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opinion

by Tania Nunce

The conventional view that this pouch belonged to a Chinese Emporor is yet another example of the manipulation of 'fact' by the Academic Establishment in support of their own Ideology.

That Dr Blofli has gone so far as using claims of alien involvement to support this view is extreme and ridiculous, yet has been largely unquestioned because he is so eminent an Academic Figure.I find it more appealing and more realistic to believe that this artifact is, in fact, Ayame's 'Pouch of Secrets'.

Most historians discredit the story of Heian Court Servant Ayame and her secret curses as legend. But the emergence of both the pouch and writing together from the Winter collection suggest there is more to this 'myth' than Academic Orthodoxy would allow.

Establishment figures cast doubt upon the ability of a female servant during this era to learn the written word in the manner told (that is, through observation of the Heian Courtiers while carrying out her daily duties). They suggest that the collection of writing is simply a hoax. I would suggest that this says more about their own Classist Leanings than the facts at hand. (It is not the first time Academia has side-stepped the experiences of those outside the ruling classes. See also my work on the Red Bristle organisation).

Myth or not, the Pouch of Secrets is a potent symbol of private rebellion against a rigid social order; and a rare window upon the emotional experience of a member of the lower classes during the Heian period.

That it should worm its way into contemporary popular culture is testament to this. The notorious Breakfast Club incident was reported in the popular press, giving the Pouch of Secrets publicity outside its usual academic context. The story of Ayame's private empowerment captured the popular imagination to such an extent that imitation pouches were seen dangling from womens' wrists at dance parties in the early nineties - and today a 'Pouch of Secrets' fan community thrives on the Web.

The result of this pop-cultural appropriation is that a viewpoint discredited as 'myth' by Academic Elites has flourished - while that which they privilege as 'fact' languishes in books read only by members of their own closed circle.

It's time for us to recognise Dr Blofli and his cronies - who would rather believe in alien visitation than a servant woman learning to write - as the washed-out, self-serving elitists that they really are.

 

ABOVE: Kitagawa Utamaro's 18th century interpretation of the Pouch of Secrets story.

 

BELOW: Ayame's pouch: detail from above.

Curator's Note: Can Tania Nunce be trusted? A secret document written by Tania has been leaked to the exhibition. View it here.

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