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In 1941, the War Relocation Authority was established and began relocating citizens of Japanese descent on the West Coast to internment camps. Two of these camps, Rohwer and Jerome, were located in southeast Arkansas, making this plight a matter of both state and national history. Each camp forcibly housed over eight thousand people, including actor George Takei and sculptor Ruth Asawa. Nationally, approximately 120,000 Japanese-Americans were detained in camps and attempted to endure their suffering with dignity, a concept called gaman.
November 30 marks the 70th year anniversary of Rohwer’s closure. To commemorate this date, the University of Central Arkansas is hosting a Japanese Internment Camp Memorial Celebration with the Gaman project, orchestrated and directed by Dr. Gayle Seymour, associate dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications at UCA. Dr. Seymour authored and received a grant from the National Park Service to help make this possible, partnering with CORE performance company to develop the project. CORE is a contemporary national dance and theatre company in its 35th season with studios in Atlanta and Houston. Under the direction of founder Sue Schroeder, CORE uses dancing and the arts to prompt social awareness and change.
The Gaman project includes dance and architecture workshops, lectures, film screening, book readings and signings, art exhibits and a candle lighting ceremony in addition to performances of the contemporary dance, also called Gaman. The performance seeks to honor the memory and experience of those Japanese-Americans. Gaman is a powerful production of dance and theater commingled as performers enact scenes from camp life, depicting the impatience, forlornness, anxiety and fear that existed alongside the strength and resiliency required for daily life.
Professor of architecture Nancy Chikaraishi, whose parents were internees, created the artwork that is featured in the performance with set design by Scott Silvey. On November 4 at 7 pm in the Crystal Bridges Museum, she will deliver a lecture sharing her parents’ experiences in Rohwer and discuss the artwork of Gaman, also highlighting two architectural projects with regional relevance: a garden dedicated to Joplin, Missouri’s recovery from tornado devastation and a solar-powered tornado-resistant home concept.
Before the Crystal Bridges performance, Dr. Seymour with former Rohwer internee Richard Yada will present on life in the camps and discuss of the art of Ruth Asawa. Prior to the performance at Hendrix, President Tsutsui will open a dialogue. Hendrix is home to the painting Arrival at Camp Jerome by Henry Sugimoto, whose documentation of his experience in the internment camp was captured and endures in his art.
Don’t miss this opportunity to see an award-winning dance and theatre company perform a moving tribute to our local history and participate in conversations about civil rights, art and history.
Performances will be:
Photograph credit: Lynn Lane
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