Art of courage, perseverence
By Mike Isaacs Sun-Times Mediaemail@example.com September 17, 2011 9:19PM
This piece was created by a Japanese American internee at Heart Mountain, Wy., depicting tarpaper-covered barracks. Collection of the Japanese American Museum of San José, From "Art of Gaman" by Delphine Hirasuna, Ten Speed. | Photo courtesy Terry Heffern
Updated: November 24, 2011 12:25AM
Arts and crafts made by Japanese Americans imprisoned in camps during World War II will be on display beginning Sept. 25 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie.
“The Art of Gaman” features items made from scraps and found materials. They include tools, teapots, furniture, toys and games, musical instruments, pendants and pins, purses and ornamental displays. The Japanese word “gaman” means to endure the seemingly unbearable with dignity and patience.
“These incredibly crafted objects are a tribute to the spirit of this stalwart community,” said Holocaust Museum Executive Director Rick Hirschhaut.
In 1942, 110,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast were ordered to report to assembly centers where they would be dispatched to one of the 10 “relocation” camps. The order resulted in wrecked businesses, stolen or vandalized personal property and shattered lives.
Surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by soldiers with machine guns, the Japanese Americans “sought courage and solace in art,” according to the book The Art of Gaman.”
Many of the 120 objects are on loan from former internees or their families.
The exhibit is organized by Delphine Hirasuna, whose mother was interned. After her mother died, Hirasuna found a laquered bird pin made at a camp and soon found other families had such objects, too.
“It makes me wonder what we, all of us, have in ourselves,” Hirasuna said in an interview last year. “Could we create things of beauty like that in adversity in such a situation?”
Hirasana said the objects reflect courage — “the quiet courage of people who are put in the worst circumstances, and they find it in themselves to rise above it and make things that are truly beautiful.”