▲ Colorful paper sculptures are an important part of shamanistic rituals on Jeju island. Photos by Kang Jung Hyo
Preparation for shamanistic exorcism rituals can be completed only after the shamans gather at a ritual stage, stand a long stick in the yard and suspend Gime Junji paper sculptures from it. The intricate paper designs are both a symbol of exorcism and its rituals and also a symbolic language in their own right.
Gime Junji, wind paper tied on boughs of raw bamboo, decorate ritual stages and represent the world of gods and goddesses. They are a symbolic medium of exorcism rituals, in which gods coming from heaven interact with humans living in the temporal world.
Gime Junji are also flags to guide the gods, as well as a holy symbol playing the gods’ roles. They also work as keepsakes of the gods’ place, sphere and authority. In addition, while performing exorcism rituals, Gime Junji function as props and stage settings of palaces in the land of the gods.
By decorating ritual stages with Gime Junji of every color and shape, the stages look un-realistic and mysterious, there-fore representing the world of the gods. A distinctive feature of rituals is this Gime Junji in splendid colors and diverse shapes, hanging everywhere.
Made of Changhoji (Korean traditional paper), white and colored paper, Gime Junji is divided into two types. One has a god’s shape and is hung from tree branches with blue leaves after folding and cutting. The other, without blue leaves, decorates ritual tables or is hung. However, the kinds and materials of Gime Junji are too diverse to define. This indicates that Gime Junji preserves its own beauty and is not altered by the influence and authority of institutionalized art.
In the past, it was used in the context of daily life as an artistic func-tion and an accessory. Today, it is used only for exorcism rituals.
Gime Junji is a symbolic language in rituals, showing the ever-changing dynamics of daily life, which are different from the contemporary art context, where objects are displayed in galleries, preserved in museums and traded with collectors. It is challenging but interesting to learn how Gime Junji was used to visualize happiness, sadness, joy, anger and other emotions in the life of Jeju people. Furthermore, it is surprising that Gime Junju, just a piece of paper, is used to help gods and shamans communicate with each other.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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