絆 Kizuna 8: Artisans of Tohoku – Recreating Lives
Location: Chicago Cultural Center
The Kizuna Photo Exhibition is part of the programming to remember the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan’s Tohoku region on March 11, 2011, presented by the Osaka Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International, the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago, the Japan America Society of Chicago, Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Chicago Office, and Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Chicago.
This year’s photos were taken primarily by Mayumi Lake, Senior Lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Photography Department. Mayumi traveled to Tohoku, Japan in 2018 to interview and photograph local residents, in conjunction with interviews conducted by Alex Jania, Doctoral Candidate, Department of History at the University of Chicago. Mayumi and Alex documented dozens of artisans who have rebuilt their businesses after the disaster, highlighting their artisanship, which have strong roots in the region.
This exhibition presents the lives and artistry of twelve Tohoku artisans in the context of continuing recovery efforts following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. The photographs, taken by Mayumi Lake, and stories, written by Alex Jania, were collected during a trip across the Tohoku region of Japan in the winter of 2018. How these artisans approached their work showed not only the lingering effects of the disaster, but also the various ways people in Tohoku have coped with hardship through tireless effort and creativity. Each artisan, in their own way, described the desire to create useful items that would bring joy to people and benefit their communities. Their sentiments reveal the diversity of reconstruction efforts, and demonstrate how Tohoku’s recovery can be seen even in the smallest object, crafted with intention and care.
Mayumi Lake, an Osaka native, photographer, and educator, has been involved with the Kizuna project every year as a member of the photo and video production team. As this year’s photographer, Lake proposed the topic of “artisans,” due to her concern about continued economic damage to the Tohoku manufacturing industry caused by sensational coverage of the disaster. Her participation in Kizuna became even more personal after her family was affected by the 2018 Osaka Earthquake.
Alex Jania first visited Tohoku in 2012 to volunteer in the disaster zone as part of an intensive Japanese language program. Seeing the destruction firsthand and meeting survivors influenced him to study the history of memorials to natural disaster victims in Modern Japan. His participation in Kizuna 8 as an interviewer is part of a larger commitment to collect and share the stories of disaster survivors with audiences outside of Japan.
Photography by Mayumi Lake
Senior Lecturer, Photography Department, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Text by Alex Jania
Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, The University of Chicago
For more information:
The Osaka Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International