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What Can Hermit Crabs Teach About Cultural Appropriation?

Aki Inomata is fed up with the West's influence on Japan.

A tiny hermit crab sitting snug inside a crystalline shell, 3D-printed in the shape of a chapel, comes off as an adorable ode to architecture, but Japanese creator Aki Inomata sees her work as a response to her country's bad habits when it comes to cultural appropriation. "Hermit crabs often change shells as they develop, and the shells they choose vary. Every time they change shells, their appearance is dramatically altered, even though individuals inside the shells stay the same," she says, explaining the metaphor to The Creators Project. "It reminded me that Japanese people often behave as such."

The plastic shells in Inomata's Why Not Hand Over a "Shelter" to Hermit Crabs? series of hermit crab homes are modelled after minature houses, mansions, and even the New York City skyline. Originally conceived as a statement about humanity's ability to find new homes through relocation and immigration, the series took a more critical turn when the artist noticed an abundance of cheap chapels sprouting up across Japan. "Japanese culture borrows from other cultures without political or religious assimilation. For instance, approximately 60% of weddings in Japan are held in white chapels, though only 1% of the population is Christian," she says, referencing findings discussed in a New York Times article about the Japanese wedding industry.

She describes the chapels that facilitate these weddings as "built with mixtures of many styles such as Gothic, Romanesque, etc. without any fundamental relationships in between," lacking the detail and cultural context of original chapels from the West.These aren't too far off from major criticisms of Miley Cyrus circa 2013, music and fashion over the last 50+ years, and the ironic reversal of Inomata's argument: Western Japanophiles wearing kimonos to the club.

"[In Japan,] popular styles of clothing, architecture, furniture, foods are now similar to Western culture," she reports. "Many copies of advertisements are English written in Kana, Japanese system of syllabic writing. Thus, Japanese people often borrow the surface of other cultures on each occasion. Shells of hermit crabs also originated from parts of other organisms. Using transparent shells, I want to express the above."

Check out some of her stunning crab shell creations below:

©Aki Inomata

©Aki Inomata

©Aki Inomata

©Aki Inomata

©Aki Inomata

©Aki Inomata

©Aki Inomata

Check out more of Aki Inomata's work on her website.

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