Being Japanese Canadian: Reflections on a Broken World exhibition at Royal Ontario Museum, opening program

(Terry Watada giving speech at the opening program)
(Detail of Ghostown by Steven Nunoda, tar paper, 2013. Photo credit: Maari Sugawara)
(Laura Shintani infront of The Emissary. Photo credit: Maari sugawara)

Being Japanese Canadian: Reflections on a Broken World features eight Japanese Canadian artists’ works alongside those in Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada. Through creating an intergenerational visual dialogue of those who experienced the history of the exile, dispossession, and internment of Japanese Canadians from 1942 until 1949, and by those who were affected by long-lasting ramifications of their parents and grandparents’ experiences, the exhibition offers an expansive understanding of ordeal through personal perspectives. Through paintings, abstraction, installations and potteries by Lillian Michiko Blakely, David L. Hayashida, Emma Nishimura, Steven Nunoda, Laura Shintani, Norman Takeuchi, Marjene Matsunaga Turnbull and Yvonne Aakabayashi, the exhibition offers multivalent approaches to the complexity of the Canadian injustice that 22,000 Japanese Canadians endured: a part of history that needs to be presented alongside other “significant” events in the textbooks.

After welcoming remarks by Jennifer Czajkowski, Royal Ontario Museum Deputy Director Engagement, Satoshi Ominato, Deputy Consul-General of Japan and Katerine Yamashita, Co-curator of the exhibition, two guest artists joined for musical performances and readings: Japanese Canadian author and playwright, Terry Watada, and the Grammy-nominated Japanese Canadian flutist and composer, Ron Korb. Watada, a raconteur of the implicit history of Japanese Canadian, has been dedicatedly writing plays, poetry, nonfiction, fiction and manga. As a Japanese Canadian who discovered his parents and older brother’s past of being seized their possessions and property, and leaving Vancouver as a result of the Canadian government’s enforced expulsions, he explored the history of removal and detainment of Japanese Canadians from the coast of British Columbia following the bombing of Pearl Harbor with his novel, The Three Pleasures. He opened his speech by stating “only art can capture the beauty and tragedy” and mentioned the significance of the sense of community in Japanese Canadians and the joy it brings, which existed even in the toughest times: before and also during the war.

(Ron Korb performing at the opening program. Photo credit: Maari Sugawara)
(Terry Watada with his novel, The Third Pleasures. Photo credit: Maari Sugawara)
(Ron Korb after the performance with his flute. Photo credit: Maari Sugawara)

Korb, through each artfully crafted piece influenced by diverse cultural traditions, accompanied by visual component of his mother’s experiences of internment in New Denver and romance, evoked themes of Japanese history. Versed in different Japanese flutes (bamboo flute, shinobue, misatobue and ryuteki) as well as Western flute, he performed Tokaido (East West Word) and Murashigure (Autumn Rain), the performance brought with it the wind of nostalgia. He ended a program with a touch of lightness—playing cheerful tones of Island Life, the Mediterranean style Sans Regret Finale and Sister Of The Wind, and the flamenco rhythms of Cordoba.

(Detail of An Archive of Rememory by Emma Nishimura. Photo credit: Maari Sugawara)

The exhibition is now open until August 5, 2019.

Being Japanese Canadian: Reflections on a Broken World
February 2, 2019 to August 5, 2019
Royal Ontario Museum
Level 1, Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada

This exhibition gives visitors the chance to understand personal perspectives on the exile, dispossession, and internment of Japanese Canadians during the 1940s through a series of artworks interspersed throughout the Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada. The installations include contemporary artists who experienced this history first hand, and those who grapple with their parents and grandparents’ experiences. Being Japanese Canadian prompts us to reflect on the long-lasting ramifications of this historical Canadian injustice, and what it means to be Canadian today.