Queen of Geisha…
I have always been fascinated by stories of geisha. I read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (1997) many years ago. When the movie based on the novel by Golden was released (2005), I also liked that. The film director Rob Marshall did a great job on that movie. Both the American novel, as well as the film are somewhat bound to the idea that geisha origins are rooted in red light districts. This ideology came from stories of World War II era soldiers. These women of the red light districts were, and still are undoubtedly imposters of true, classically trained geisha. Technically, geisha are traditional female artists who specialize in dance, singing, playing instruments, and entertaining. For the record, the word geisha literally translates to “art person” (gei=art and sha=person). The following piece was composed as my tribute to the geisha. I have included some interesting photographs from the 1901 Pan-American Exposition which was in Buffalo, New York. The exposition was obviously before WWII, and featured Fair Japan, in the form of a mock Japanese village. Historic accounts of this village state that when “entering the Japanese village, through the gate of the Nikkil Temple, one can easily imagine himself to be in Fair Japan. Native girls in native costumes serve the tea, and geisha girls entertain you with dancing.” President William McKinley was assassinated during his second term while visiting this expo. Other historic photographs are from American Memory- Library of Congress and include and image of two geisha, the entrance to Fair Japan, and a cherry blossom branch. On the left hand side, I have inserted a digital composite I created using three historic photos. The main photo is an 1893 image of “a geisha or professional entertainer or musician.” The original photos are black and white an have been digitally colorized.
Memoirs of a Geisha the movie
Queen of Geisha
Her dressing room is armored with remnants of war paint, ornate bottles with seductive fragrances, old photographs and memories waiting to be cherished. She still has the rose. It is a single long stem, now dry and fragile. This was a memento of her first performance. As she recalls the introductory appearance, her psyche takes a vainglorious bow. Her kimono is waiting. It is an exquisite black gown. The traces of intricacy were carefully stitched in red. For each pattern, she can evoke a story. She slips on the silky vesture, and can feel powerful softness against her skin. Brushing away fear and wrinkles comes natural. Her hand smooths the garment. She usually wears the obi on her back. For tonight, she will tie the obi in a Taiko box bow to the the front. Pulling her long black hair to one side, she slowly twists into tradition. With one more stroke of her icy fingertips, her face is now entirely white. The paint smells fresh and makes her eyes look small. She adds a pinkish touch to interrupt the paleness. Outlines which match her kimono are added to each eye. The mirror tells her that she is very close to ready. An assemblage of her followers start an airy chant to encourage her appearance. With a closing touch of crimson, she marks her lips in full. She knows her audience is waiting for yet another extraordinary performance. Before she leaves, she glances at her parched long stem rose. She understands the rose will expect her return. She reaches toward a nearby vase of alive and lovely flowers. Taking a sprig of cherry blossom, she adds the pink crown to her dark hair. Making her way to the door she takes in a deep breath of inspiration. Now she is divine and ready. Tonight- she is Queen of Geisha.