Bāba, Babushka

A collection of images captured in different places at the same time...

Neighborhood chattingEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Dasha Bough ('21) spent the summer of 2019 in Volgograd, Russia to film a documentary following the life of a babushka named Galiya. Sky Russell ('20) spent the same summer taking photos in Tenryu, Japan–one of the most aging villages in the country–documenting the day-to-days of the bābas (grandmas) and jījis (grandpas) she met there.

Taken together, the exhibit's images and text paint a picture of colorful lives being lived in two very different corners of the world. Although the stories are each unique and settings vastly disparate, the snapshots share the hushed beauty, unassuming poetry, and outrageous humor found in the mundane.

Weaver in TenryūEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"I think the artwork I produce has changed since I came here. With all the green around–I feel like I've become gentler."

MatatabiEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"This root is called 'matatabi.' It makes cats drunk.

This one is good for high blood pressure."

Pickling vegetablesEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"I've never measured ingredients when making pickles. It’s just salt, sugar, and karashi (mustard)."

View from the hilltopEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"I was born right down there. When I married, I moved up here. My husband died last year, so now I live alone. I don't really come just to look at the view. Sometimes I think it's beautiful though, like when the cherry blossoms bloom."

Receiving fish from neighborsEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"Thank you for the fish but you still cannot come in. Goodbye Zhenya. Yes. Goodbye now."

Descaling fishEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"Thank you for the fish but you still cannot come in. Goodbye Zhenya. Yes. Goodbye now."

Galiya and TVEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"Look at this buffoon. Can you believe he’s president? He’s hilarious– and pretty nice to look at. But he’s not a president. Why can’t people just stay in their profession anymore. On the other hand, I do quite like him. He’s quite beautiful, don’t you think so? "

Neighborhood chattingEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"Galiya, let me tell you something. I had to protect these two girls while we were down by the Volga. We were harassed by some gentlemen—just mafia boys. It’s because this one was strutting around in her swimsuit. I mean they were both attractive boys, so I asked them, 'Where ya from, boys?' They were twirling, spinning, and bending over trying to get the girls on a date. I told them, 'The only girl that’s going on a date with you boys, is me.' Bandits. They think I don’t know how to protect my girls."

Butcher ArtyomEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"I want you to meet my best friend. This is Artyom. He’s the butcher. But mainly he’s my best friend, so he gives me the fattiest meat and saves leftover blood for me...

Galiya and ArtyomEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

...He has a belly like a massive watermelon, as you can clearly see. It’s because he’s a drunk fish."

Conversations at the poolEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"Do you need a rich man, or a smart one, girl?"

"She doesn’t need anything!"

"So you don’t have men looking after you yet? Babushka, do you believe this?"

"Yes. She’s independent."

"But... what about when she turns 30?"

Conversations at the poolEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"Where do you go to school pretty thing?"

"She’s in America. At Harvard."

"What, are you messing with me? Then she’ll just work in America. She'll get used to it, find herself an oligarch and stay there."

"Don’t be silly. We have our own Tatar oligarchs."

Gardening with a fan vestEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"See this! This vest keeps me cool. It's got fans in it. See here? You can turn it all the way up so that it feels cold."

Gardening with a fan vestEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"See this! This vest keeps me cool. It's got fans in it. See here? You can turn it all the way up so that it feels cold."

Gardening clothesEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"Oh my god! Nonononono. Don’t take a picture of me, I’m in my gardening clothes!"

Gardening clothesEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"Oh my god! Nonononono. Don’t take a picture of me, I’m in my gardening clothes!"

Phone ringingEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"Someone’s phone is ringing."

Galiya on the phoneEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"Daughter. Hello. It’s been a day. I taught Dasha some village slang. A few dirty jokes, too.

I know. I’m sorry. But she needs to learn this stuff or they’ll know she’s American.

Da... Da.
I’m trying to help her blend. Just let us do our thing. Lighten up, girl."

NeighborsEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"I leave this front door open when it's warm out. I have my friend next door to visit me every day, and today I have the delivery man too– I'm very busy!"

NeighborsEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"I leave this front door open when it's warm out. I have my friend next door to visit me every day, and today I have the delivery man too– I'm very busy!"

Old elementary school in TenryūEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"In 1998, the elementary school shut down. After that, two of the middle schools merged."

Beauty in natureEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"When you've lived here your whole life, you don't see it as beautiful."

Beauty in natureEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

"When you've lived here your whole life, you don't see it as beautiful."

Bābā, Babushka: Gallery Talk and Discussion with Student CuratorsEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Sky Russell (Architecture Studies '20)Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Meet the Photographer: Sky Araki-Russell

Sky Araki-Russell graduated from Harvard College in 2020 with a BA in architecture studies. She spent her sophomore and junior summers in Japan through the Reischauer Institute's summer internship program. She now lives in Tokyo and spends a lot of time meandering and making friends with strangers. 

Dasha BoughEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Meet the Photographer: Dasha Bough

Dasha Bough is an Art, Film, and Visual Studies student at Harvard College. Dasha hails from Montana, and the time she spent in Russia throughout her childhood with her family plays an integral role in her art. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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