Peace Seeds: Teens in Hiroshima Sow Seeds of Peace (Part 61)

Part 61: Sending out messages of peace through art (II)

How do you express your wish for peace? The Chugoku Shimbun’s junior writers took part in the “Hiroshima Nagasaki ZERO Project” again this year. The event was partly sponsored by the Hiroshima International Cultural Foundation.

This project to send out messages of peace through art was launched last year by 1Future, a non-profit organization headed by Cannon Hersey, 41, an artist based in the United States. Mr. Hersey’s grandfather John Hersey wrote the well-known reportage Hiroshima in 1946, reporting to the world on the damage caused by the atomic bombing.

The junior writers participated in workshops held at the former Hiroshima Branch of the Bank of Japan and Myokeiin Temple in Naka Ward. We learned how to express our wish for peace in many different ways, such as imagining how trees felt about the bombing and putting their feelings into words or drawing designs for T-shirts that express our wish for peace.

Conveying the feelings of the A-bombed trees

Seven junior writers took part in the workshop held at the former Hiroshima Branch of the Bank of Japan on October 7. The main theme of the workshop involved trees that survived the atomic bombing, a theme that Mr. Hersey began working on three years ago. After appreciating some works of art, we discussed the meaning of peace. Then we began creating art work that conveys the feelings of the survivor trees with Peter Bill, 48, a media artist based in the U.S. state of Washington, and others.

First, we went to nearby Shirakami-sha Shrine and looked at, touched, and took photos of survivor trees. There are kurogane holly trees and persimmon trees, among others, at this shrine located 530 meters from the hypocenter. All the trees have wide-spreading roots, and you might not believe that they actually went through the atomic bombing.

We were encouraged to ask ourselves what we would think if we were those survivor trees. Sitting at the base of the tree, I imagined what it was thinking. We then returned to the former bank building, and each of us wrote a poem. I thought the tree had inconsolable feelings that it could not save people who were suffering right in front of it as well as determination that such a tragedy must not happen again. I put those feelings into a poem.

Other junior writers’ poems described a tree grieving over the sight of a family being burned by raging flames or a tree sharing memories of the day of the bombing and talking about the future. Finally, our poems were superimposed onto images of the trees taken by Mr. Bill, turning them into works of digital art.

The poems and trees were then projected, one by one, onto a screen. I felt these poems expressed the strong desire to build peace, and every word touched my heart. For these trees, that have continued to bear witness to Hiroshima more than anyone else, we conveyed their message that war must never be fought again. (Tokitsuna Kawagishi, 17)

See this collaboration between the junior writers and Peter Bill at this page: http://1future.com/creative-workshop-with-hibukujumoku/

Poems by the junior writers

Yukiho Saito, 16

I am a traveler.
I wander through time and space
and the ever-changing minds of people.
I am a traveler. I am a stationary traveler.
In this corner of Hiroshima
Rustling, whispering
This is my breath.
This is the breath of one who has endured.

Tokitsuna Kawagishi, 17

I cannot talk
I cannot move
I could not offer a helping hand
When you were in agony on that day
And I only rot away
I cannot do anything
But I am here
I would never let it happen again

Kotoori Kawagishi, 16

A lot of things have happened in my life
What happened cannot be unhappened
That fact is absolutely unchangeable
I want to tell
But I cannot
How frustrating

Miki Meguro, 15

See, touch, and feel me.
With people have I lived.
I am here.

Kana Okino, 18

Don’t burn my little sister.
Don’t make my daughter cry.
Make my grandchild happy, please.

Yukiko Ouchi, 14

I have seen many things
I have seen people suffer, grieve, and cry
Or rejoice, enjoy themselves, and laugh.
I will never forget the strong light, strong wind, and strong rain of that day
The landscape around me completely changed.
But that was not the end of my life.
People rose to their feet, and street cars ran again.
Children play holding their mothers’ hands, and people take a nap on the nearby bench.
I have seen many things.
And my green leaves have grown, I have borne large fruits and put out buds
Now I feel very happy.

Atsuhito Ito, 15

No matter what happens
I will live
In the memory
In you
In everyone
I have always lived
And will live forever

Expressing peace through design

On October 6, another workshop was held at Myokeiin Temple. Six junior writers took part in this workshop titled “Peace Piece.” The participants printed messages of peace on T-shirts.

First, we learned about the late Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, who told people in the United States about the tragic consequences of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. He himself was an A-bomb survivor and made great efforts to realize the “moral adoption” of A-bomb orphans by American citizens and bring young female A-bomb survivors to the United States for medical treatment, who were called Hiroshima Maidens. Then we saw a film featuring his daughter Koko Kondo, 73, who talks about her father in a radio program.

After that, we developed designs for original T-shirts. It was very difficult to convey my thoughts in a simple design, and I had a hard time deciding where to print the design. But while working hard, I thought seriously about peace.

We drew the design with black pen on white paper. The design was then scanned with a special machine, producing a sheet, which was heated. We chose one color, like red or blue, and spread ink over the sheet. By placing the sheet on a T-shirt, we were able to transfer the design onto the shirt.

I based my design on the image of an emergency exit and drew a picture of a person running toward a field of flowers beyond a door. I conceived the idea after being inspired by Ms. Kondo’s words, when she said that we should do what we can. I wanted to express the idea of using our strength to open the door to peace with our own hands. I used the familiar image of an emergency exit to emphasize that peace is an issue that is close to us.

If you’re not good at drawing, you can use words instead. We also printed “Peace World from Hiroshima” on our T-shirts. Hiroshima, which experienced the atomic bombing, must lead the world in realizing a peaceful planet just like the efforts made by Mr. Tanimoto and his daughter Ms. Kondo. We put our wish for peace in those words.

At the end of the workshop, the 20 participants offered explanations for the works that we had made. So many men, so many minds, as the proverb goes. Through this event, we discovered various ideas about peace. (Kana Okino, 18, and Hitoha Katsura, 14)

Appreciating a range of art work

Images and woodblock prints created by Cannon Hersey and Peter Bill on the theme of the A-bombed trees were exhibited at the former Hiroshima Branch of the Bank of Japan.

Akira Fujimoto, 43, a Tokyo-based artist, displayed a work titled “Genbaku (phantom explosion),” in which many pieces of silver tape were stretched over a large space, and art works made with paper that came from recycled paper cranes.

I was impressed by the many different ways of expressing the idea of peace. I felt that these works of art were strong expressions of peace and hope without making use of any words at all. (Miki Meguro, 15)

What is Peace Seeds?
Peace Seeds are the seeds of smiles which can be spread around the world by thinking about peace and the preciousness of life from various viewpoints. To fill this world with flowering smiles, the junior writers, who are junior high school and senior high school students, choose themes, gather information, and write articles.

(Originally published on October 18, 2018)