KINTSUGI (Inspiring Change)

Mishima ware hakeme type tea bowl, with gold lacquer kintsugi repair work (right), 16th century

Often when people face a devastating stumble in life, they will think that it is the end of their journey towards reaching a specific goal. Some people blame themselves, some turn on others, and some become mentally, emotionally and physically affected by the challenge. There is an important philosophy lacking in place and it is called ‘Kintsugi’.

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they fill them in with gold. ‘Kintsugi’ is a technique that gives new life to aging ceramic objects by filling in the cracks with gold, copper or silver. Instead of taking a pessimitic approach to the old, the broken and the challenged, this practice celebr  ates their flaws and history. According to Mercedes Smith, in her article on BBC, ‘Kintsugi’ is said to have originated in the 15th century when a commander Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke on of his beloved Chinese tea bowls and sent it back to China to be fixed. Dissapointed with the repair job, which was done with metal, he urged Japanese craftsmen to come up with a more pleasing method of repair. Thus the art of repairing pottery with a seam of lacquer and precious metal was born, highlighting the imperfections like a gift instead of hiding them, giving a new lease of life and importance to an object deemed broken. The philosphy, which I learned during my short trip to the land of the rising sun last year, reminded of me of the institution I called home for the past few years; Institut Darul Ridzuan. As the think tank for the state government of Perak, IDR is responsible to conduct research, draft policies, produce publication and advise the state government on the best policies and strategies to implement for the benefits of Perakians. Yet, our work does not stop there. IDR constantly engages with the local community, professionals and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) in Perak through our workshops, Moh Ngeteh sessions and events. More often than not, a number of individuals in the audience will come up to me after our session to share how IDR has encouraged them to think and be inspired.


Photo from Tom Slemmons, BBC Arts


Even IDR’s staff, many of them at one point did not have any experience in running events or producing publications. But with a lot of trial and error, and painful lessons along the journey, they become better, as individuals and professionals. They are the beautiful pieces of pottery enshrined in their own unique gold lines, purposeful and filled with wisdom. In many ways, IDR does not only inspire our clients but even more valuable, ourselves. Committing mistakes and miscalculating our actions might serve us painful, and often embarassing life lessons, but if we put ‘Kintsugi’ philosophy in place, then we know that they are only part of the process for us to change for the better.


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