No paper cuts – the art of origami

No paper cuts – the art of origami

How the art of origami spreads peace

Origami is an art that does not need an introduction to many. We have seen origami used on many Western television series. In the epic superhero television series Heroes, the character Hiro Nakamura once folded 1,000 paper cranes and used his ability of space/time manipulation to show a girl named Charlie that everything is possible. In Blade Runner, the character Gaff folds origami throughout the movie. In season 2 of the TV series NUMB3RS, in the episode ‘Judgment Call’, Charlie discusses the different folds in Origami. For those who are not familiar with origami, let us look more into this graceful art style.

The origin of the word Origami comes from the word ‘ori’ which means folding and the word ‘kami’ which means paper. Origami as a practice can be described as the folding of a flat sheet of paper into a finished sculpture through folding and sculpting techniques. The use of cuts, glues or markings on the paper are usually discouraged, and besides, using mad ninja skills in the folding of paper without the aid of glue and so forth is more impressive and skillful. If you do use cuts to achieve your goal with the paper it is not referred to as origami but kirigami.

The origin of origami in Japan can be measured by looking at references to it. The earliest reference to origami is in a poem by Ihara Saikaku in 1680, which mentions a traditional butterfly design, which was used during Shinto weddings. It is, of course, much older than that if the design was already in traditional use. It may have been brought over to Japan from China where the art of making paper from pulp existed since about 102AD, in fact, there is a legend that a Buddhist monk brought over the secret of making paper from China to Japan.

Origami Cranes

Origami Cranes

The best-known origami design is probably the crane. As mentioned in our intro, there was an episode in the series Heroes where Hiro made a thousand paper cranes using origami. The Thousand Origami Cranes are usually a group of one thousand origami paper cranes held together by string. According to an ancient Japanese legend, the Gods will grant anyone who folds a thousand cranes a wish. In some stories it is believed that the person who desires to make the wish, cannot give them away, the must be kept by that person for the wish to be granted and must complete the 1000 cranes in one year.

There is a story of a young girl, who at the age of 24 months, was exposed to the radiation of an atom bomb dropped by the US during the Second World War, named Sadako Sasaki. She ends in hospital after developing leukemia at age 12. In a storybook retelling of her story called ‘Sadako and the 1,000 Paper Cranes’ by Eleanor Coerr, her friend visits her in the ward with an origami crane, telling Sadako that it represents health and that if she can make 1,000 cranes, she will be well. Sadako’s friend then teaches her how to fold a paper crane and Sadako, after mastering it begins, her quest to make 999 more cranes. The brave Sadako starts to attract the attention of the hospital staff as well as visitors and soon gifts of paper, from x-ray foil wrappers to pages from magazines, ends up in her room to help her in her resolve to create 999 paper cranes. When other patients get interested, she stops folding and teaches them the art of folding cranes as well.

Sadako, a victim of an illness caused by war, spreads her message of peace, folding her cranes. Soon there are hundreds of cranes and her health is improving! She is allowed to go home. Sadly, in a twist of events, she becomes sicker again, her illness return and she is unable to continue her project. Less than 700 hundred cranes are completed when the brave girl collapsed into a coma and died… Her classmates are so moved, so touched by Sadako that they, in memory of her dream to complete the 1,000 cranes, learn how to fold the cranes and soon the 1,000 cranes are complete. After that they write to other children all over the country of Japan, asking for contributions of money, to help erect a monument in Sadako’s honour. The Japanese Government, also moved by the story decide to rename a park in Hiroshima “Peace Park’. A huge statue is erected with a replica of Sadako lifting up a giant crane. Her classmates were honoured in their efforts by deciding what to write on the statue’s base. They chose the word: “This is our cry, this is our prayer, Peace in the world”.

One brave girl made people all over the world aware of the need for peace. When you see an origami crane, remember Sadako’s tale. Remember that one paper crane led to many and that one little act can bring a message of peace.

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