Column: “Voices from Little Things”

The Hiroshima Panels is a series of paintings drawn on folding screens which depict the hell under the atomic bomb’s mushroom cloud. However, the paintings do not express merely the hell of “human beings” but the hell of “all things.” The idea for a new project came from this realization.

Arthur Binard, an American poet who lives in Hiroshima, published a story with picture cards called Chicchai Koe (Voices from Little Things) this year, which marks the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombings. All the cartoon characters in the story – the cat named “Kuro” who narrates the story, doves, dogs, flowers, and even humans – are based on imagery from the Hiroshima Panels. Iri Maruki and his wife Toshi, the artists who created the Hiroshima panels, must be all smiles over Mr. Binard’s work in heaven.

“Kuro” is a supporting character. The main characters are “Saibo” (cells) and their voices. Living things were burnt by heat rays released by the bomb, and their cells were damaged by invisible radiation, which made it difficult for them to regenerate. The damage caused by the atomic bomb lasts for a long time, and this is equally true for plants, birds, and beasts.

A passage from the text reads:

Something that destroys cells falls from the sky
It gets into the ground
And it gets into the body

This reminds us of another hell of “all things”: the exposure to radiation from nuclear accidents at home and overseas.

Yesterday Mr. Binard held a picture-story show at a gathering in the city of Hiroshima. When he pulled away the last picture card, which read “The End,” the first card of the story reappeared. I wonder if he is implying that the nuclear story is not yet finished.

(Originally published on August 7, 2019)