Santa Fe Internment Camp – Storytelling and Ritual Event

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

During my artist residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute, I learned that the history of the New Mexico internment camps was not well known, and people wanted to know more.

My focus became, how could art bring understanding and connection to the communities in Santa Fe?  I wanted to inform the public about this history that has touched my own Japanese American family and invite people of other cultures to express their stories of displacement, unjust incarceration, and immigration journeys.

I decided to create an experiential space incorporating modalities like drawing, movement, speaking, listening, and re-enactment.

Participants were invited to create a presence for those they wanted to remember. Just the simple task of striking a pose of a loved one and being outlined in red crayon, connected the collaborators, and spontaneous memories were shared. These ancestor drawings on the gallery walls created a safe and sacred place for remembering.

It was a very moving event with many voices, quiet support, some tears, and an overall powerful energy of compassion. People traveled from as far away as Taos, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque to attend. The walking meditation lead by Eliane Allegre with the music provided by Glen Neff put the participants in a contemplative space to consider stories of incarceration, immigration, and displacement. 15 storytellers came forward to share internee memories and other difficult and heartfelt experiences.

The gallery event was followed by the visit to the Santa Fe Internment Marker. It was chilly, windy and clear beautiful day. We carried symbolic suitcases, like the prisoners traveling to a place unknown. Upon arriving the cases were opened and the folded cranes and flowers inside were used to embellish the marker. Historian and writer Nancy Bartlit and Victor Yamada of the NM Japanese Citizen League, spoke about the marker history and future plans to bring more visibility to the history of the New Mexican Internment Camps.

You may ask, why is it important to share this history from 73 years ago? In the United States today, we are still imprisoning innocent families, like those from Central America. In a world of terrorist atrocities, the backlash of racial and ethnic prejudice is rampant. We must find ways to understand and connect to each other and art is a powerful way to do it.

Thank you to all of you who supported this special sharing event. It couldn’t have happened without the team of Victor Yamada, Sue Rundstrom, Nancy Bartlit, Santa Fe Art Institute, Glen Neff, Eliane Allegre, and many others.

Thank you to the Santa Fe Art Institute for selecting me for the immigration artist in residence program.

 

 

Advertisements

The 4,555 innocents

IMG_2015_2

Injustice and disbelief. Those are the words that come to mind as I’ve been working on my SFAI (Santa Fe Art Institute) art residency. I’ve been researching for two weeks the forced immigration of people of Japanese ancestry to the Santa Fe Concentration Camp. 4,555 men came through this prison and none of them had been charged with any wrong doing except that they had the face of the enemy. Even though I’ve made art on the subject of the Japanese American Concentration Camps over the years, it still hits me hard that in America such injustice and racism existed and unfortunately still does. How can America justify putting 120,000 innocents from babies to grandparents in prisons for 4 years? How can police kill people of color over and over? How can Guantanamo still exist?

I’ve started putting feelings and thoughts into color and texture, not worrying about where I am going, waiting to see what comes up. What is appearing to me are figures of men, many men, fathers and uncles and sons, who are in limbo, waiting, waiting, being in the unknown, not knowing if they will see their families again, not knowing if they will ever be released.

A community engagement project is bubbling, forming, rising….to embrace them, to remember them, to teach about them, to acknowledge all peoples’ stories of injustice.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dad the Doer

In honor of Father’s Day I’m writing about my dad today. My dad just turned 80 years old last month and I think he looks young and handsome for his age. For his big birthday, some of the kids wanted to take him out for a nice dinner with some of his friends, but dad had something else in mind. He wanted to gather his kids back at the family home to shore up the backyard fence. This meant putting in about 15 new posts with cement and bracketing them. All this work was done on our neighbors’ side of the fence and meant that their swimming pool drainage system had to be moved and then reassembled again – as you can see in the photo. I thought it was weird that the neighbors never even came out of the house during all the activity, at least while I was around. My dad said it was better this way because they would have just slowed the whole thing down.

I was a little worried about going to the family home in Lodi. You see none of us really live there anymore. After my parents decided rather spur of the moment to move to Reno due to my mother’s Alzheimer’s condition three years ago, none of us spend much time there. Yet you know it was fine. It did not seem all that strange. We all barbecued a lovely dinner with too much food (so typically “Shintani”).

This ended up being the best party for my dad. He is such a doer. I think having his three sons, son-in-law, and nephew all working together to fix the fence and the daughter and daughter-in-laws in the kitchen, ended up being a perfect way to celebrate his 80th. It actually ended up being fun for all of us! I guess father does know best.

Thanks dad, for all the things you do, and who you are!