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Wake Forest museum only venue in south to feature Korean "kkoktu"


December 11, 2008

Koreans are known for their “kkoktu” (funerary figures), but until last year, that artistry had never before been seen outside of Korea.  From Jan. 20 through May 16, Wake Forest University’s Museum of Anthropology will be the only venue in the southeastern United States to feature the exhibit “Korean Funerary Figures: Companions for the Journey to the Other World.”

Organized by the Ockrang Cultural Foundation, the exhibit was first featured at the Korea Society Gallery in New York City in 2007.  It is now on tour in the United States. 

Featuring text in both English and Korean, the exhibit will showcase a collection of 74 “kkoktu.”  These 19th- and early 20th-century funerary figures are colorful, carved wooden figures depicting acrobats, clowns and mystical animals that were used to decorate funeral biers, the stands used to transport coffins to ancestral burial grounds.  The figures reflect the realities of rural Korean village life during a time period with few written records.  They also represent the desire that the deceased loved one enter the next world surrounded by joy. 

In conjunction with the exhibit, the Museum of Anthropology will offer several events throughout the spring semester that will examine Korean culture. 

Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public and will be held in the Museum of Anthropology. 

  • “Korean Funerary Figures” Opening Reception.  Jan. 21, 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
  • “Happy Souls and Anxious Mourners:  The Uses of Funeral Figures in Pre-modern Korea.”  Jan. 21, 7:30 p.m.  Lecture by Charlotte Horlyck, lecturer in the history of Korean Art, School of Oriental and African Studies, London University.
  • Korean Film Series.  Jan. 22 and 29; Feb. 5 and 12, 7 p.m.  Four film screenings at Reynolda House Museum of American Art that will feature a post-film discussion with a guest speaker.  Films include “Festival/Chukje,” “Never Forever,” “My Father” and “Between.”  For film details, visit www.wfu.edu/moa.
  • Cultures Up Close Family Workshops.  Jan. 25, Feb. 22, March 22, April 26, 2:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.  Workshop for elementary-age children and accompanying adults featuring a learning activity and craft on Korean culture.  Teachers and students at the Korean School of Greensboro will teach topics including Korean paper folding, Korean kites, music of the “buk” drum and Korean calligraphy.  Details at wfu.edu/moa.  Limited space; registration required.  Admission is $7/child; $5/child MOA Friends; adults free.
  • “Journey to the Grave, Dance to Paradise: Shamanic Rituals for the Dead.”  Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m.  Shamanic Salpooli (spirit cleansing) dance demonstration by Youngjung Kim of Greensboro and lecture by Laurel Kendall, curator of Asian ethnography at the American Museum of Natural History. 
  • Korean Family Day.  May 2, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.  A family-friendly event featuring a “poongmul” (Korean folk music) drum group, traditional Korean dancing, Tae Kwon Do demonstrations, crafts, traditional games, storytelling and Korean snack foods. 

Assistance has been provided by the Arts and Audience program of the North Carolina Arts Council; Reynolda House Museum of American Art; Wake Forest’s East Asian languages and cultures department, film studies program, and fund for international scholars; and the Korean School of Greensboro.

Other museum events also scheduled for the spring include:

  • Student Film Screening.  April 14, 7:30 p.m.  Wake Forest students Kristin Eberman and Kevin Duck will screen their short films on the controversial issue of “househelps” (domestic child laborers) in Ghana. 
  • Spring Shop Sale.  April 21 - May 17.    

The Museum of Anthropology is open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.  During the Spring Shop Sale, the museum shop will be open Monday through Saturday.  Admission to the museum is free.  

For more information or to register for family workshops, call (336) 758-5282 or e-mail moa@wfu.edu or visit the museum Web site at www.wfu.edu/moa.

Press Contacts:

Pam Barrett
(336) 758-5237


Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237


"Dragon Plate End Board"  This dragon plate, part of a Korean funeral bier, will be on display at the Museum of Anthropology from Jan. 20 - May 16.
"Dragon Plate End Board" This dragon plate, part of a Korean funeral bier, will be on display at the Museum of Anthropology from Jan. 20 - May 16.
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"Nobleman Riding Horse" is one of the 74 kkoktu featured in the exhibit.
"Nobleman Riding Horse" is one of the 74 kkoktu featured in the exhibit.
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