Yamamba / 山姥


The Yamamba, or the mountain hag, is a character that’s been with Midori since 1998. The crone archetype exists in every culture.  She’s a complex and often ambivalent entity.  

When the Yamamba passes, will you see her? Will you meet her gaze? She seeks and seeps into the psyche of those who will not see her. There she makes new dreams. Yamamba ( 山姥 ) lives in the dusky edge of the primordial forest, on the fringe of civilization’s subconscious.

She is loosely related to the folklore and theatrical figure in Japan of the “wild woman” or crone.

Perhaps she is just a old woman living alone. Perhaps she possesses powers to see what we cannot. Perhaps she is just mad. Perhaps she is not human but of the animist spirits.

Yamamba lives in the dusky edge of the primordial, on the fringe of civilization’s subconscious.

She is mute but full of expression and life. She laughs and carries on. At time she sits still, listening. She gathers, makes and gives. Flowers bloom out of fish carcass and mud becomes jewels. You may find her on her beggar’s mat with an alms bowl, or you may come across her making odd things of beauty.

She is likely 800 to 1200 years old.

Details of her garb and appearances give possible clues of her previous life. The blackened teeth were the highest of fashion among well-born ladies and gentlemen of medieval Japan. Her high painted dots of eyebrows, called Hikimayu, were worn by noblewomen of Heian era. The kimono is worn loose, layers and colorful… again, harking back to an earlier era.  But her hair is worn up, which puts her in possible Edo era. With her obi ties piled in the back, she’s no courtesan.  Are these signs of her life past or life she imagined?

Yamamba has appeared on these occasions:

  • 2014        San Francisco, CA.         Interactive performance, “Aka Ito – 紅糸”, in 100 Performances for the Hole, at SoMArts Cultural Center. Conceived and curated by SOMArts Curator & Gallery Director, Justin Hoover    http://www.fluidr.com/photos/musicpurr/11938580674  http://www.somarts.org/
  • 2013        Oaxaca, Mexico.    “Bridge of Mud & Feathers” an Evoco performance collaboration with Samar Soriano and Eliza Barrios at Gorrila Gallery Oaxaca. Site specific live performance for Dia de los Muertos. http://on.fb.me/1iOPEkx
  • 2012        San Francisco, CA    “Spinning Song of the Yamamba – 山姥の紡ぎ歌 – Yamamba No TsumugiUta“ performance and video for Askew Film & Performance Festival at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts http://www.ybca.org , curated by Madison Young of Femina Potens Gallery Trailer video: https://vimeo.com/102679868
  • 2009        San Francisco, CA.     Interactive performance, “Aka Ito – 紅糸”, debut performance for Art of Restraint at Femina Potens Gallery.  Photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/black_pearl_10/sets/72157614236147065/
  • 2005        Amsterdam        “Elements of Suffering” performance with Kumi at Das Arts