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'Being Japanese Canadian: Reflections on a broken world' opens at The Royal Ontario Museum
Steven Nunoda, Ghostown and Ladder to the Moon. Photo: Brian Boyle, Royal Ontario Museum.

TORONTO.- The Royal Ontario Museum is presenting the contemporary art installation Being Japanese Canadian: reflections on a broken world. Featuring works by eight Japanese Canadian artists from across the country, the ROM-original installation explores multi-generational responses to the exile, dispossession, and internment of Canadian citizens of Japanese descent during the 1940s.

“Being Japanese Canadian reflects on a period of Canadian history that is explored through the deeply personal narratives of eight contemporary artists grappling with the effects of the internment era,” says Josh Basseches, ROM Director and CEO. “This compelling artistic examination of our shared national history furthers the discussion on multiculturalism and belonging in today’s society.”

This installation is a collaboration between curators from the ROM and the Japanese Canadian community: Dr. Heather Read, Rebanks Postdoctoral Fellow in Canadian Decorative Arts & Material Culture at the ROM, and Dr. Arlene Gehmacher, the ROM’s Curator of Canadian Paintings, Prints & Drawings, worked with Bryce Kanbara, artist and Gallery Curator at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC) in Toronto, and Dr. Katherine Yamashita, arts educator and Art Committee member at the JCCC.

Being Japanese Canadian: reflections on a broken world showcases powerful, personal stories varied in approach, technique, and emotional tone. Designed as a series of works interspersed throughout the ROM’s Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada, the installation features the following artists:

• Lillian Michiko Blakey (Newmarket, Ont.) expresses the pain and injustices her family endured with mixed media works Taking The Nancy, British Columbia 1942 and Canadian Born, Alberta 1943, and the painting Reiko, Alberta 1945.

• Ceramic artist David L. Hayashida (Kings Point, N.L.), confronts racism and its reverberations throughout generations in Low tea in '43 (BRITISH Columbia) still boils.

• Emma Nishimura (Toronto, Ont.) investigates memory, loss, and meaning in her etchings and photo-based print sculptures entitled An Archive of Rememory, Collected Stories, and Constructed Narratives. She was awarded the international Queen Sonja Print Award for 2018.

• Steven Nunoda’s (Calgary, Alta.) Ghostown and Ladder to the Moon is a striking memorial to internment sites in British Columbia that pays homage to the struggles and aspirations of Japanese Canadians.

• Laura Shintani’s (Toronto) project, Emissaries of Mission ‘42, encourages curiosity and engagement with the past, to ensure the history of the 1940s is known and understood by younger generations.

• In Interior Revisited, painter Norman Takeuchi (Ottawa, Ont.) reflects on the conflicting duality of the reality of life in internment camps and a sense of “Japanese-ness” imposed on him by others.

• Marjene Matsunaga Turnbull (Onoway, Alta.) explores the anger and hurt of racism, the history of Japanese Canadians and her particular family’s story with her ceramic sculptures Jerry, Army Cadet and Continuum: A Cake History.

• Yvonne Wakabayashi (Burnaby, B.C.) honours the strength and resilience of her parents in coping with exile, internment and dispossession with her textile piece Tribute.

Being Japanese Canadian also includes a selection of hand-crafted objects and artwork created during the period, and copies of the official acknowledgment that was a part of the 1988 Redress agreement between Japanese Canadians and the Canadian government. These historical references provide context for the contemporary artworks.

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