Yūgen: In Her Eyes

words & poetry by AYABA

‘Yūgen: In Her Eyes’ Ekphrasis

Yūgen (幽玄) is a concept in traditional Japanese aesthetics. It is about the depth of which is beyond what can be said. I take the Japanese concept of Yūgen and relate it to our eyes. Our eyes are one of the ways we can comprehend. It represents a vastness that we cannot always define. It is a profound part of our bodies that holds mystery, that holds the gaze and a sense of the beauty of the universe and the ‘sad beauty of human suffering’.

Our eyes tell us many things. It can tell us about our health, the complexity of our emotions, it highlights our moods and our will. We often hear it is the window to our souls. I go further to say that it is the physical part of the soul. This is because it is an explicit representation of the state of the soul. ‘Yūgen: In Her Eyes’ concentrates on the stories our eyes tell. Our eyes destroy the many masks we put on and unearths what we try to bury so deep. It speaks on the unspeakable that we try to hide. No matter the many layers we put on, our eyes give direct access to our accumulative past that sculpts our very nature. ‘Yūgen: In her Eyes’ aims to make us really look at people’s eyes and read what they say instead of the deceptive fixed smiles on their faces, our faces.

Are we still we?

Imaginations of modernisation have made you forget you
Forget me,
Forget we,
Forget what we once had.
Is it fading away?
I feel this isolated pain.
It follows me around, like a fire cooled until its cold.
And then I become numb.
Has our flame burned out?
I can barely taste the richness of our culture,
Do we only know how to drink and stunt in our opulence?
We used to live for the creative.
Our everyday life was aesthetically pleasing.
From the sculptures of our afro combs to the architecture of our spirituality. And this disheartens me because what you now cling to didn’t we fight it?
Fight to carve out a position where we were not inferior?
Does their word hold more truth than me, your mother?
For the tradition.
For the culture.
For the legacy
Don’t break this bond and lean only on the contemporary.
Do you not know you are the custodian of the past and this present?
What you preserve will be all that is left.
I want progress for us as well, but does our progression into the modern mean we tear down our history and imitate their present story?
What happen to our pride?
And the need to define our own narratives?
Speak to me, not with their language but the language of our collective soul.
The language that compels you to look inwards and re-examine your loyalties.
No one is superior or inferior, we are all just different.
But our differences do not make us any less equal.
And now I ask you, is there still a we?


AYABA is a visual artist and writer based in London who identifies as Nigerian-British. She is invested in exploring culture through words and the visual, particularly cultural concepts. She is currently a student at Central Saint Martins studying a MA in Culture, Criticism and Curation. Find out more:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.