‘Children of the Camps: Objects, Detention, and Displacement’

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From left: Eric Lee, Ibuki Hibi Lee, Art Sugiyama and daughters Karen and Diane in Sacramento.

SAN FRANCISCO — Memories of childhood are embedded in toys and objects from our past. But what stories lie within the items of children who were detained or displaced?

Nancy Ukai, project director of 50 Objects, a digital project that explores the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans through artifacts and stories, will talk about a doll, a toy tank and a pair of Mickey Mouse geta on Sunday, April 28, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Presidio of San Francisco

Two of the toys are displayed in the “Then They Came For Me” exhibition. In addition, she will show film clips of a recent Japanese American pilgrimage to south Texas that took 25,000 paper cranes to the fence of a detention facility to protest the separation of families and the confinement of women and children.

This program is held in conjunction with “Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans During WWII and the Demise of Civil Liberties,” a special multimedia exhibit featuring imagery by noted photographers commissioned by the U.S. government’s War Relocation Authority, including Dorothea Lange and Clem Albers, along with photographers Ansel Adams, Toyo Miyatake and Paul Kitagaki, Jr.

Free tickets to the event can be obtained at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/children-of-the-camps-objects-detention-and-displacement-tickets-59808920090

The location is 100 Montgomery St. (94129, not the downtown address). The PresidiGo Downtown Shuttle provides free roundtrip service to the Presidio, with pick-ups at the Transbay Terminal or Embarcadero BART.

Gallery hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., free and open to the public. Suggested donation: $5-$10. No one turned away for lack of funds. Info: www.thentheycame.org

Hisako Hibi’s Painting

The issei artist Hisako Hibi painted an homage to Mary Cassatt’s “The Child’s Bath” while she was incarcerated at Topaz, Utah, in 1943. The original oil, painted by Cassatt in 1893, shows a woman tenderly washing a child’s feet. Hibi placed the scene in a desert barrack, the coal stove visible in the background, and her daughter, Ibuki, seated on her lap.

The painting is a powerful expression of family love and survival under the harsh conditions of imprisonment during WWII and an appreciation of Cassatt.

Hibi’s “Homage to Mary Cassatt” traveled across the nation and to Japan in a groundbreaking exhibition of U.S. concentration camp art in the early 1990s, “The View From Within: Japanese American Art from the Internment Camps, 1942-1945.”

So imagine Ibuki’s shock when she learned that a duplicate of the original, also painted by her mother at Topaz, surfaced recently.

The second painting had been stored in a Sacramento garage for some 70 years. Art Sugiyama, a retired doctor who spent part of his childhood at Topaz, says that his father must have obtained it there, but the story of its acquisition has been lost.

Art and Ibuki were connected by Ukai, who had been doing research on bonsai in Sacramento when she met Art, a bonsai artist. He emailed her the next day and said that he had a “camp artifact” that had been in the family since the war.

When Ukai recognized the painting as a duplicate of the Hibi original, Art was surprised, but upon confirming its authenticity, he immediately insisted that it be donated to Ibuki, who lives in the Bay Area.

Ibuki and her son, Eric, met Art and his family last month. The original painting, created in 1943, and Art’s work, signed by Hibi and dated 1945, were brought together in a special and unexpected reunion of objects and families.

Art refused to sell the painting and said he only wanted to “return it” to the Hibi family.

Ibuki will bring the painting to the April 28 lecture.

A sewing box made by an Oakland man at Heart Mountain will be remembered by his widow, Hatsue Najima, who will celebrate her 104th birthday that day with nine family members who span four generations.

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