Origami is Everything, Origami is the Future

  • 2022/4/1
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Origami is Everything, Origami is the Future

Article by Kenneth Ch’ng, Founder of the Malaysia Origami Academy and Malaysia Origami Association

The Origin of Origami
Origami is the ancient Japanese art of paper-folding. The word “Ori” comes from the root word “Oru” or “折る” which means “to fold.” The word “Gami” comes from the word “Kami” or “紙” which means “Paper.” The origin of paper-folding could be traced back to about 2200 years ago when paper was invented by the Chinese in the year 206 BC. In the 6th century, the techniques of paper-making were introduced into Japan and ever since then, origami steadily gained popularity in Japan throughout the centuries. In 1954, the father of modern day origami Akira Yoshizawa (吉澤章, 1911-2005) published a monograph titled Atarashii Origami Geijutsu (新らしいおりがみ芸術), or “New Origami Art,” that made origami a popular word around the world. Poetry that dates back to 1680 described the origami butterflies used in Shinto weddings to represent the bride and groom.

Legend of the Japanese Origami Crane
When it comes to symbolism in origami, the traditional paper crane is the most popular example of origami worldwide. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by the gods. Some stories believe one is granted happiness and eternal good luck, such as longevity or good health. This makes them popular gifts to be folded and given away to special friends and family members. The crane is considered a mystical creature in Japan, and is said to be able to live for a thousand years. The traditional folding techniques of various versions of origami cranes have been documented in the book Hidden Senbazuru Orikata (秘伝千羽鶴折形) published in 1797.

Evolution of Origami
The purest form of origami has to be folded from a single sheet of uncut square paper without any use of glue, tools, decorations, colourings or drawings. This ancient art form preserves the original quality and state of the paper by merely transforming its shape, without adding or subtracting any substance from the original medium, the paper. Over the centuries, origami has evolved to be not only an art form but also being used in technical fields. Since the 70s, scientists and mathematicians began to notice the intricate folding lines of Origami called Crease Patterns, and started to apply these complex folding lines to create products ranging from foldable umbrellas, furniture, airbags in cars, surgical stents for heart surgery – angioplasty, deployable bullet proof shields and even solar panels for space telescopes and satellites. In recent years, the folding science has also been applied to create molecular structures for medical and pharmaceutical use.

Origami as a Tool in Education
The benefits of folding paper have long been discovered by educationists since the 19th century. Friedrich Fröbel (1782-1852), the man who founded the first kindergarten, was also one of the first to employ paper-folding activities as an educational tool to enhance students’ spatial reasoning and psychomotor skills. Nowadays, origami has been adopted by some corporations to screen for potential candidates, and to enhance their skills. As an example, the Japanese space agency JAXA used the folding of one thousand paper cranes as one of the tests for candidates of its astronaut program. Some developed countries around the world have incorporated origami into their mathematics and geometry curriculums for primary and secondary schools. Even renowned universities like MIT and Harvard have offered specialized courses in the folding science.

Origami in Malaysia

The Origami Movement started in Malaysia in 2004 with the founding of the Malaysia Origami Academy (2004), and later the Malaysia Origami Association (2014). The main objective of the Malaysia Origami Movement is to encourage local origami artists to draw inspiration from Malaysia Cultural Heritage elements to create original and novel origami models. As of 2022, there are approximately 100 original origami designs that are unique to the Malaysian culture. A few of the signature designs are (but not limited to):

▶ Durian, Wau Bulan, Sari/Kebaya/Cheong Sam (created by Sam Yap)
▶ Traditional Wau, Lemang, Ketupat (created by Jass Ng)
▶ Nasi Lemak, Kuih Talam, Kuih Lapis (created by Tan Chia Wen)
▶ Karipap, Rebana Ubi (Malay traditional instrument) (created by Cheong Chin Foong)
▶ Keris, Songkok, Masjid (created by Ahmad Faiz Salbini)
▶ Tapir, Gasing and Keris (created by Nicholas Low)
▶ Traditional Malay Male Costume (created by Muhammad Ilham Shah)
▶ Nepenthes “Pitcher Plant” (created by Sonny Wong)

Through this integration of unique symbols into the creative process, it is the hope of the Movement that more interest and understanding could be fostered towards Malaysian’s rich cultural heritage, as well as the beauty of the ancient Japanese art of paper-folding.

The Era of Origami

With the advancements in science and manufacturing technology, we are witnessing more and more innovative products being invented or inspired by utilizing origami techniques and concepts. In the last decade, the powerful discovery into the folding science has linked string theory and quantum physics to the fundamentals of folding. As we are heading into Industrial Revolution 5.0 and beyond, we will be seeing more and more origami enabled technologies emerging. Welcome to the future, welcome to origami.

Kenneth Ch’ng
Founder of the Malaysia Origami Academy and Malaysia Origami Association
▪ The pioneer of Malaysia Origami Movement, which resulted in the creation of more than 100 Malaysia Cultural Heritage Origami Intellectual Properties. Proponent of cultivating nationalism and multilateral, cultural and technical exchanges via the art and science of “Seni Lipatan Kertas” (or Origami).

▪Conducted more than 6000 origami workshops, lectures, exhibitions and talks in Malaysia since 2004.

Malaysia Origami Academy
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