Daruma of Resilience
Paper, photocopied documents, paint, Aqua Resin, wood, polystyrene
I am a Sansei, a third generation Japanese-American, born to parents who experienced World War II as children incarcerated with their families for three and a half years in desolate, harsh conditions. Raising their children in Middle America, my well-meaning parents tried to bury the shame of their incarceration by alluding to “camp” as a benign place from their childhood. Eventually, we civil rights-era Sansei would unearth the truth, and that knowledge of our family histories would shape who we are and how we approach issues such as justice, racial prejudice, and civil rights. I address these topics in my art as a way to keep these stories alive and highlight their relevance to on-going struggles with racial equity for all people.
The piece I am submitting is called “Daruma of Resilience,” which represents a shift toward unity in the struggle for equity and change. Based on a Japanese legend of a Buddhist monk who meditated so much his arms and legs withered away, Daruma became a symbol of dedication to a goal and resilience through adversity, always bouncing back upright after a fall. From this grew the popular Japanese custom of making wishes/goals with small, papier-mache Daruma figures. When someone receives a Daruma they make a wish for change and paint in one eye. When the goal is achieved, they paint in the other eye.
Daruma of Resilience is a piece about resilience and perseverance in righting wrongs. The oversized Daruma is covered with documents depicting shameful times in United States history (and present day) when oppression and racism reign. Included are documents such as Plessy vs Ferguson (1896), the Indian Removal Act (1830), the Dred Scott decision (1856), Executive Order 9066 (1942), and Executive Order 13769 (the “Muslim Travel Ban” 2017).
When viewed in person, people are invited to write their wishes for change on yellow sticky notes and add them to the surface of the Daruma. This work is scheduled to be part of a larger exhibit titled “Resilience: A Sansei Sense of Legacy” which will begin touring in 2021. At each venue, the response will reflect the activism of the community and hopefully spur further dialogue and action toward justice and a shift toward real change.