Origami Artist Omer Shalev Explains
The word “origami” is a combination of two Japanese words: “ori”, meaning to fold, and “kami”, meaning paper. Origami is unique from other art forms in that it relies on a single medium – one or more flat pieces of paper – to create a complete sculpture, without the aid of any other tools or materials.
Japanese origami began sometime after Buddhist monks carried paper to Japan during the 6th century. The growth of interest in origami dates to 1954, when Akira Yoshizawa established and published a notation system to indicate origami folds, which soon became the standard language of origami. The first Japanese origami from this period and was used for religious ceremonial purposes only, due to the high price of paper.
Origami sculptures often resemble familiar objects and creatures, but may also be geometric figures that rely simply on their own beauty and complexity. Today the popularity of origami has given rise to exclusive societies such as the British Origami Society and Origami USA.
Sadako and the thousand cranes
One of the most popular origami designs is the Japanese crane. The crane is auspicious in Japanese culture. Legend says that anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes will have their heart’s desire come true. The origami crane has become a symbol of peace because of this belief and because a Japanese girl named Sadako Sasaki was exposed to atomic radiation in the bombing of Hiroshima as an infant. By the time she was twelve in 1955, she was dying of leukemia. Hearing the legend, she decided to fold one thousand origami cranes so that she could live. However, when she saw that the other children in her ward were dying, she realized that she would not survive and wished instead for world peace and an end to suffering.
A popular version of the tale is that Sadako folded 644 cranes before she died; her classmates then continued folding cranes in honor of their friend. She was buried with a wreath of 1,000 cranes to honor her dream. While her effort could not extend her life, it moved her friends to make a granite statue of Sadako in the Hiroshima Peace Park: a girl standing with her hands outstretched, a paper crane flying from her fingertips. Every year the statue is adorned with thousands of wreaths of a thousand origami cranes. A group of one thousand paper cranes is called senbazuru in Japanese.