It had been busy traveling since the fall of 2018, and more than one year has passed without writing a blog. I visited many places where I wanted to go for a long time, and had interesting experiences. There were some connection for my next step. Looking back on this period, I am questioning myself what I really want to do. In order to find the answer, I decided to write blogs since October 2018.
It was my first trip to Colorado and Arizona, and the beginning of a trip to know the United States. On this journey, I realized that I was an immigrant to the United States, and I was able to find out about the United States that is invisible to urban life in New York City.
VOICE: A CELEBRATION OF REFUGEE STORIES
In retrospect, it began with meeting Melissa who was a resident of Colorado and participated my printmaking workshop in New York City. We had a lot in common and soon became friends. With her introduction, I went to the New York Film Festival to watch her friend's documentary film "Sauti". It was very inspiring movie that shows five refugee girls' stories of their dreams, efforts and growing process. I met the director, Gayle Nosal and the performer Favorite Regina after screening.They came to see my work next day and decided to exhibit my works at their exhibition in Denver and to invite me to Colorado.
It was a collaborative exhibition by Edge Gallery, and NeeNee Production which produced the movie “Sauti. The exhibition “VOICE: A CELEBRATION OF REFUGEE STORIES” featured works focusing on topics related to refugee, immigrant experiences and migration. At the opening, I was able to hear the refugee experience directly from young artists of Africa and the Middle East. I was impressed that their expression was not only a relief from trauma but also empower to their lives.
The screening of "Sauti" and panel discussion were a great success. By filming over the years, The trust relationship that had been fostered between the filmmakers and five girls was reflected on the screen. It seemed to be a key to solving the refugee issues. There was lively discussion and Q & A with the audience by participating refugee artists, and representative of a non-profit organization on refugees, the director, Gayle and Favorite who came from Rwanda.
Rocky Flats: Nuclear Weapons Plant
Merissa organized my workshop and artist talk at Boulder Creative Collective. It was a pleasure to meet and be able to connect with local artists. Living in Boulder, surrounded by beautiful mountains, reminds us that humans are part of nature. However, due to its beauty, the problem of contamination is forgotten and obscured.
Around this area, there was a facility called Rocky Flats Plant, that manufactured nuclear weapons (especially detonators), was designated from 1952 until its shutdown in 1992. In the 1990s, the first demolition of nuclear facilities began, and serious nuclear contamination was revealed. Gayle drove me to Northwest Gate in Rocky Flats. On a vast site, I was able to see old building emitting smoke, trace of rail and a sign of natural gas pipeline. In 2018, Metropolitan State University of Denver declined to further participate in the Downwinders' health survey. There were also new houses nearby, indicating that many people did not know the fact.
In August 2019, soil sampling test outside the former Rocky Flats Plant near Indiana Street was five times higher plutonium than acceptable. After that, New Rocky Flats soil tests showed low radioactivity. After this, New Rocky Flats soil tests showed low adioactivity. Colorado officials announced Rocky Flats showed safe plutonium levels. Most importantly, the news has exposed Rocky Flat’s radiation issues and its history to people who don't know. Colorado also has natural radiation. Colorado also has natural radiation. My geiger counter measured some places more than 0.2μSv/hr that is considered hotspots.
Amache: Japanese Concentration Camp
During the second world war in Colorado, there was also a concentration camp “Amache” of Japanese-American and Japanese immigrant that set up in August 1942. Although I couldn't visited "Amache" this time, I had a chance to hear from a researcher who are currently excavating "Amache" and see the excavated goods, as the camp was demolished shortly after the war.
I was also able to hear valuable stories from Japanese American Marge Taniwaki who was detained shortly after birth in Manzanar, California. I thought her longing for Japan became very strong because of her Japanese parents and the oppressed camp life.
In her daily life, she has been watching Japanese TV programs and eating Japanese food. She couldn't speak Japanese. However I felt her good old Japanese heart, such a kindness and courtesy to others. It was a time when many parents did not teach their Japanese to children as they are not discriminated against by being Japanese. Her identity as a Japanese has not been lost when she was born and raised in the United States. On the contrary, her experience in concentration camps led to her strengthening her Japanese identity. Meeting with her gave me an opportunity to think about living in the United States as a Japanese.
After Colorado, I visited my artist friends Sanae and Orin in Bisbee where was on the border of Arizona and Mexico. I have been interested in Arizona. In 2010, I created an artwork titled "Letters from Seattle" and participated in an exhibition protesting Arizona's new anti-immigration law. Arizona is one of the states with Four Corners in the indigenous settlements of Navajo. The boundaries shown on the map are not drawn by indigenous people.
Coincidentally I was able to watch the movie "Bisbee '17" which was just released before going to my trip. This movie became an important guide and inspired me. 100 years ago,1,200 migrant miners and officials who demonstrated of Improving working conditions in harsh mines, opposition to discrimination against migrant workers, and protest to the World War 1, were deported in Bisbee.
In the movie, local people played and collaborated to recreate the events that took place in the town, while closely following the feelings of the people at the time. The movie documented the process of reproducing this incident with locals as a 100th anniversary event. In the movie, it was filming the process of local people recreating this incident as a 100th anniversary event. I was able to meet a local artist Laurie who was one of the performers, and hear about her experience being in the movie.
While researching about the copper mine locally, I got information that a mining engineer, Takeo Shikamura who came from Japan and lived in Bisbee before world war 2. Coincidentally, there is Ashio Copper Mine in my home prefecture in Japan. It was the starting point of Japanese public pollution, and the residents and miners have appealed to the government for environmental issues for the first time in Japan. At the border of Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, and Ibaraki prefectures, Yanaka Village, which was the base of this pollution movement, was forcibly abolished in 1906, and Watarase Reservoir for mineral deposition was set up. The people who have lost their homes due to the contaminated lands have been sent to the frigid, Saroma, Hokkaido as pioneering immigrants.
I walked through the town of Bisbee, remembering when I visited Ashio one year ago at the same time. I felt synchronicity in a nostalgic landscape that seemed to drawn into the past. I imagined that deported workers and a Japanese engineer, Takeo Shikamura who worked at the copper mine were also walking along this same path. There is a landscape that can be seen if you connect the points scattered beyond time and place. I thought here might be contaminated and measured it with my geiger counter. It was displayed 0.23μSv / hr.