‘The Art of Gaman’ to Tour Japan

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Artist unidentified, interned at Heart Mountain, Wyo. Camp scene, wood, paint. Collection of the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. From “The Art of Gaman” by Delphine Hirasuna, ©2005, Ten Speed. (Photo by Terry Heffernan)

After touring the U.S., “The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946” will be seen in Japan over the next year.

The exhibition was recently in Illinois and Atlanta, and opened in July at the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, N.M., where it is running until Oct. 7.

With the outbreak of World War II, Japanese Americans on the West Coast were sent to internment camps. 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 gaman, a Japanese word that means to bear the seemingly unbearable with dignity and patience.

In 2010, “The Art of Gaman” was displayed in the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the exhibition was introduced in the NHK TV program “Close-Up Gendai,” eliciting a strong response from viewers. There were numerous requests for the exhibition to be shown in Japan.

As this year marks the 70th anniversary of the internment, NHK is sponsoring a tour of Japan and planning documentaries on the camps and the exhibition. “We hope that the introduction of works by Japanese Americans, who never lost their human dignity despite immense hardship, will provide a chance for us to reconsider Japan and the Japanese people in the midst of reconstruction after the earthquake disaster,” the network said in a statement..

The traveling exhibition consists of approximately 110 objects, including brooches made from shells, corsage, animal sculptures, nameplates, Buddhist altars, Japanese style dolls and inkstones.

“The Art of Gaman” is organized by San Francisco-based author Delphine Hirasuna, with advisory support from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and is based on her 2005 book of the same title, published by Ten Speed Press.

Exhibition venues for the Japan tour are as follows:

• The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts (Tokyo), Nov. 3 to Dec. 9, 2012

• Komu-komu (Fukushima), Feb. 9 – March 11, 2013

• Sendai Mediatheque (Sendai), May 5-18, 2013

• The Urasoe Art Museum (Okinawa), June 1-June 30, 2013

• Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum (Hiroshima), July 20 – Sept. 1, 2013

To see a slideshow of objects from the exhibition, click here.

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