Monday, August 6, 2012

Japanese-American Gaman

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor (Hawaii) by Japanese in December 1941 during World War II, Japanese Americans were forced to leave their American homes and reside in internment camps in New Mexico and other places in the country for the duration of World War II.  Not given enough time to gather necessary essentials many Japanese Americans were only able to take with them the clothes on their backs. According to reports, life in the camps was difficult with inadequate living and rationed food. Those who were interred turned to art making as a source of comfort and emotional survival. This style of folk art is known as gaman - a Japanese word meaning “bear the seeming unbearable with dignity and patience”. Folk art pieces from this time -  from teapots and furniture to musical instruments and ornamental displays - can be seen in several exhibitions, including “The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps,1942-1946”, a traveling exhibition that closes at the International Museum of Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, now through October 7, 2012.

“The Art of Gaman showcases arts made by Japanese Americans in U.S. Internment camps during World War II. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, all ethnic Japanese on the West Coast—more than two-thirds of whom were American citizens by birth—were ordered to leave their homes and move to internment camps for the duration of the war; including a camp in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Art making became essential for simple creature comforts and emotional survival. These objects—tools, teapots, furniture, toys and games, musical instruments, pendants and pins, purses and ornamental displays—are physical manifestations of the art of gaman, a Japanese word that means to bear the seemingly unbearable with dignity and patience. The traveling exhibition is organized by San Francisco-based author and guest curator Delphine Hirasuna, and is based on her 2005 book The Art of Gaman, published by Ten Speed Press. The exhibition closes in Santa Fe October 7, 2012. 

(Photo: S. Kawamoto, interned in Santa Fe, painting of the camp. Natural wood slab, wedge of of fence post, paint. Collection of Mary Tsuyuke Nakagawa. From The Art of Gaman by Delphine Hirasuna, copyright 2005 Ten Speed. Terry Heffernan photo.)”

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