Popoki's Mask Gallery - Living the Pandemic

The 10th International Conference of Museums for Peace

Title: Popoki's Mask Gallery - Living the Pandemic

Author: Ronni Alexander, Professor, Kobe University (Japan)

Abstract: Popoki, the symbol character of the Popoki Peace Project, is a cat. The Project uses Popoki to connect humans with other living things and to explore ways of using both critical thinking and non-verbal modes of critical expression to create peace. One important emphasis of the Project is on the stories we tell through art. One such story is Popoki’s Mask Gallery. In mid-March 2020, when masks had become difficult to get and it became clear that the mask would be a lasting symbol of this pandemic, I began posting a masked Popoki on Facebook every evening. There is a drawing on each mask, accompanied by a short comment. This presentation will be a video composed of about 100 masked Popokis. Using his mask as a symbol of the ‘everyday’ or ‘new normal’, Popoki is usually colorful and upbeat, sharing laughter and positive moments, seeking connection through humor and parody. Sometimes, like the humans around him, Popoki is angry, tense, frustrated or upset. Although Popoki’s masks are not usually overt political statements, each Popoki is a commentary on life during the Pandemic, a reflection of the ‘everyday’ in the journey to be safe in unsafe and uncertain times.