I’m excited that my portrait of Okinawan peace activist Fumiko Nakamura will be in Half the Sky: Intersections in Social Practice Art in Shenyang, China.
She was a filmmaker and peace activist, who retired after 40 years as a school teacher to found the non-profit Ichi Feet foundation to document the horrors of the battle of Okinawa and the subsequent suffering.
I photographed her (for my Women of Japan project) in her Ichi Feet office in Okinawa when she was 92. She engaged in the collaboration on her photograph with great charm and energy. She died much honored, earlier this year.
Fumiko Nakamura, a 91-year-old former public school teacher, can’t shake the profound remorse she feels for the loss of her students during one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
Before Okinawa, a subtropical island in the Pacific, was turned into a killing field 60 years ago, Ms. Nakamura used to exhort her students to fight for the emperor and for the state. Her students were among more than 200,000 people, including 12,520 Americans, who perished during the Battle of Okinawa, which started in March 1945.
She is deeply ashamed of her involvement in the war. “I will carry this sin as long as I live,” she says.
But her shame hasn’t kept her silent. Ever since the war, this diminutive woman has fought for peace, protesting US military presence here, and becoming a pacifist icon.
As Japan expands its military roles abroad, her voice has grown louder.
“I see certain parallels between present situations in Japan and in the prewar period,” she warns.
Nakamura grew up under a totalitarian ideology in the 1930s. “We were indoctrinated … with patriotic songs, slogans, and army propaganda,” she recalls.
As an elementary-school teacher, Nakamura played a part in that indoctrination. “In class [she] used to ask all of us if we could die for the state,” recalls Fumiko Toyama, a student of Nakamura in 1937. “Whenever our ‘yes’ was not loud enough, she’d snap, ‘Speak up!’ “
Nakamura says she once lived without freedom of speech, so now she values that freedom.
“I continue to speak out as long as my mouth works,” she declares. Since 1986, Nakamura has been a director of the Okinawa Historical Film Society, a group in Naha, the island’s capital. In the 1980s, the organization bought unedited footage of the Battle of Okinawa from the National Archives in Washington…
The group presented the resulting video tapes around the world.
Today, Nakamura devotes much of her energy to protesting the presence of the US military in Okinawa. -
Christian Science Monitor
I’ve had Women of Japan photos in China before in Beijing and Shanghai but this is a very special feminist exhibition.
..The International Caucus of the Women’s Caucus for Art has been invited by the Wei Er Shen, President of LuXun Academy of Fine Arts in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, China to create an art-based cultural exchange and exhibition between artists and essayists juried through WCA and women artists curated in China by Yin Ou. This will be held at the LuXun Academy April 15-30, 2014.
The academy is interested in providing an opportunity for Chinese women artists to interact with artists from our organization, to learn more about feminist art history in the west and share their art with our artists. LuXun is one of the premier art academies in China and is located in Shenyang – the major metropolitan area of northeast China.
Social practice art encompasses a wide range of art forms – public art, interactive media, performance, dialogue, activism, community practice, community building, interventions, and collaborations that cross art, public and social arenas. This project’s cultural exchange is in itself a social practice form of art. In the exhibition, artwork from our juried process and the curated Chinese artists will create a powerful environment in which the delegation and Chinese women artists and students will interact in a variety of events – creation of collaborative art, dialogues, demonstrations, sharing of the catalog essays and techniques and more.
As there is more information about the exhibition and what works are part of it, I’ll be writing more.