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Meet Mafalda Tenente, artist and writer of 'Autumn in Japan'

sumi-e ink painting by Mafalda Tenente

My Japan Journey Interview No 03: Mafalda: ink painting and book creating

Mafalda Tenente, with a pouch full of brush pens, sits in a Japanese temple garden, with a still and concentrated intent to capture her interest in a few ink lines on paper.

Her latest book, Autumn in Japan, is a beautifully illustrated travel journal of her time spent painting in Japan. Her book continues the thousand-year-old tradition of travel writing in Japan, which references the seasons and its classic literature.

Mafalda creates her books with great care, and as you can see in the short video, they are beautiful small works of art.

We share a lively passion for Japan, painting, and Japanese literature, and I think you’ll enjoy our conversation as much as we enjoyed being a part of it.


Cathy: Mafalda, your new book Autumn in Japan is wonderful. I really admire what you’re doing. The amount of thought that you have put into it: the way that you've laid out the sketching, and where you're going to take the drawings from, and the whole concept of the binding is beautiful. You must be so proud of it!

Mafalda: I think I'm still in the phase where I can't believe it's real, and I think I'll move to the proud moment when I'm handing it over to the first readers or a library.

There are two moments where I feel very proud when finishing a book. One is when I hand over a book to a public library. As a kid I was not from a particularly wealthy family and a lot of my education came from access to public libraries, visiting every other week, roaming the shelves for as many interesting books as I could and loading them on my backpack to carry home. So for me it's a very emotional moment when I'm on the other side and I can put a book into a library collection. The second moment is when the readers’ feedback matches my original intention. Comments such as 'I felt myself travelling right along with you', or, 'I could feel the slower time and peace from every page of One Moment, One Drawing'. For me, those are the proudest moments to be honest.

Cathy: You must have been on the most amazing journey. I was looking at your website and you're an incredibly high-powered woman, aren't you? So I think one of the things that struck me was, how have you found the time? And also, from being such a successful woman, to have that ability to completely slow down and find yourself in the moment with your painting - do the two go hand in hand? Do you need one to balance out the other?

Mafalda: I think it is a little bit of a balancing act. I was a global executive and living out of my suitcase for many years of my life. And there was a moment when I found myself really drained and I had to do a lot of work to find out the things that keep me in balance. Dance, particularly ballet is one of them, and art is another. I did have to consciously create the time for those areas, and embrace some trade-offs. But at that point, I hadn’t started ink painting at all.

I was drawn to Japan since my time working in Lisbon nearly twenty years ago. I lived very close to the ancient art museum (MNAA) where you can see some nanban period objects. I was particularly fascinated by the folding screens, the unique combination of arts and skills that go directly into these particular objects: ink, paper, woodwork, lacquer and metal work.

It took a few more years and a chance visit to London's Tate Britain for Mafalda to come across a book about Japanese art which she bought and became absorbed by. She says, 'And after I read it I said out loud to my partner, 'We need to go to Japan!''

Japan in autumn

Photo: Mafalda Tenente

Mafalda: This first time I went to Japan, it was an amazing experience. Back then you couldn't use a western cell phone or a Blackberry. You really were able to be completely disconnected from the everyday, to enjoy the country and all of its beautiful places.

And even though I could not understand a word back then, I had the odd feeling of being at home. I had never experienced this when arriving in another country. It made me want to learn more, and to be in Japan more, and that's where the whole journey really started. It started with the history of art, and then the ink painting came along with the wish to deepen the learning.


Cathy: One of the reasons I'm so fascinated with your journey is because I'm an artist too and, before I got into children's book illustration I wanted to be a flower painter. I would love to get back into flower painting, and what you are doing is so inspiring. How do you start looking at flowers in that Japanese sumi-e way and how did you learn?

Mafalda: I was very lucky that I found a local teacher. You can usually find teachers in your country nowadays, and often local Japanese cultural associations have calligraphy and ink painting teachers within their members. Ink painting can be learnt as a stand-alone discipline, but also often from a calligraphy teacher - that's actually a very traditional way, because the way of holding the brush and the learning approach is very much the same.

You can teach yourself from books, because in the beginning you will need to learn the basic set of strokes and practice these endlessly. A teacher will help correct your execution of the movement necessary for a better brushstroke.

Plants are the first element of your learning. A particular set of subjects such as the 'four gentlemen' - bamboo, plum, orchid, chrysanthemum - these four kind of plants encompass a good deal of the basic strokes and techniques you need to master.

Cathy: Is it like when you learn Japanese kanji, and you’re told that it’s important to get the strokes in the right order, otherwise it might cause trouble for you later on. Is it a similar sort of ethos?

Mafalda: Yes, it’s a very similar ethos. If you're painting a bamboo leaf, you're supposed to picture an arc swing motion where your brush is lowered to touch the paper and then is raised again in one smooth movement. You endlessly practice this kind of movement until it lands on the paper and comes out of the paper smoothly defining the correct shape. Controlling your breath and posture in this process is also important. Maybe practicing a martial art would also be a good comparison.

sumi-e ink painting by Mafalda Tenente

Photo: Mafalda Tenente

Cathy: Is there a point where your own expression can start to take over as well?

One of my favourite drawings of yours that you've put up on Instagram is your freesia painting, and it's wonderful how the lines fall across a threefold piece of paper. I love the way you pick up the brush, and drag it and then lift it up again, and the way the lines fall across the white space.

Mafalda: The year before I was painting Autumn in Japan, I had done sumi-e with brush pens for about a year, every single day.

Even if it was just for 10 or 15 minutes, with a single example from a book. I did one page, one new drawing every day. By the time I arrived in Japan, I had that full year of drawing and learning behind. And at that point I really felt much more free, because I had mastered the different types of strokes and I was able to look at subjects and decide where I wanted to begin.

Cathy: Is it as much about what you decide to not put into your painting?

Mafalda: Yes. I think it is a little bit because it's very unforgiving. If you want to do it in the traditional style, you cannot have a pencil drawing. Every stroke is its own finished product.

sumi-e ink painting by Mafalda Tenente

Photo: Mafalda Tenente

Cathy: You’ve got to be quite brave, and I can see where the enormous amount of practice would come in to build that confidence to be able to attack that glowing white space with the first line. Mafalda, your brushstrokes are so beautiful - is it the paper that's making the pen drag like that?

Mafalda: Yes, paper is one of the four treasures and the better the paper you have and the better it suits the pens or the brushes, usually you'll be a lot more satisfied with the result.

All of my sketchbooks are from this stationery brand in Portugal called Namban. I use them as my journals and the paper is very lovely, and the size of the sketchbooks lends itself well for working with brush pens.

Right now I am using a very small sketchbook bound by Namban using Takeo paper which is a Japanese brand of machine-made paper, and it works beautifully with ink as well.

Cathy: Is there a good place to find art supplies or learning resources for sumi-e?

Mafalda: Outside of Asia it is still difficult. Fortunately, if you do not have access to good Asian art supplies, brush pens are a good tool to start with. Because of brush lettering popularity, you can now find the Pentel Art Brush pen range everywhere, but these pens were originally developed to mirror ink painting and calligraphy tools and technique. They are water-soluble inks with fully flexible brush tips. You can wash them out like watercolour. A basic set requires three pens only – black, grey and a medium or large-sized water tank pen.

If you cannot find a local teacher, there are some teachers who teach online as well. One of the books that I used first is from my teacher in Japan (I have learnt from two teachers, one in Switzerland and one in Japan). The book is called Fudepen Kara Hajimeru Suibokuga and you can start learning sumi-e style directly with a brush pen. Some of the drawings in the book look almost like children's illustrations, and some of them are very classical motifs. You will find the crane and the turtle, each with their classical strokes adapted to work with a brush pen.

Mafalda Tenente painting in Switzerland

Sometimes with books on sumi-e, the strokes are not that well explained, but this beginner’s book does a pretty good job of showcasing the different types of strokes that you can do and how they will look. So for example, if you use your brush pen very flat on the paper you get this like really nice rugged look, which is the equivalent of the kasure technique. I will often use this type of stroke when I'm drawing wood or wood beams or when the surfaces I'm drawing are very dry. You can also see the blurring when you mix different brushes and how you can get that kind of effect. This book is all in Japanese but because it's so visual I found it easy to learn from. You do need to watch out for one thing though. Like calligraphy, sumi-e was developed by and for right-handed people. If you are left handed you might need to adjust some strokes accordingly. I struggled a lot in the first year because I was not aware of this strong bias. [Mafalda is left-handed].

Art and Poetry

Cathy: You so kindly let me read the Kyoto chapter of your book Autumn in Japan and you were writing about going to Nara.

Mafalda: Yes, that’s the eighth chapter, the chapter before last - the journey goes back in time with the literature.

Cathy: You finish that chapter with the waka poem by Fujiwara no Teika. I was astonished to read in that chapter that you were in a restaurant and I think you came away with a bit of Hyakunin Isshu?

Mafalda: We were staying at Izuyasu ryokan, a small ryokan - it's very close to the train station in Kyoto. The owner and chef of the ryokan prepares dinner every night, and he was talking about the seasons and explaining the very same principles that are used for ink painting. Everything goes by the old Japanese seasons.

For every guest at the table he had written the same small poem on a small piece of washi. At the time I had taken my N5 [Japanese Language Proficiency Test], so I could only read the hiragana. He told me a little bit of the translation of the poem, so I remembered that it was about the changing colours of autumn, but he didn’t say who the poem was by.

Cathy: So you had to find it?

Mafalda: When I was writing the book, I looked back on all my souvenirs and notes from my travels, and I found this one washi sheet with the poem and I knew I had to find its translation - I had to put the poem in my book because it's such a beautiful poem. And so I was searching for the original Japanese version of the poem online, and that's when I found out that it was by Fujiwara no Teika, and I thought this was such an extraordinary coincidence! It matched the exact period of literature I was inspired by for that particular chapter.

Cathy: That's so amazing - I think I would have fallen through the floor! You made me pick up my copy of Hyakunin Isshu this morning!

Mafalda: Originally I thought it would be from that book, but it’s not! That was the big question, where was this poem from and is there a translation? I couldn't find it for quite a while. But at some point, I was lucky to meet the Professor of Asian Art History here in the University of Zurich. And because he has a strong connection to Kyoto, I had also sent him this same chapter a few months back, apologizing because I was still looking for this poem. I told him I might drop by the university library because they have a lot more editions of classical poetry. But he’s a fluent Japanese speaker himself, and he simply replied, ‘Oh, how about maybe this?’ And so within about 15 minutes of sending out the email I had a beautiful translation! But its origin remains a riddle, I will still need to go back to that library.

Cathy: It’s so interesting, because you’re saying that the sumi-e painting references the seasons, but, of course, that's exactly what the waka poetry does, doesn't it? It's one of the rules of the literature. The sumi-e painting references the art that went before in a similar way to when in The Tale of Genji they referenced the Chinese master poets who went before when they composed the waka, and the readers of the time understood the references too.

Japanese poetry book

You’re passionate about old Japanese literature in the way I am, I think?

Mafalda: I love the old and the new and I think it's because when I started reading the literature, I understood how much the painting is connected and how much all of these elements are connected in Japanese arts: the seasons, the famous places, the painting, the calligraphy, the writing.

And so I do enjoy it a lot and also I enjoy its contemporary literature. I started reading Japanese literature, not through the classics, but through the world's most famous writer alive, Murakami!

But Murakami publishes about one book every other year, so once I read all the translated works I started going backwards in time. Through the art I found my way to the classics, but then from Murakami I found Soseki, and from Soseki I jumped to the others. And so everything met in the middle. My readings range from contemporary to classic, but having read classic makes me understand the contemporary a lot better as well, because a lot of these archetypes of heroes and anti-heroes reoccur.

Cathy: Yes! The modern character of the loner in manga and anime is surely The Tales of Ise's Ariwara no Narihira!

Mafalda: In the beginning, you read all of this contemporary literature and you think it’s so cool and so interesting and so new, and then you read the classics and it's still cool and interesting but you realise not all of it is so new.

Cathy: Exactly. I find it fascinating, and I agree that the things you read about in Tales of Ise, or the Heian diaries, or Genji, these characters are still being presented anew, but I think all the best art is. We’re always looking to the past to make something new.

Mafalda: I think everyone does because ultimately, you don't create in a vacuum. You create based on what inspired you and you react to it by trying to distance yourself from it, or getting closer. So I think in a sense that everything that you see influences how you create. Until I found Japan, I had always been drawn to minimalist art in the West, things that occupied very little space or are deceptively simple and how they worked towards the viewer. And I think that Japan attracted me a lot because it was not a constructed way of minimalist art by shedding elements of the past, it was minimalist by principle from very early on. So, I was already attracted to a particular type of art, and that filter put me on this path.

sumi-e ink painting by Mafalda Tenente

Photo: Mafalda Tenente

Cathy: I don't know if this is connected in any way but you're making me think of Juunichiro Tanizaki and the essay that he wrote called In Praise of Shadows where he describes the beauty of shadows falling on the white shoji screens in the tearoom, and how the shadows in the tokonoma are as much a part of the tea ceremony experience as the scroll. Does this kind of thinking apply also to sumi-e painting, where the white space and the light, not the shadow, is something that is considered?

Mafalda: It's very similar, the concept that the negative space is never empty. It's the concept of ‘ma’ in Japanese, it’s not seen as emptiness, it’s potential. In the most extreme cases you only paint about a third of the paper and two thirds remain empty. But usually as a minimum you’d leave about a third empty, ideally a bit more.

The idea is that you do not need to depict everything for people to see what you're trying to depict. The more space you leave empty the more your imagination actively attempts to fill that space. And I think that is something that’s very similar to the poetry. The poetry is very simple and very short. But because it has all that ambivalence and all that space between the words you can fill it with whatever is on your mind or what you’re feeling.

I think that white space in painting fulfils that same need. If I paint a bird only and I leave everything else empty it's up to you how you interpret it, depending on where you are and how you're feeling. You might see that there might be water behind that bird, or there might be a mountain in the distance, and it doesn't need to be painted. Because based on when you last saw a bird yourself and your emotions, you will make up what is in that white space.

Cathy: In literature study you'd call it reader response. I used to really love that concept that you as an individual, you bring all your past experiences to that piece of art, that poetry or that painting, and in that way it becomes a unique experience to you, and that's how art can relate to so many people.

sumi-e ink painting by Mafalda Tenente

I'm in awe that as an artist you are thinking about what to withdraw from the space rather than littering it up.

Mafalda: But that's the very first exercise. If I go out outside and I sketch something, it's always very helpful from a wellbeing perspective. I want to try and focus: what is the one detail that is really interesting or that's really new today? If I'm in a garden there are always trees and there are plants and leaves, and there's lots of stuff going on, but I try to focus on what it is that’s special today. Or what is it that I haven't seen last time I was in this garden, and that's where I’ll start sketching. And I'll try to pick maybe not the whole plant, sometimes just a leaf or a bud. And then sometimes that's enough, and by the time you finish doing that particular part, you're already feeling much more relaxed.

Then your mind is completely empty because you haven't been thinking about anything else. You have to focus so much on it, how that one leaf is shaped and how to get it with as few strokes as possible, and which strokes to use. You see more by focusing on less.

Cathy: It's the idea that you know when it's enough. You know when to finish rather than keep adding more.

Mafalda: Sometimes you don't! Sometimes you get so excited and if you have the time… The days where you actually have little time are the best because if you only have 15 minutes you feel you’d better do something! But there are other days when you have a little bit more time and you’re feeling that that branch surrounding the leaf is also nice... And all of a sudden you’re thinking, where did the white space go?

Impressions and Light

sumi-e ink painting by Mafalda Tenente

Cathy: I saw one of your paintings of a castle, with a beautiful rooftop - the rooftops are so elaborate, aren't they! How do you sit down and work out how to paint that, they’re so complex!

Mafalda: Oh, that could be Matsumoto Castle from Autumn in Japan. At the time, I was just walking and I decided that this was a place I wanted to paint.

I have a rough sketch of the composition idea before I start, and then I try to figure out how I'm going to do the most important elements of the structure. I do it on any scrap of paper, the quality of the paper is not important then. So I do a few quick essays of how it will look and try different strokes before I then work on the final page.

Cathy: Because to just sit down and say, right, I'm going to start - that would be difficult, wouldn't it?

Mafalda: It would in some cases, especially with architecture. I often work from photos. This was also the case when I sketched Honganji temple, not far from Sensoji. It was early evening. Even if I had sat down in front of the temple, I would not have had enough time to finish and the light would be dimming so quickly that I wouldn’t be able to capture it. So I usually take a photo, sometimes just from the iPhone, sometimes with a good camera, and then I paint from that photo reference. It helps me to capture the light in a particular moment.

But I think you just make a go for it as well, as not every stroke decision is fully worked out. For example, with Matsumoto Castle, the first time I looked at it once it was done, I thought it looked more like Howl’s Moving Castle because the different floors were slightly disjointed! You will notice that perspective rules aren't strictly followed and you couldn't put a ruler to it.

Cathy: But you wouldn’t want to, would you, it’s an impression.

Mafalda: Exactly. I focus a lot on light and the different light areas with buildings, because I usually only have a very few colours to work with - grey washes, black, and often one colour accent only.

I try to observe a lot - where the really dark areas are, where it's pitch black, and then what else has to be done in a lighter wash. So the difference of lighter blocks of colour and shadows is very important so that you can then see the final subject without the need to start with line.

Cathy: I can appreciate that, it's training your eyes to see in this way, to reduce what you're seeing to those sorts of tones, isn't it?

Mafalda: In a way, and then depending on where you started, and how the first stroke lands everything follows. So for example, I recently sketched a church when I was in Norway and I thought I wanted to paint it bigger, but then I did the first stroke, and of course the problem was that it becomes too big. Then you run out of space and you only fit the top two floors and not the whole building on the page anymore. That was because I did it on site, in one go and I had made no essay before. There’s a lot more chance when there’s less planning involved. But looking at it now, I like it better than some of the more planned landscapes, precisely because there are fewer details and it goes off-page.

Japanese Writing

Mafalda Tenente sketching in Japan

Cathy: I really love the idea of you sitting in temple grounds as the evening is falling surrounded by all that history. To spend time with those temples, in those compounds or in those gardens, like you did in Tofukuji, spending time observing there and just 'being' must be a really lovely experience. That's what you've carried through into your book.

Mafalda: I think a lot of the time that I spent in rewriting the book was to refine that particular voice because one of the things that I love about Japan is that I have always been able to slow down and really enjoy being in a particular space when I'm there. I wanted to find a tone of writing where I could convey that feeling of peace to people and that feeling of walking through a peaceful space.

Cathy: I think what I found so special about that Kyoto chapter was when you were mentally calculating the distance from wherever you were to Genji’s Rokujou villa and I completely related to that!

Mafalda: To be honest, I added that precision later. I had a vague map in my mind and I knew we were somewhere near, but I didn't know how close exactly. I have the French edition of The Tale of Genji at home, and in there is the map of the old capital, and I pinpointed it when writing the book.

Cathy: I'm sure you have probably come across this novel, The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata? (We will be reading it for our January In Japan book club.)

What really strikes me about this book is how Kawabata seems to create a balance between the old ancient capital of Kyoto, that continues to exist with all the references of place and art and literature and poetry that we've talked about, and the culture of tea, but he’ll also reign you right back to the present when he writes about something modern like bus stops. It reminds me of how you talk about hopping on the train in your book. It’s almost like the two Kyoto's exist side by side, and I think in your chapter about Kyoto you capture that. There’s a lot of writing about Japan, but I’ve not really connected with a piece of writing that describes so perfectly what it feels like to be in Kyoto if your heart is full of the art, and the literature, and the stories. I think you will really love Kawabata's novel too.

Mafalda and I then went on to have a fascinating discussion about the Japanese authors who we’ve read and enjoyed. Mafalda described books by Murata Sayata, and Yukio Mishima, and gave me lots of recommendations, including a book that has fascinated her that described the area of Japan in Yasunari Kawabata’s acclaimed novel Snow Country.

Cathy: I think it's time that I met some more Japanese writers. Mishima, Kawabata, and Tanizaki are about as modern as I've got - I’ve read a tiny bit of Murakami but not a lot.

Mafalda: I resisted reading Mishima for a long time but then a friend of mine said I should read at least one book. So I picked the first novel and I couldn't stop - I read a lot of his work since.

Cathy: When I say I’ve read Mishima, I’ve read one, The Sound of Waves. I loved it, but I think that's probably one of his least controversial.

Mafalda: Probably, but you should read one of The Sea of Fertility tetralogy. Spring Snow, the first novel in the series is my favourite. I think what surprised me the most is how different Kawabata and Mishima are, though their appreciation of lyricism is equally high.

With Kawabata, when I'm reading one of his books I always feel that he's so intellectual and he writes so beautifully, but I never feel that he's in the book. I always feel that there's a certain level of distance and coolness in how Kawabata looks at the world.

And Mishima is a near opposite, even though they were friends. Not quite sure how to put this, but to use your earlier reference, Mishima takes Kawabata’s picture perfect train and derails it to see where the mayhem leads. You can hear the loud screeching and anticipate the train wreck ahead, you know he’s about to draw blood from all and yet you cannot look away.

I never feel like so much he’s a witness, more like he is in there exposing some of his own flesh through the characters, showing what lies beneath the thin veneer of control and daring us as readers to pass judgement..

Cathy: I've recently re-read Snow Country in anticipation of our book club, and I can relate to your impression of Kawabata's writing as cool and detached in this novel. I do wonder if this was intentional, purely because his characterizations and the relationships all reflect that landscape of snow!

And, I can only base this on Mishima's The Sound of Waves, but there’s that scene where the hero, Shinji, is on the ship proving himself to be worthy to marry the daughter, and he has to leap across that raging sea in a storm to tie a rope around a buoy. It’s colourful and visual and painterly, isn't it, just like Mishima is there.

NHK On Demand currently features a beautiful two-part drama of Snow Country.

Mafalda: If you want to understand a little bit more about how it would have been to live in snow country long before Kawabata’s time, have you read The Stranger in the Shogun’s City, by Amy Stanley? I think it was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

It's about a woman's life in Edo period Japan and this is a really beautiful book and it's not fiction. Amy Stanley is a scholar and she was tracing all the diaries and letters for this particular woman, in this particular family, completely anonymous and forgotten otherwise, but she happened to be from snow country.

At some point she divorces and decides to go to Edo on her own from the snow country, and she talks a little bit about how isolated this area was before trains arrived.

Actually, now I have the book printed, Autumn in Japan, I think I probably was influenced by her when I wrote about the snow country part and I didn't reference her. So, if I were to publish a second edition, I would add it to the bibliography.

I have a very unique approach perhaps to ink painting, because I enjoy books and the writing and the literature so much. I'll probably end up doing more books and increasingly my practice might become not so much a lot of individual paintings but probably trying to create projects to create more books. Because I'm a mix of these two sides, I'm an artist and also a very bookish sort of person.

Cathy: I always think that art, theatre, and literature can’t be separated, can they. I think if you've got a passion for one, you tend to have a passion for everything.


snowy Japan

Cathy: My last question for you is, have you got plans to go back to Japan?

Mafalda: Yes, obviously! I was trying to schedule classes again with sensei in Japan, but 2022 was not possible but also because he's super busy.

There was a novel about ink painting which became quite popular and was adapted into a shounen manga, about two two years ago if I remember correctly. It’s about a young adult man whose parents have died in an accident, he comes across ink painting by chance, and how ink painting helps him find a new way of looking at life.

Cathy: There’s a new film about this, isn't there, starring Ryusei Yokohama?

Mafalda: Yes, and sensei was the ink painting advisor for this movie. This autumn he was going to be doing live painting performances to support the movie promotion efforts. There is this video on YouTube where the stars of the movie paint something first, and he then completes it.

The movie is called The Lines that Defined Me (Sen wa Boku wo Egaku). You can read more about it here!

Cathy: This is astonishing because I have been waiting for this movie! It’s just been released in Japan, hasn’t it!

Mafalda: Yes, I'm hoping that it might come to Europe at some point in 2023. I know that our Japanese film festival here in Switzerland is going to restart again then. So, that’s why I will likely be going again to Japan in spring 2023. I have lots of ideas, more ideas than time, just like any artist. You have a drawer full of notes waiting to be worked on, and you just have to pick.

Cathy: It’s quite difficult not to get overwhelmed when you’re bursting with things you want to do and see when you get there!

Mafalda: And I am again painting for the big international ink painting exhibition in Tokyo in January 2023.

Mafalda Tenente in Tokyo

Mafalda receives a special award in Tokyo in 2020

Cathy: That will be amazing! I wish you every success with the exhibition and your beautiful book Autumn in Japan.

Well, Mafalda I really hope I get to meet you again because you've been absolutely brilliant to talk to and you are a woman after my own heart in so many ways! I love what you do and I find it incredibly inspiring, and I absolutely love the way it's underpinned with the things that I find so beautiful about Japan, including the literature. I really hope we get to meet again.

Mafalda: Thank you, Cathy. It's always great to connect with other people who have the same passion for Japan, and your passion for the art and literature is really obvious. It's been absolutely delightful. Thank you very much.

Mafalda Tenente is an artist practicing Japanese sumi-e living in Zurich, Switzerland.

You can find out more about Mafalda's beautiful books, Autumn in Japan,

The Tea House Diary, and One Moment, One Drawing here.

Instagram: @mtenente

All photos are by Mafalda Tenente unless otherwise stated.


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