What you should learn from the Japanese art of Kintsugi

Dubai - Finding beauty in the broken

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By Delna Mistry Anand

Published: Thu 2 Dec 2021, 3:15 PM

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places” wrote Ernest Hemingway in his poignant book A Farewell to Arms. People who have seen grief at close quarters know what ‘broken’ feels like. I was fairly young when life pulled the carpet out from under my feet and toppled my world. Growing up in India in the 90s, getting help to manage grief was uncommon, so the journey out of the deep dark rabbit hole was to be mine alone. Having a loving family and friends helps, but the journey to healing is most often lonely, chaotic and dreadfully painful. Time does not heal; but what it does is soothe the jagged edges of pain. The actual work begins only when you allow yourself to see and feel the broken pieces, accept them, embrace them and move forward.

Decades later, I found the most beautiful metaphor to understand (and explain) this journey. The Japanese art of repair called Kintsugi (kin = gold; tsugi = to join), is a 400-year-old technique of mending cracks with gold. It is believed that the practice of mending ceramics with lacquer dusted in gold began in the Kingdom of Ashigaka Yoshimasa. When his artisans failed to fix a precious ceramic vase aesthetically, one artisan decided to ‘emphasize’ the crack instead of concealing it. Covering the cracks in gold, he honoured the break and giving the vase a new life. Japanese culture believes in honouring the beauty in broken things; that the golden cracks make the piece unique, precious and extremely valuable.

For me, Kintsugi became a way to understand life and loss. We all carry cracks within us; in the form of a troubled childhood, poor academics, emotionally unavailable parents, an abusive marriage, death of a loved one, sickness. We carry these emotional wounds like a dark shadow, not wanting to reveal them, see them, feel them — leave alone heal them, thinking ‘how can we be complete with these broken pieces from our past?’

Kinstugi teaches us:

Accept what is broken:

For anything to heal, first you must feel. It’s important to acknowledge that this hurts you. Broken does not mean less valuable, redundant or useless. Refrain from adding your own meaning to what ‘broken’ means.

Love is the golden glue:

Kintsugi teaches us that with love and kindness towards ourselves, we can fill those cracks. Self-love is the golden glue which will help us acknowledge and embrace the cracks. Allow the golden glue to transform you into your own unique, new identity.

Everything can be mended:

Struggle, trials and tribulations are not a death sentence. All of life’s hurts can be mended through golden repair work. When we change our mindset about our past, when we change the stories we tell ourselves, we become free of our struggles; free to design a different future; a new, beautiful, unique vase.

Imperfections are unique and sparkling in gold:

Yes, pain can change our life. Some find it hard to let go, because so much emotion is wrapped in it. Keep the emotions of love and hope, release the rest. Let your pain propel you to live a life of meaning. Your greatest pain can become the most beautiful, admirable part of you. This awareness helped me use my journey of grief to help myself, and others. Once I understood it properly, I could see that my trial-by-fire has helped me become who I am today.

Wherever you are right now, I invite you to look back on all that you have been through, all the cracks that haven’t been glued. Think of all the times we have chosen perfection and discarded anything that was less than. Take a long hard look at each crack. And take your time to fill them up with lacquer that’s sparkling gold. Make your own unique design, make the best art you’ll ever see, and then you’ll realise that all is well and life is exactly how it’s meant to be.


Connect with Delna Mistry Anand across social media @DelnaAnand

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