Artwork returning from the U.S. to be exhibited at Honkawa Elementary School in Hiroshima

by Rie Nii, Staff Writer

Pictures and works of calligraphy sent from former students of a Hiroshima elementary school to the United States have returned home. These 48 pieces of art were created by former students of Honkawa Elementary School and sent to a church in Washington, D.C. as a token of gratitude for a donation of goods, including school supplies, that they received in 1947. This temporary return of the art has been arranged by Shizumi Shigeto Manale, 58, a U.S.-based performance artist from Osaka, Japan. The works will be put in frames by July 29, and on July 31 they will be shown to those who took part in the project, as children, back then.

Both of Ms. Shigeto's parents were from Hiroshima Prefecture. In 2006, she saw the artwork at All Souls Unitarian Church, their recipient, and decided to produce a film on the subject, thinking it would offer a good opportunity to let people know more about Hiroshima. While she was communicating with former students of the elementary school, the plan was made to hold an exhibition of the art. A planning committee was formed last summer and preparations were made for the event.

On July 28, Ms. Shigeto checked the condition of the pieces at an art supply store in Hiroshima with members of the committee, including Toshikuni Sera, 63, a former student of Honkawa Elementary School and head of the committee. They were pleased, saying, "The works of art were badly damaged but have been restored beautifully. We can't wait for the exhibition."

The exhibition will run from August 1 through 9 at the Honkawa Elementary School Peace Museum, which is an A-bombed building. The opening ceremony will be held from 1:30 p.m. on July 31 at the school's gymnasium. A panel discussion by persons from the church and former students of the school will form part of the ceremony. All of the activities are free of charge. According to Ms. Shigeto, the film will be completed in May 2011.

(Originally published on July 29, 2010)

U.S. resident facilitates homecoming of drawings and calligraphy by Hiroshima children
by Rie Nii, Staff Writer

Shizumi Shigeto Manale has been living in the United States for 30 years. "I've always felt the significance of Hiroshima inside me," Ms. Shigeto said, explaining why she is helping to facilitate the temporary homecoming of the artwork sent by a school in Hiroshima to a church in the United States. Over 60 years ago, a total of 48 drawings and works of calligraphy were sent by the students of Honkawa Elementary School to All Souls Unitarian Church in appreciation for the school supplies and other items the church had donated to the school after the war.

In August 2006, Ms. Shigeto encountered the drawings created by the children at the church in Washington D.C. and she still holds the sense of excitement she felt at the time. The drawings include such scenes as rows of cherry trees in full bloom by the river and children playing. "I thought the pictures were marvelous," said Ms. Shigeto. "They're full of the dreams, hopes, and wishes held by the children, who expressed their feelings very skillfully."

The art, however, was not preserved well and, after the passing of more than half a century since their creation, the paper had become spotted with mold. "I wanted to restore them," Ms. Shigeto first thought. Her vision then began to grow and she became eager to create a film about the drawings, too.

As she communicated with the former students who had made the works of art, the decision was made to hold an exhibition in the pictures' "hometown" of Hiroshima.

Both of Ms. Shigeto's parents were from Hiroshima Prefecture. Ms. Shigeto, too, was born in Hiroshima Prefecture, in the city of Miyoshi. Until the age of 15, she spent her summer vacations there each year. "So it was natural for me to think about the atomic bombing," she said.

"But American citizens only know that Hiroshima is the place where the atomic bomb was dropped. They don't try to understand the event beyond that," she said, a situation that she has found frustrating.

Ms. Shigeto is now working on her film and plans to complete it next May. "It's easier to gain a better understanding of Hiroshima because the film deals with the story of the children's drawings, which are full of hopes," she stressed.

On July 31, the former students will reunite with their drawings. "The exhibition is nearly ready," she said with emotion.

Ms. Shigeto lives with her husband, an American citizen, in Silver Spring, Maryland.

(Originally published on July 29, 2010)