story of a women betrayed by her lover; this tragedy would cause the woman to be totally consumed and transformed into a demon by the intensity of her anger.
Below is part of the Dojo-ji Engi Emaki (The Scroll of the Origin of Dojo Temple), a 15th century scroll telling the story of Kiyohime: Princess Kiyohime turned into the Hannya demon after the love of her life, a monk, chose to go back to his monastery rather than marry her. She chased him back to his monastery, where he was hiding underneath a giant bell but she found him anyway. Kiyohime had become a demon-snake by this point, and she wrapped her serpent body around the bell, melting the bell and killing the man underneath with the heat of her rage.
Take a close look at all three of these Hannya faces. They all show the same demon, but with different stories. How do they look similar? How are they different?
Let’s take a look at another human version of jealousy: Invidia. The Ancient Romans believed in a creature named Invidia. Check out the Jacques Callot illustration to the right! What kind of hair does she have? What kinds of creatures is she with? Does she look happy and well-fed, or does she look like a skeleton? Name one thing that Invidia has in common with Hannya, and one thing that makes them different.
In Metamorphoses, the famous poet Ovid describes Invidia in this way: [Her] face was sickly pale, her whole body lean and wasted, and she squinted horribly; her teeth were discoloured and decayed, her poisonous breast of a greenish hue, and her tongue dripped venom. Gnawing at other, and being gnawed, she was herself her own torment. What do you think Ovid meant when he said that Invidia was her own torment? Have you ever felt jealous before? Do you think it can turn you into one of these creatures?
Art Challenge: Make your own monster mask! Try making a jealousy monster! Not feeling jealous today? Make a list of other emotions and feelings and pick one (or more!) of those to make into a mask. Will you add horns or hair? What shape will the mouth be in? the eyebrows? How many eyes will your mask have? Will it be a human or an animal, or something in between?
Written by: Amanda Tobin, former MASS MoCA intern.