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Did It Themselves 

Wednesday, Nov 1 2006
Bearing up gracefully under the weight of suffering is a virtue that's sadly fallen to the wayside in this era of whiny entitlement. Such endurance is what defines "gaman," a Japanese word denoting perseverance and poise in times of adversity. It's also the subject of the show "The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946." Based on Delphine Hirasuna's book of the same title, the exhibition details the solace that interned prisoners, bivouacked in high-security camps circumscribed by barbed wire, found in arts and crafts. The more than 50 objects on display were derived from salvaged material, and range from wooden bird pins (reworked out of egg crates and wire), furniture fashioned from barracks throwaways, stone teapots, and other curios that strike the eye as both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Hirasuna, who gathered a number of tchotchkes from the Japanese-American community in California, recognizes the pieces as talismans of courage rather than mere busywork. She suggests that gaman offered the survivors dignity in a time when the cultural legacies of Japanese-Americans were being destroyed piecemeal: "They reclaim their voice, their sense of self, in a place that reduced them to a numbered tag on their lapel.... The act of creating gave them something that no guard or government could take away."
Nov. 2-Feb. 25

About The Author

Nirmala Nataraj


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