By Assunta Ng
Making art is a way to kill time and pain. Lee’s words reminded me of some of the exquisite artwork made by Japanese Americans who were being incarcerated during World War II.
The internees left all their properties and wealth behind when they were sent to camps. Some found their means of hope and energy through artistic expression.
In those days, they had no tools or samples to inspire them. Yet, they were able to create something out of nothing.
They created furniture, jewelry, toys, and paintings reflecting their harsh realities of life in camps and their insurmountable spirit for survival. They used whatever materials they could get their hands on, such as scrap wood, seashells, and fence posts, and they then would turn them into incredible products with layers of polish and hours of dedication.
I saw these art objects with my own eyes when I visited the Japanese Community Cultural Center of Washington State a few months ago.
The internees’ art was a testimony that, no matter what happened to them, they were not going to give up living.
Their creative spirit inspired them to continue fighting without violence, until the day they would be released. And their artful desire reflected their unconquerable strength, quiet dignity and a sense of justice. When I saw them, it inspired me with an appreciation of their endurance as they experienced hardship and traumas during chaotic times in a chaotic world. Watch out for the next time the exhibit visits. (end)