On Thursday September 26th the Grassi Leipzig Ethnography Museum open their major autumn exhibition Kokdu – Companions of the Soul.
In Korean folklore Kokdu are other-wordly beings who assist the dead as they pass from the physical to the spiritual world.
Depicted as carved wooden figures Kokdu were traditionally placed on the funeral bier as a comfort and companion for the soul of the departed as they made their final journey.
The most surprising aspect perhaps about the Kokdu is their charm. Despite their difficult and responsible duty Kokdu are generally very playful, sprite-esque characters who are obviously ready to see their task through with humour and compassion.
The contrast to the recently displayed Minkisi couldn’t be greater. Honestly it couldn’t.
Traditionally the Korean bier, or Sangyeo, would have been “home” to several Kokdu, each of whom has a different function. The “Guide”, for example is there to, well guide the deceased while the “Entertainer” helps keep the soul distracted and amused on its sad odyssey. The human-like Kokdu are generally joined by Phoenix and Dragon Kokdu.
Organised in conjunction with the Cultural Section of the Korean Embassy in Berlin, Kokdu – Companions of the Soul presents some 120 examples of Kokdu in an exhibition conceived and curated by the Kokdu Museum Seoul.
In addition to an introduction to the tradition of the Kokdu per se, the exhibition also opens a door on a rarely seen aspect of traditional Korean culture, and as such promises to help the visitor to understand and appreciate Korean culture. Ancient and modern.
Kokdu – Companions of the Soul opens at the Grassi Leipzig Ethnography Museum on Thursday September 26th at 7pm. The exhibition subsequently runs until November 17th 2013.