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Wakan / Soul Is Film

July 16(Fri) - 31(Sat), 2021


Akimi Ota


The 5th Floor is pleased to announce the first solo exhibition by filmmaker / anthropologist Akimi Ota. Akimi decided to shoot a film about Shuar people who reside in the Amazonian rainforest in southern Ecuador for his PhD degree in visual anthropology at Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology, University of Manchester. Through his ethnographic fieldwork that consecutively lasted for more than a year, he followed the lifeworld of Shuar people, once feared by the colonists as “head-hunters”, as well as filmed and did research on them. The outcome is his first feature documentary film “Kanarta: Alive in Dreams” (, which will be released nationwide in the theatres such as Image Forum (Shibuya, Tokyo) from October 2nd 2021.

This exhibition aims to deconstruct, as well as expand, the imaginative possibilities that his experience of Amazonia contains, which all too often has a risk to be reduced to the single form of representation, that is, his film. To this end, Akimi offers a series of photographs that he shot alongside his filmmaking project, besides a video installation that he newly produced by re-interpreting the existing footage shot in Amazonia at hand. Distantiating from the particular language of cinema, his expression becomes more abstract, thereby quietly, yet boldly, questioning the ambivalence of the imagined “Amazonian indigenous people” that has been cultivated in our brains throughout the centuries.

Soon after the birth of photography in the 19th century, this revolutionary technology was used to document the indigenous populations in North America and beyond. Some texts written around that time suggest that those indigenous people understood the act of photographing as “stealing one’s soul”. In the meantime, Akimi learned during his fieldwork that both “soul” and “film” are represented by the single word “wakan” in Shuar. This ethnographic fact, however, has never been documented in any texts until today. If, somewhere on this earth, watching visual images is equal to facing one’s soul, how would we be able to bring to light and unleash this sense, which might be yet to be uncovered?




Akimi Ota

 Born 1989 in Tokyo. Graduated from Kobe University’s Faculty of Intercultural Studies, and completed a master’s course in anthropology at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris. While engaging in anthropological researches in Morocco and in the Parisian suburbs, he also worked as photojournalist at the Kyodo News Paris Bureau, as well as frequently visited the Cinémathèque Française. He subsequently enrolled in a PhD programme at the University of Manchester's Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology. After spending over a year doing fieldwork in the Amazonian rainforest in Ecuador and Peru, in 2020 he completed his first film as a director, titled “Kanarta: Alive in Dreams” which will be released at Image Forum (Tokyo), then in other theatres nationwide in Japan from October 2021.


July 16(Fri) - 31(Sat), 2021

Opening Hours



The 5th Floor: Hanazono Alley 5F 3-3-9 IkenohataTaito-ku Tokyo


4 minutes walk from Exit 2 of Nezu Station (Chiyoda line) 

Entrance fee

¥500 (Appointment required)


The 5th Floor, Hanazono Alley

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