Exhibit -- Out of the Desert: Art and Craft of the Internment, Portland, Oregon

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Exhibition

Feb 200612 Mar 200620

Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center
121 NW 2nd Ave.

Portland, Oregon
United States

Exhibition Thoughts ~
Out of the Desert: Art and Craft of the Internment

The Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center (ONLC)'s recent opening of the exhibit Out of the Desert: Art & Craft of the Internment has given us the opportunity to appreciate the resilience of the Nikkei Community both historically and in the present.

The exhibit was made possible by the innumerable Nikkei artists and artisans who filled countless hours of their forced internment during World War II by making beautiful things with whatever materials were at hand. For many of these craftspeople, their involuntary confinement was the first instance in their lives when they had time to spare. They had lost their livelihoods, their farms, orchards and businesses, as well as their homes and belongings. Time and boredom confronted them. In addition to fashioning functional items for the bare barracks, they put their hands to carving, painting, sculpting, beading, embroidering and a variety of other new skills.

Items on exhibit range from jewelry made of shells, pipecleaners, polished wood carvings and beaded leather, to paintings, prints, drawings and photographs, to handcrafted household items including greasewood tables and planters, benches and room dividers, lamp bases and shades, and embroidery. This myriad of carefully made crafts and works of art are testament to the human spirit and the unwillingness of Japanese Americans to be defeated by the tedium and desolation of their internment.

More than 60 years later, donations that have been made to the ONLC's permanent collection have given us the opportunity to curate this exhibit, celebrating the resilience of the Nikkei. The ONLC first established its permanent collection in 1998. In less than 10 years, it has grown to include artifacts from the earliest migration of the Nikkei to the United States, through a wide range of material from the internment, to items that reflect contemporary life and experience. The Nikkei community in Oregon realizes and has embraced the importance of preserving and sharing all facets of its history and traditions with the current generation and those to come. In addition to featuring the permanent collection, Out of the Desert has also relied on the generosity of lenders to broaden the range of material on view. Maintaining relationships with both lenders and donors is integral the ONLC’s mission of preserving Nikkei history.

Following is a glimpse of just a few items on display in Out of the Desert: Art and Craft of the Internment.

Handmade Story Puzzle
Kametaro Matsumoto
Minidoka, Idaho
Courtesy of Alice Matsumoto-Ando and Jean Matsumoto

This story puzzle was made by the lenders' father, Kametaro Matsumoto. Jean Matsumoto remembers her father filling many of his hours with woodworking. He made this puzzle to entertain his children. Its various pieces illustrate a maiden, her mother, father, guard and two servants, plus four young suitors. The object of the puzzle is to slide the pieces in such a way that the daughter can ultimately escape the protection of her parents and guard, and enter the world to be courted by her suitors. When talking about the puzzle, Jean commented, "Thank heavens my father taught me how to work the puzzle!"

Part of a Barracks Room
Varied Gifts and Loans

"Portland Assembly Center" painting

Tanka Poem on Wooden Board

Oil Painting of Minidoka

Wooden Screen, used as a room divider

Greasewood Table

Pen Holder / Vase

Greasewood Walking Cane

Greasewood Cane

Wooden Bench with Cushion

Homemade Houseslippers

This collection of artifacts provides a glimpse of how the many things made by Nikkei at camps including Minidoka, Tule Lake, Santa Fe, and Missoula, helped to improve the uncomfortable and unwelcoming environment of the barracks.

Selection of Shell Jewelry
Gift of Mary Okita, Loans from The Gonzales Family and Jane Kawashima

The arid landscapes of the camps at Minidoka, Tule Lake and Topaz offered unexpected materials to use for crafting jewelry. Seeds found in the desert or shells unearthed from dry lakebeds provided the supplies used to make jewelry ranging from necklaces to corsages to earrings. Jane Kawashima and her sister remember sifting through the sand at Tule Lake, California to find shells for necklaces, and painting them with nail polish. The Gonzales sisters treasure the jewelry gifts that were given to their parents, employees of the WRA, by Nikkei women with whom they became friends, while all lived in the barracks at Topaz, Utah.

onlc@oregonnikkei.org
www.oregonnikkei.org

 

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Oregon_Nikkei . Last modified Jul 09 2010 12:11 p.m.


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