Daruma Project: Fall Down Seven Times, Get up Eight

Burning Man 2017 honorarium recipient Angela Chang made her first rendition of a Daruma doll for her eighth grade Japanese Culture class. She had never seen a Daruma before, and her creation was a hodgepodge of paper towel rolls and balloons. “I didn’t do well on that project.” Angela laughs.

Since then, the Daruma has been a recurring image in her life, showing up frequently and refusing to be forgotten. The Daruma doll emerged in Japan in the early 1700s as a symbol of good luck.

It’s a hollow doll, traditionally red, used for obtaining goals. The Daruma is eyeless. The recipient fills in the first eye when setting their goal. Once the goal is obtained, the second eye is filled in and the doll is brought to the temple and burned.

Over her six years going to Burning Man, Angela has brought many Daruma dolls to the playa to gift to people. Her camp, formerly known as the Royal Gypsy Tribe, always wanted to participate more in Black Rock City. They had talked about it for years but could never figure out the right way to activate their crew. When the Radical Ritual theme was announced for Burning Man 2017, the Daruma doll immediately came to mind.

Angela Chang and the Daruma Project team were perimeter volunteers for Mazu Temple in 2015. They’ve been camping together for years, but this is their first large-scale project. The six foot tall wood, wire and papier-mâché Daruma Doll creation is actually their first work of art. “We had never really considered ourselves artists before,” said Angela. On their recent visit to the Burning Man Global Leadership Conference, they suddenly realized they had obtained artist status without even realizing it.

The crew has reached out to many members of the community for guidance, and they’ve even brought Angela’s father into the fold. He is lending the Daruma project his garage and tools for fabrication, and he’ll be attending his first Burn this year. Angela is excited to have her dad participating in the intention setting ceremonies they will host at the Daruma Doll.

These ceremonies will gather groups of two or three people to set goals, dot the eye of the Daruma together, and hold each other accountable for following through on their intention. They will also host discussions about intention setting at their camp. “I hope it inspires people to realize that their intentions are achievable,” says Angela.

Interestingly, no one in this group of Asian-American Burners is of Japanese descent, but they feel a deep connection to and love for the culture. In addition to the ritual goals, they hope the Daruma will inspire deeper conversations about Radical Inclusion and diversity. They see their creation as a positive moment to talk about culture.

Right now the team is in the midst of purchasing building materials, and soon they will do another wood test to make sure their process will last on the playa. They’re so excited to gift this ancient, physical representation of goal achieving at Burning Man this year. Be sure to look out for the giant red Daruma Doll on playa and use its magic to help achieve your intention for the future.

About the author: Jessi Sprocket

Jessi Sprocket

Jessi Sprocket is a founding member of Raised By Wolves and the editor-in-chief of Burn After Reading Magazine. She also dabbles in large scale metal sculpture and is currently a resident artist at Reno Art Works. Originally hailing from the East Coast, Sprocket made her first pilgrimage via car from Philly to BRC in 2010. Since then she's been pulled closer and closer to the Black Rock Desert and currently resides in the weird magic that is Reno.

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