The Moon and the Lustre

The day before the full moon lunar eclipse in September 2015, Melissa Murakami and I visited the Maritime Museum in Fremantle to see the Lustre exhibition. Melissa’s great great grandfather Yasukichi Murakami lived in Broome during the hey-day of the Australian pearl shell industry, and had made a quiet, yet significant contributions to the industry. Quiet, because until this exhibition, the stories of Australian pearling had not been told through the vision of curator Sarah Yu and her team Bart Pigram and Maya Shioji at Nyamba Buru Yawuru with the WA Museum team who had included individual narratives of lessor known black and yellow fellas who were part of the Australian pearling community.

Melissa Murakami and projected self portrait of Yasukichi Murakami at the Lustre: Pearling & Australia exhibition. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Melissa Murakami and projected self-portrait of Yasukichi Murakami at the Lustre: Pearling & Australia exhibition. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Murakami and his business partner Captain A.C. Gregory started Australia’s first cultured pearl farm, although the authorities had closed it down because of the local fear of ruining the natural pearl market, which in effect had set Australia’s cultured pearl industry back by 30 years. Murakami had invented a safer diving suit, which was the forerunner for the modern-day scuba gear, and although he had patented his design, its renewal fell due whilst he was interned as an enemy alien during WWII, allowing a French inventor to patent one of a very similar design. Significant contributions dwarfed by the course of history, and the way what stories are told by whom.

I had created short audio stories for this exhibition by using oral history interviews of people who were part of the cultured pearling industry for this exhibition. They included not only pearling masters and Japanese pearl divers, but lesser known stories of Indigenous pearl shell carvers, deck hands, boat builders, and shell graders, among many others.

Although my involvement had been small compared to all the work that had gone into preparing the exhibition, being in constant communication with Sarah Yu, who had put me up in her home whilst I was researching Yasukichi Murakami’s story for Yasukichi Murakami – Through a Distant Lens, gave me the opportunity to contribute some of Murakami’s story and photographs found in Tanami and Darwin for the exhibition

From the exhibition Lustre: Pearling & Australia. The photograph displayed of the boy on the left centre was taken by Yasukichi Murakami of his son Francis Yasunosuke Murakami at the Japanese Cemetery in Cossak. The x marking on the photo indicated the grave of Chiyo Araki, mother of Theresa Shigeno Murakami. The video display on the right was part of project In Repose by Wakako Asano, Satsuki Odamura, Vic McEwan and Mayu Kanamori. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

From the exhibition Lustre: Pearling & Australia. The photograph displayed of the boy on the left centre was taken by Yasukichi Murakami of his son Francis Yasunosuke Murakami at the Japanese Cemetery in Cossack. The x marking on the photo indicated the grave of Chiyo Araki, mother of Theresa Shigeno Murakami. The video display on the right was part of project In Repose by Wakako Asano, Satsuki Odamura, Vic McEwan and Mayu Kanamori.
Photo by Mayu Kanamori

I darted around the exhibition looking for images and stories pertaining to Murakami, making sure we did not miss any of them, pointing them out to Melissa with excitement, as if they were my own photographs on display. Melissa’s partner found the copy of a certificate exempting Murakami from a dictation test, issued by the Commonwealth of Australia as part of the Immigration Act 1901-1920. Displayed in one of the glass cabinets, the second page of the certificate was of his left palm, stamped by the customs and excise office in 1925.

There is something powerful about a hand print of someone who had once lived. Its proof of having-once-lived-ness enters our awareness vividly in rawness; much more so than a photograph of the deceased, perhaps because of our digital age and the proliferation of photographs.

Melissa studied the lines on her ancestor’s palm, then her own in comparison. It is often said in palmistry that the left hand shows traits a person was born with, and the right hand, the kind of a person they had become; and perhaps because of this, she found the shape of his palm and the lines similar to her own. She later told me of feeling a strong connection with this particular exhibit, as if “the only separation between was an ink pad, and not time.”

Melissa Murakami comparing her left palm to that of her ancestor Yasukichi Murakami. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Melissa Murakami comparing her left palm to that of her ancestor Yasukichi Murakami. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Before we left the museum, we took photos of each other, separately and together in groups at the entrance of the exhibition. Seen from the entrance was a screen hoisted from the ceiling, its shape round, probably because it emulated the shape of a pearl. Black and white images of people who worked in the Australian pearling industry were projected on to the screen, one by one. When it was Melissa’s turn to be photographed on her own, one of Murakami’s self portraits taken at Captain Gregory’s home appeared on the screen.

That afternoon on my way back to Perth, I saw a daytime super moon, full, just above the horizon in the clear blue sky, perfectly round like a cultured pearl. Was it my own little ego that made me see Yasukichi Murakami sitting in Gregory’s cane chair, on the moon, acknowledging my small contribution for his descendants and wider world to recognise his? Perhaps it was time to return to humility, and remember that as people, we all have a part to play, a small but significant purpose to fulfil as part of the whole.

Lustre: Australian Pearling will be on at the Western Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle from 20 June to 25 Oct 2015 travelling to other locations.

More info:

Lustre by Sarah Yu, Bart Pigram and Maya Shioji on the Griffith Review

Lustre on-line text panels by WA Museum

Somehow, of love and immortality

Upon returning from photographing a wedding on Pearl Beach last weekend, I found a message from a man named Greg Leon in Melbourne:

I have just seen a news article at ABC Online… regarding Yasukichi Murakami and your biographical work on him. The article mentioned the scarcity of his photographs from his Darwin years. I have a set of 15 photographs that Mr Murakami may have taken of my parents when they were married in Darwin in May 1940. If you are interested please let me know… Regards, Greg

Interested?! This is what I’ve been doing for nearly 3 years: Looking for Yasukichi Murakami’s photographs, especially from Darwin.

I telephoned Greg immediately.

Back of the envelope

Back of the envelope found by Greg Leon.

Dear Mayu,

I was surprised and delighted to receive your call today. The timing was something of a coincidence as I was scheduled this afternoon to perform (inter alia) a song I wrote that refers to Murakami-san’s photos of my parents’ wedding in Darwin in 1940. For info, I am a part-time singer-songwriter (and a semi-retired IT Consultant, Project Manager, Business Analyst).

I have attached scans of the envelope in which I found the photos (as film negatives). I have also attached one of the images revealing the shadow of the photographer!

Imelda (nee Leahy) and Tony Leon on their wedding day in Darwin, 1940. Photo probably by Yasukichi Murakami

Imelda (nee Leahy) and Tony Leon on their wedding day in Darwin, 1940. Photo probably by Yasukichi Murakami

When I was a younger photographer working for Fairfax Media, many of my colleagues said wedding photography was not a path to pursue for a serious photojournalist. Yet I enjoyed enjoy being of service as a photographer who endeavours to leave memories of love.

Photographing a wedding gives a photographer a great chance for his / her work to serve for generations to come. In a sense, it is our best shot at immortality.

Greg added:

My parents were Imelda (nee Leahy) and Tony Leon. Both were born in Adelaide, but my father’s family were from Melbourne. I understand that they met in Darwin just three weeks prior to their wedding. I am not sure when they returned to Adelaide, but I assume it was prior to 1941. After the start of the “Pacific” war, my father enlisted and went to New Guinea, while my mother remained in Adelaide as a nurse in one of the military hospitals. After I was born in 1947, my parents moved to Melbourne where I have spent the rest of my life to date.

Looking a little more critically – and from an amateur photographer’s perspective – some questions spring to mind:

– Why would a professional photographer allow his shadow to fall within the frame?

– Wouldn’t a professional photographer retain the negatives, rather than returning them to the client?

– Looking at the photographs as a set, I cannot help thinking they are almost too casual for a pro.

So, the Big One: was Murakami-san the actual photographer, or did he just process the film as a service for the person who took the photographs? What do you think?

Looking forward to further discussion!

Best regards, Greg

Envelope found by Greg Leon. The handwriting is that of Yasukichi Murakami's.

Envelope found by Greg Leon. The handwriting is that of Yasukichi Murakami’s.

I do not know all the answers.

I know that when I had photographed weddings on negatives, I often gave the negatives to the bride and groom. They are best with them, and not for us to keep a hold on the work we have taken part and brought to creation.

Murakami did leave his shadow in two of his family photographs.  There could be many more. John E deB Norman told me once that he has a photograph of Eki Nishioka’s shadow. Perhaps it was Eki who taught Murakami to leave his shadow in a photo every so often.

Somehow, the words love and immortality to come to mind.

Emma Dean and Joon Yang at Pearl Beach 2014 Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Emma Dean and Joon Yang at Pearl Beach 2014 Photo by Mayu Kanamori

– Posted by Mayu Kanamori

Shinju Matsuri Festival – Broome

5 & 6 Septemeber 2014 7:30pm Broome Civic Centre

Old Broome families remember Yasukichi Murakami. Many have photographs of their family members taken by him in their homes. Others have grown up with Yasukichi’s children, and some to the Murakami family through marriage. People in Broome respect their history, and read the many books written about their town, many of which mention Yasukichi. There is a Murakami Road on the way to their new jetty with a sign erected by the Shire with information about him and his contribution to the town.

The audience in Broome were well-informed with their history, and soulfully connected to the story of Yasukichi Murakami – Through a Distant Lens. They laughed and cried a lot louder, they talked, as they saw projected, photographs of people they remembered. For Broome’s Nikkei community and their friends of mixed heritage who lived and worked together before Broome’s rapid population growth, this performance touched upon their specific history, their contribution to pearling, and their hardships, including the almost forgotten Japanese internment during WW2.

There were 212 people interned from Broome. In the audience were former internee and Broome Counsillor Philip Matsumoto and Ben Shiosaki, who had returned from Mullewa to Broome for the first time since he was 6 years old when he and his family arrested as enemy aliens.

Showing Yasukichi Murakami – Through a Distant Lens in Broome was important. As Annette Shun Wah from Performance 4a, the producer of this work aptly billed it, we were “bringing Murakami home to Broome.” With Shinju Matsuri Festival board member Chris Maher working diligently in the background, the Broome Shire President Graeme Campbell hosted a civic reception before the show opened for the Murakami family, welcoming them back to their town.

Shire President Graeme Campbell and Pearl Hamaguchi

Shire President Graeme Campbell and Pearl Hamaguchi

Murakami family members arrived in Broome for this occasion from Perth, Karratha, Fitzroy Crossing and Darwin. Nikkei community Elder Pearl Hamaguchi gave a moving speech honouring the family, and remembering those community members interned during the war, including her own father Jimmy Chi. She presented the Shire with a framed copy of Yasukichi Murakami’s invention – his improved diving suit design which became the basis for the modern-day scuba equipment.

After the Broome performance of Yasukichi Murakami - Through a Distant Lens. L to R - Fran Murakami,

After the Broome performance of Yasukichi Murakami – Through a Distant Lens. L to R – Fran Murakami, Colin Murakami, Kevin Murakami, Julie Murakami, Cr Philip Matsumoto, Ben Shiosaki, Joanne Shiosaki, Rodney Murakami and Mayu Kanamori.

shinju_banner

– Posted by Mayu Kanamori

 

Crowd funding – Thank you!

A huge thanks to Pozible supporters and generous donors for helping us get our Yasukichi Murakami – Through A Distant Lens to Darwin Festival!

Our thank yous can also be found on:

Performance 4a

and

mayu.com.au

Abraham Hammoud Jodie Bell Rainer Fors
Adam Wojcinski Joe Murakami Ren Yano
Akiko Tomizawa John Winter Richard Wang
Alexandra McCallum Josh Mu Richard Watts
Alison Cook Juanita Kwok Rod Freedman
Alissar Chidiac Julie Melbourne Ronald Dirkse
Amanda Macri Julie Muir Rosalind Richards
Amanda thompson Julie Murakami Rowena Ward
Ann MacArthur Jun Hamana Ryoko Freeman
Anna Yen Kabuki Shoroku & Sakuratei Japanese Restaurant S Hesse
Anne Norman Karin Matsuda Sachi Hirayama
Anthony Pelchen Kata Lance Sakiko Johnson
Asako Kobayashi Kathryn Hunyor Sally Lewry
Ayako Payako Tsunazawa Kathy Matsubara Sally Mizoshiri
Ben Hills Katy Fitzgerald Samantha Chester
Bob Lyness Kazuko Chalker Sampei Seko
Cat Elder Keiko Tamura Sandy Edwards
Cate Pearce Kerk Ross Sarah Griffin
Cherilyn Margetts Kevin Han Sarah yu
Chie Muraoka Language on the Move Sayako Nakagawa
Chiyoko Takeuchi lena Sayuri Hayashi
Chiz Annakin Lena Nahlous Sean Bacon
Christine Piper Linda Evans Setsuko Yanagisawa
Clare Grant Lisa Ko Kato Shane F
David Fujii Liz Pellinkhof Shimizu
Dean Chan Lorna Kaino Sophie Constable
Dean Kunihiro Lucas Ihlein Stuart Tanaka
Diana Nguyen Lynn Shimabukuro Blair Su Goldfish
Donna Chang Mai Nguyen-Long Suzie Nguyen
Elaine Chia Mako Takako Inoue
Elleni Chambiras Masayo Hasegawa Takashi Takiguchi
Ellie Tanaka Matthew Rooke Takenobu Hamaguchi
Emi Otsuji Maya Newell Tallace Bissett
Erica Mann Melissa Yoko Murakami Ted Ambery
Ernie Wakamatsu Mémé Thorne Tessa Morris-Suzuki
Etsuko Tomimura-Bossling Michael Cave Theo Baer
Fiona Winning Michael McCarville TK Mills
Gabrielle Chan Michael Turkic Tomoko Otsuka
Gail Bryant Miho Watanabe Tony Lewis
Gary Gene Fish Mika Nishimura Tseen Khoo
Geraldine Mitchell Mikkel Mynster Victoria Spence
Graham Hartley Mioko Tominaka Vienna Del Rosario Parreno
Grant Cleary Moni Lai Storz Viv Rosman
Gregory Fournier Mook Denton Willa Zheng
Hiromi Ashlin Murray Williams William Yang
Hitomi Kurosawa Mutsumi Tsuda Y Matsumoto
Hugh Cann Nicky Evans Yasushi Hirai
Ian Glass Noriko Ikaga Yike Gao
Ildiko Susany Noriko Shimada Yoshiaki & Seiko Matsunaga
Isobel Deane Norman Trott Yoshie mizuno
Jackie Woods Nozomi Wade Yujiro Shimogori
Jacky Okada Oliver Wenn Yuki Hokari Sim
Jen Kwok Paul & Jennifer Winch Yuko Yamamoto
Jenevieve Chang Pedro de Almeida Yumi Umiumare
Jennifer Wong Peter Alford Yuriko Nagata
Jim Kim Peter Fraser Yushiro Mizukoshi
Jimmy Dalton Peter R Phillips

– Posted by Mayu Kanamori

In Appreciation

I am near the end of the creative development and rehearsal phase of Yasukichi Murakami – Through A Distant Lens, and I wanted to take a moment to thank the people and organisations that helped me get this far.

Of course the trouble is where to draw the line – I can think of so many more people who helped me along the way, simply being my friend, listening to me over a cup of tea at times of trouble or sharing a glass of wine with me when I had cause to celebrate. There are those who have contributed financially towards our crowd funding campaign, and others who helped me spread the word.

Names of the supporters of the Pozible / Murakami  fundraising campaign are listed in a separate post – click here.

… and my “thank you list: goes on, but here is a list of people who helped with the nitty-grittys, and I owe a heart-felt thanks to that I wanted to share on this blog today.

In alphabetical order…

Armstrong, Jon for your advice and taking photographs of me in Broome.

Asano, Wakako, Shigeaki Iwai, Vic McEwan and Satsuki Odamura for working with me in Japanese cemeteries and grave sites all over Australia in our project In Repose, which gave me the opportunity to begin hearing the ‘silent voices’.

Asian Australian Studies Research Network (AASRN) for your continuous support, education and inspiration.

Australia Japan Association of Northern Territory (AJANT) for hosting an artist-talk, which allowed me to ask the Darwin community to help me find Murakami’s photographs.

Barr, Françoise and Northern Territory Archives for dedicated, kind, detailed and lateral ways of help in researching Yasukichi Murakami’s photographs, records and Murakami family history.

Blaylock, Malcolm for directing Yasukichi Murakami – Through A Distant Lens, encouraging me to write a dialogue based script for the first time in my life, being my artistic collaborator since 2001, thoughtful contribution to the script, and the depth of understanding the refined sensitivities of the human condition.

Bodie, Jane for being a dramaturg for Yasukichi Murakami – Through A Distant Lens, sitting with me for many hours in front of my computer doctoring my half-baked script, all the whilst listening and honouring to what it was that I wanted to say.

Bracher, Michael, Richard McLean, Takenobu Hamaguchi, and the Paspaley Group for showing me the Paspaley Family Photographic Collection.

Brockman, Benjamin for being the calm and reliable production manager of Yasukichi Murakami – Through A Distant Lens and QLab expert for rehearsals and Darwin Festival.

Chin, John for sharing stories on the Stone Houses and Murakami family.

Cleveland, Ken for acute feedbacks on early versions of the script, and providing me with seeds of thought.

Clocks and Clouds (Kraig Grady and Terumi Narushima) for music from their CD In A Pentagonal Room in the Diving Suit and Tanami scenes.

Dann, Lucy and family for taking photographs with me in Broome, and introducing me to old Broome families in the first place, when we first shared our time together in The Heart of the Journey.

Darwin Rondalla for music in the Darwin scene.

DeQuincey, Tess for constant encouragement and advice on this project.

Ensemble Offspring for music from their CD Behind The Keys in the promotional video.

Grady, Kraig for his handmade musical instruments.

Gruchy, Mic for your emotive and moving visual imagery in Yasukichi Murakami – Through A Distant Lens, audio-visual expertise, thorough ways of working, as well as calm and wisdom that comes with your wealth of experience.

Hamaguchi, Pearl for sharing photographs of your mother and friend taken by Yasukichi Murakami, and sharing many hours of stories about old Broome.

Hashimoto, Kuni for playing the part of Yasukichi Murakami’s ghost in Yasukichi Murakami – Through A Distant Lens, generously imparting your knowledge of theatre, assisting me with the script, and  continuously reminding  me of that which is of importance.

Hills, Ben for your support, behind the scenes encouragement, advice, listening to my complaints and looking after my general well-being.

Hirayama, Sachiko for giving me a home in Darwin and organising an artist talk, which allowed me to ask the Darwin community to help me find Yasukichi Murakami’s photographs.

Hirobe, Kyoko for channelling the spirit of Yasukichi Murakami, resulting in messages, which became the backbone of the script.

Jones, Noreen for your book Number 2 Home, a must read for all Japanese Australians, and sharing the old Mise and Yamamoto photographs from the Noreen Jones Photographic Collection.

Kaino, Lorna for being my first partner for this project, your series of essays, our joint conference paper in Canberra and Stuttgart on Yasukichi Murakami and being with me when we found his grave in Cowra

Kawai, Reiko for information about Darwin and continuing friendship since The Heart of the Journey.

Kobayashi, Asako and Go-Nichi Sunday Japanese Language Radio for assisting in calling out to the community to find Yasukichi Murakami’s photographs.

Khoo, Tseen for your continuous support, encouragement and being an on-line ally at all times of the development process of this project.

Kim-Pok,Teik and Playwriting Australia for your funding support, having me as part of Lotus Playwriting Project and for your invaluable advice in completing the script for this project.

Konomi, Masafumi and the Japan Foundation, Sydney for funding assistance in this project at a crucial stage in our development and for your on-going support for this project.

Kylie Jennings and the Broome Historic Society for well-versed help in researching Yasukichi Murakami’s photographs and history.

Lance, Kate for your immaculately researched book, Red Bill and your generosity in sharing your photographs and citations on the internet for all future researchers, as well as sharing with me your meticulous original source materials.

Lewis, Lee, Simon Wellington, Alicia Talbot, all at Griffin Theatre Company and all participants of Story Lab 2012 for giving me the inspiration and encouragement to continue developing this project.

Lo, Jacqueline for our continuing dialogues about Asian Australian art practices in performance, and your support, which gave me the courage to explore the Japanese diasporic condition and WWII.

Lunn, Edwina and Georgie Sedgewick for inclusion in the Darwin Festival 2014.

Lynette Atchison and the Northern Territory Library for the efficient and well-informed help in researching Yasukichi Murakami’s photographs.

Maher, Chris and members of Shinju Matsuri Festival board for your inclusion in your 2014 program.

Masuda, Cauline for sharing a photograph of your grandmother taken by Yasukichi Murakami, visiting the Japanese Cemetery in Broome with me countless times, and your leadership in the Japanese community in Broome.

Masuda, Karin for channelling the spirit of Eki Nishioka, which became an important and poignant counter point in the script.

McEwan, Vic for sharing your music in the first stages of this project and for conference presentations in Stuttguard and Canberra.

Mills, Nichole, photographer Katrina Bridgeford, and the Sunday Territorian for making a call-out to the Northern Territory community to find Yasukichi Murakami’s photographs.

Mills, Terry for your support during my call out to the community to find Yasukichi Murakami’s photographs from his days in Darwin, and for dialogues which inspired crucial aspects of the script development.

Mills,Vanessa and ABC Radio, Kimberley for your genuine interest in Yasukichi Murakami and old Broome history, and assisting in calling out to the community to find Yasukichi Murakami’s photographs.

Minami, Reiko (Ruruka) Murakami for meeting me in Tanami and introducing me to her mother, Yasuko Pearl Murakami Minami, sharing family photographs and showing me Tanami and Kushimoto.

Minami, Yasuko Pearl Murakami for inviting me to your home, and sharing your family photographs and stories about your father and family history.

Murakami Gold, Lorna for being the first person to let me know about Yasukichi Murakami back in 1998 when I was photographing you, by telling me that your great-grandfather was a Japanese photographer.

Murakami, Julie for contacting me after finding this blog, sharing your family photographs and stories, and spending many hours researching with me.

Murakami, Kevin for visiting me when I was in Broome to help me understand the importance of family and descendants.

Murakami, Kisaburo Joseph for on-going support for this project, sharing family photographs, not only to me, but also to your family members in Australia, information and stories about his father and family.

Muraoka, Chie for your patient and dedicated web design and mastering.

Nagata, Yuriko for your definitive book Unwanted Aliens: Japanese Internment in Australia during WWII, introducing me to Joseph Kisaburo Murakami, and your continuing support.

Nagata, Yuriko, Keiko Tamura, Lorna Kaino, Shigemi Kurahashi, Chie Maruoka, Jun Nagatomo and Nikkei Australia for your support and information exchange.

Narushima, Terumi for your exquisite and evocative music, being the composer / musician / sound designer for Yasukichi Murakami – Through A Distant Lens, understanding the social political significance of this work, and being in the same emotional space and spirit with me throughout the process.

Ng, Kevin for your dedication and enthusiasm as the technical manager and audio-visual expert during the creative development phase of Yasukichi Murakami – Through A Distant Lens.

Norman, J.E. deB and late G.V. Norman for your book A Pearling Master’s Journey and sharing stories of old Broome and your family history.

Pampolha, Luiz for being the lighting designer for Yasukichi Murakami – Through A Distant Lens, adding to the production the essential refinement, atmosphere and your depth of experience for the production.

Shun Wah, Annette and Performance 4a for producing Yasukichi Murakami – Through A Distant Lens, your wisdom, commitment, resilience, significant advice on script development and story-telling,  for being a pioneer for us all, and the depth of your understanding the wider meaning of this work.

Silva, David for your access to your galleries in the Stone Houses, support in my research and continuing to be the photographic guardian of the Stone Houses, Yasukichi Murakami’s former home and studio.

Sister Pat Rhatigan, Helen Martin and Sisters of St John of God Heritage Centre, Broome for sharing your extensive photographic collection for this project.

Skrzynski, Hannah, Teik Kim Pok, Jennifer Wong, Annette Shun Wah and Performance 4a for running our successful Pozible fundraising campaign.

Sone, Yuji for being the dramaturgical consultant and continuing to support this project, your wealth of knowledge, advice, and giving me a second chance despite my initial failed attempt at creating this work as a Master of Arts Degree.

Sone, Yuji, David Mitchell, Marcus Eckerman and Macquarie University, Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Arts for partnering this project, giving us technical support, providing filming, editing and invaluable dramaturgical consultancy and a home for our development and rehearsals.

Steer Adam, Claire Rawlinson and ABC Radio, Darwin for assisting in calling out to the community to find Yasukichi Murakami’s photographs.

Tamura, Keiko for being at Yasukichi Murakami’s grave and helping me listen to his voice.

Tanaka, Elly for providing the kimono and expertise needed for Yumi Umiumare / Eki Nishioka’s wardrobe support.

Terushima, Narumi for your exquisite and evocative music, being the composer / musician / sound designer for Yasukichi Murakami – Through A Distant Lens, understanding the social political significance of this work, and being in the same emotional space and spirit with me throughout the process.

Theatre Board, Australia Council for the Arts for providing the necessarily support in funding for this project in two of its crucial phases.

Thompson, Jacinta (former Artistic Director, OzAsia Festival) and OzAsia Festival for inclusion in the OzAsia Festival 2014.

Tominaka, Yoshie and Mioko for giving me support, practical, yet humorous advice and a home in Japan whilst researching this project.

Tsuda, Mutsumi for additional contemporary and historical photographs for this project, and on-going artistic dialogue.

Umiumare, Yumi for being (it seems not quite right to say ‘playing the part of’) the part of Eki Nishioka’s ghost in video for Yasukichi Murakami – Through A Distant Lens, consistently reminding me to speak my truth and to express what it is that I need to express as an artist and human being.

Watanabe, Miho for photographing our creative development showing and our publicity photographs.

Wells, Micheal  for detailed information on the Stone Houses and trusting me to complete this project.

Wells, Michael, Karen Moir and Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment for giving this project its first funding for development.

Werner, Koko  for channelling the spirit of Yasukichi Murakami, with messages, which assisted the latter stages of the script development, and filling in my then blind spots.

Wood, Joanne and the Australian National Archives, Darwin Branch, for enthusiastic help in researching Yasukichi Murakami’s records, and the Australian National Archives for permission to reproduce records held in their collection.

Yamada, Tomoko for organising the Broome Cemetery O-bon photo shoot by Takazo Nishioka’s grave.

Yu, Peter and Sarah for giving me a place to stay in Broome, Peter’s gorgeous cooking and Sarah and Nyamba Buru Yawauru‘s ongoing projects and engagements, allowing me multiple trips to Broome as well as to further my understanding of old Broome and the history of pearling.

Yura, Arisa for playing the part of Mayu in Yasukichi Murakami – Through A Distant Lens, your dedication in spending much time in dialogue with me to understand my  journey, as well as taking the time to discover photography, coming to Cowra to Yasukichi Murakami’s grave, to meet his family.

… the list to be continued.

-Posted by Mayu Kanamori

Murakami for recognition and rememberance for all

Unlike my usual visits to Yasukichi Murakami’s grave at the Japanese War Cemetery in Cowra,  on 9th of March 2014, I heard many voices of those alive today, and not just the dead and buried.

(L to R) Melissa Yoko Murakami (Perth), Julie Murakami (Darwin), Reiko Ruruka Minami Murakami (Japan) , Calvin Murakami (Darwin) and Sandra Seiko Murakami (Perth). Photo by Mayu Kanamori

(L to R) Melissa Yoko Murakami (Perth), Julie Murakami (Darwin), Reiko Ruruka Minami Murakami (Japan) , Calvin Murakami (Darwin) and Sandra Seiko Murakami (Perth). Photo by Mayu Kanamori

For sometime now I have entertained an irrational thought that Yasukichi Murakami’s ghost was calling to me to fulfill his wishes, and on this day, at least part of my irrational belief  as to his wishes came to be. Not only was his grave visited by 6 of his family members, but nearly 200 people gathered to commemorate the civilian internees who died in internment camps across Australia during World War II .

The commemoration was part of a series of events held in Cowra, NSW including a symposium, Civilian Internment in Australia during WWII: history, memories and community heritage, its related arts program, the Cowra Canowindra Civilian Internment Arts Program and an unveiling of an interpretive board with information about Japanese civilian internment in Australia during WWII at the entrance of the cemetery. This is the first time Japanese civilian internees and their families were publicly acknowledged in Australia.

(Back row L to R) Reiko (Ruruka) Minami Murakami, Calvin Murakami, Mayu Kanamori (Front row - L to R) Jacqueline Murakami and Julie Murakami. Photo by Mutsumi Tsuda

(Back row L to R) Reiko (Ruruka) Minami Murakami, Calvin Murakami, Mayu Kanamori (Front row – L to R) Jacqueline Murakami and Julie Murakami. Photo by Mutsumi Tsuda

Couple of years earlier, when I first visited Murakami’s grave with Dr Lorna Kaino, we met with Dr Keiko Tamura, a historian from the Australian National University there. By Murakami’s grave, the three of us discussed how the Japanese War Cemetery in Cowra needed an interpretive board to explain to visitors that many of the people buried there were civilians like Murakami. In fact many visitors to Cowra also visit the former Cowra Prisoner of War (POW) camp site, and have heard about the Cowra Breakout, and assuming all buried at the this cemetery were Japanese POWs who died during this mass breakout. The visitors walk into the cemetery, and after seeing the graves, wonder why there are babies and children buried there.

Former civilian internee Evelyn Suzuki and Cowra Mayor Bill West unveils the civilian internment interpretive board at Cowra Japanese War Cemetery. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Former civilian internee Evelyn Suzuki and Cowra Mayor Bill West unveils the civilian internment interpretive board at Cowra Japanese War Cemetery. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

The three of us agreed there and then to contact our mutual friend Dr Yuriko Nagata from Queensland University (UQ), the author of Unwanted Aliens: Japanese Internment in Australia During WWII (1996, UQ Press), the definitive book on this subject with the view to  bring about change. The four of us formed a group  Nikkei Australia, and with Dr Nagata as our team leader, for the next two years, worked together with the Cowra Breakout Association and other dedicated organisations and peoples to realise  these series of events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps it was  Yasukichi Murakami’s ghost that inspired us to work to facilitate this social change. After all, in his lifetime, Murakami was not only a photographer and artist, but also a leader in the Japanese communities in places  he once lived: Broome, Darwin and in Tatura Internment Camp in Victoria. Not only would he want his descendants to visit his grave – his wife and his deceased children are buried in Darwin – but would like his fellow community members who are buried in this cemetery to be remembered by their descendants, and for all of us to recognise and acknowledge their history.

Having said that, one of the most outstanding aspects of Murakami’s life was that he was not only part of the Japanese community. Historians such as Dr Lorna Kaino and Kate Lance, author of Redbill  tells us that Murakami and his friend and business partner Captain A.C. Gregory have acted as mediators during series of race riots in Broome (1907. 1914 and 1920), and their lifelong friendship “calmly flout(ed) every racial barrier of Broome society.” (Lance). And as such, our symposium consisted of  internment stories from those of Japanese, Italian, German and New Caledonian backgrounds as well as of regional museum curators from Tatura, Hay and Loveday, where the internment camps once were, academic researchers, artists and creative writers who’s work deal with WWII civilian internment in Australia.

Aoyama Temple, Sydney based Buddhist monks with Murakami family chanting sutra by Yasukichi Murakami's grave. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Seianji Temple, Sydney based Buddhist monks with Murakami family chanting sutra by Yasukichi Murakami’s grave. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

And  9 March was about  remembering those civilians who are buried in Cowra, regardless of their backgrounds. The ceremony began with a ceremony for Australians who died during WWII at the Australian section of Cowra’s War Cemetery, next for those buried in the Japanese section, which not only includes Japanese and Nikkei civilians, but Chinese, Indonesian and New Caledonian peoples who were interned with the Japanese. We then moved to the Cowra General Cemetery to commemorate the Javanese Indonesian political prisoners who were interned and died in Cowra.

Artists Weizen Ho and Ria Soemardjo leading the attendees through the Cowra General Cemetery from the Indonesian graves to the Japanese War Cemetery as part of a Ceremonial Performance. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Artists Weizen Ho and Ria Soemardjo leading the attendees through the Cowra General Cemetery from the Indonesian graves to the Japanese War Cemetery as part of a Ceremonial Performance. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Ria Soemardjo, an Indonesian Australian performer sang by the Indonesian graves, then Weizen Ho, a Chinese Malaysian Australian performer  lead the attendees  back to the Japanese section, where local youth artists Bianca Reggio and Lauren Townsend and Shigeki Sano, a Japanese  Shinto musician residing in Cowra, and Alan Schacher, an Australian performer of Jewish background performed in ceremony along with a group of Sydney based Buddhist monks from Seizanji-ji

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Such were the events in Cowra.

Such were the wishes of Yasukichi Murakami – I believe.

-Posted by Mayu Kanamori

Hearing the voice of creative development

Kunihiko Hashimoto and Arisa Yura during creative development of Murakami. Photo by Miho Watanabe

Kunihiko Hashimoto and Arisa Yura during creative development of Murakami. Photo by Miho Watanabe

 

The 3-week creative development of my Murakami project at Macquarie University’s Drama Studio began with director Malcolm Blaylock, producer Annette Shun Wah / Performance 4a, dramaturg Jane Bodie, dramaturgic consultant Dr Yuji Sone, production manager Kevin Ng, actors Kunihiko Hashimoto, Yumi Umiumare, Arisa Yura and myself, reading my manuscript matched with photographs, which somehow just passed as a “theatre script”, only because of Jane’s extensive doctoring in the 8 weeks prior.

As with my earlier performance works, how I manage to put forth an idea in blind faith, and then after doing the necessary work in small steps over a time,  finding myself in a creative space full of extremely talented and experienced performance makers is truly humbling, uplifting, and in many ways, mind-boggling. Nevertheless, thanks to my collaborators, my research into Yasukichi Murakami’s life and my search for his missing photographs was on its way to becoming a performance work.

In nervousness, I once again held conversations in my mind with Murakami’s ghost.

Have I done the right thing?  Have I made the right decisions? Do you think this is working? Sometimes I lack in clarity if these questions should end with “for you”, “for me”, “for the work itself” or “for the wider good, ” and if the difference in those question endings change  the question and its answers.

Some say I am becoming mad, whilst others say I am lacking in intuition, but  Murakami’s ghost never seems to answer me immediately. And when I think I have heard his voice, I am often unsure if I heard him correctly. As at first hearing, it is difficult to tell whether I am hearing his voice, what I think his voice might be, or that his voice is heard through the filter of my own ego, or a voice from my higher self, pretending I was someone I am not quite ready to become, but wished I was, or simply the voices of others or perhaps other ghosts. So ok,  I do sound mad… but creative development, it was.

The immediate reaction of my collaborators to my “script” appeared positive. They liked it, or so I thought, which made me relax a little. On the second reading of the “script”, however many differing opinions began to surface. Some were structural, others to do with different layers of understanding of the text, material and methods. And strong those opinions were. One thing we all agreed upon was that it was important to tell the story of Yasukichi Murakami.

Yumi Umiumare during creative development of Murakami. Photo by Miho Watanabe

Yumi Umiumare during creative development of Murakami. Photo by Miho Watanabe

As we exchanged ideas and debated, the written words became spoken words, ghosts found their embodiments, images projected, and by the time composer and sound designer Terumi Narushima joined us in the second week, the “script” had gone through many changes, including the inevitable and often welcome changing back, like a dance moving to and fro between rawness and refinement, creative and receptive, intuition and understanding.

On the last week, we invited a small group of people to a work-in-progress showing.  As pathetic as this sounds, I cried a lot during this week. I was emotional, partly because of fatigue, but mostly because there was something so very moving about working with a group of talented artists who were able to take what I had grappled with for the past 3 years, create and put into shape a work which was shown to potential presenters and partners.

Yasukichi Murakami’s story is beginning to take shape. His voice is slowly being heard through a collective voice and listening of those who endeavour to hear him.

Terumi Narushima during creative development of Murakami. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Terumi Narushima during creative development of Murakami. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Posted by Mayu Kanamori