Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Sendai Mural Feb. 2011

Sendai mural Feb. 2011

This mural was painted one month before the earthquake and Tsunami struck this city. Takuya Kaneda writes from Japan 18.3.2011 the following:

"Coincidentally, one of the founders of this project, Prof. Toshifumi Abe and his colleague, Prof. Yoshiko Motoya coordinated a Kids' Guernica workshop last month in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, and a part of the affected areas by this massive earthquake on March 11. The workshop was organized by a group called MAGO3 aiming to realize a lifelong learning project from grandparents to grandchildren. Sendai City is a native place of Prof. Yoshiko Motoya, a leader of this group. Her house was not damaged but an elementary teacher who had supported this workshop lost her house. They are now working for the victims in Sendai city."

and in his message to Alexandra Zanne in Gezoncourt who opened an exhibition showing both the mural of Gezoncourt and the Japanese mural with the cherry blossoms, he adds following description of the situation prevailing in Japan after the earthquake and the Tsunami had struck to leave thousands of persons recovering from the after shocks in shelters while rescue teams to get the nuclear reactors under control in Fukushima:

"Dear Kids' Guernica family members in Gezoncourt,

Since Kids’ Guernica was started in 1995, we have always emphasized the importance of imagination to feel the sufferings of others and the necessarily of collaboration to achieve a peaceful world.

As all of you know, Japan is now suffering a damage of a catastrophic earthquake which took place on March 11. I live luckily in a city located in the South-West end of Ibaraki prefecture, which is one of the less affected prefectures, and my house had no damage. However, even in my city several old houses were broken and some parts of the roads cracked. Tonight I felt also here an earthquake of the 5th degree on the seismic scale. While I am writing this message, the sound of rescue helicopters flying overhead are continuing.

Already one week has passed; still thousands of people are waiting for water, food and medicines in their shelters. The government and people near the affected areas are trying to do their best to rescue them but the difficulty is that the areas are quite vast and the access to reach them not easy. As many news programs have reported, people, young or old, who could evacuate are helping each other to support weaker ones even though some of them lost their families and houses.

I believe, not only in Japan, many people like you in the world will act in the same way in such a desperate situation. All of Japanese people, including me, who were not, affected directly by this disaster want do something for the suffering people. It is not only inside Japan, foreign media reported that many people in different countries have also the same wish to help them. Such wonderful cooperative spirit is what we want to nurture among our young generation through the Kids’ Guernica’s collaborative work.

An unpredictable massive earthquake and tsunami attacked Japan last Friday. Another disaster may occur somewhere in the world. Even at this moment, not only a natural disaster but also poverty, conflicts, or different types of suffering are happening in different places of the world.

I hope this Kids’ Guernica exhibition will provide you a good opportunity to imagine those sufferings not only in Japan but also in other places of the world and share this feeling.

The peace mural of cherry blossoms was created by 200 people, from three year-old to eighty-six year-old, in Tokyo. Each participant printed an image of flower on a huge sheet of rice paper by a stencil technique. The whole art work shows that all the flowers are singing a song of peace together.

I would like to introduce a recent Kids’ Guernica peace mural which was completed last month in Japan. This mural mixed with collage was created by children and adults of a life-long learning group in Sendai City. The city is located in Miyagi Prefecture, a part of the most seriously affected areas by this massive earthquake. Sendai is one of the beautiful cities in the North Eastern part of Japan and the name means “a base for a thousand generations” but this earthquake completely destroyed the coastal part of the city. Some of you might have seen during TV news how the massive tsunami wave swallowed the Sendai airport. One of the teachers who participated in this workshop she lost totally her house and now she is working for other victims in Sendai city.

This is my message from Japan."

Takuya Kaneda


KIDS’ GUERNICA International Committee

Professor of Art Education

Otsuma Women’s University

Tokyo, JAPAN


Sendai means in Japanese the city of 'thousand generations'.

It is most interesting to learn in this way not only what kind of Kids' Guernica actions take place in Japan, but also what places they chose for such an action. Given the meaning of Sendai as 'city of thousand generations', it is most appropriate that an inter generational dialogue took place there. That could be linked to what Volker Amrhein is doing in Berlin with his organisation called 'Dialogue between Generations' with linkage to Gernika in Spain thanks to one German living there for years by now to promote peace research through the ages.

Naturally in retrospect, and after the earthquake plus Tsunami struck Japan (and we remember the images on television showing how the wave swept over the airport from Sendai), there exists the interesting question about this mural of Sendai: did it point in any way towards or does it show an anticipation of an immanent danger? Birds and animals sense the big bang coming; they flee to higher grounds while human beings may merely wonder what has gotten into them. Many such stories were told after the Tsunami struck Indochina in 2004.

Unfortunately human beings can become too complacent even in Japan. One explanation is that due to no major earthquake having take place since 1995, and safety standards for buildings and bridges quite high, people feel relatively safe. Even if the buildings were shaken in Tokyo, they withstood the earthquake. Only some things were toppled and fell like the sculpture in Takuya Kaneda's university.

Broken statue at Takuya Kaneda's university as result of the earthquake 11th of March 2011

Yet a closer look at the mural painted in Sendai may indicte something. There are forces depicted which converge at one point. Almost like a rocket they point towards two people underneath a small rainbow as if they seek there refuge. It is an allusion to hope. The symbol of the rainbow reappears in many murals of Kids' Guernica (in the Chios-Izmir, Chios, Picasso's Atelier etc.), even though it can be disputed that children believe in such affinity between luck and finding a bucket of gold at the other end of the rainbow. Rather the spectrum of colors mitigates to create a feeling of making something visible which is otherwise just a black-white see through kind of air with our eyes unable to distinguish the different shades of colors. Without wishing to get side tracked on account of the rainbow, still one more thought needs to be added. Visibility is brought about by light shining through water, and both together bring about another result of transparency.

Translated into a social and political term, the convergence of forces may underline the failure of the system when it comes to upholding safety standards within natural limits. That follows a failure to address the public as to some of the dangers a society risks to incur when not merely safety standards but as well these natural limitations are ignored. For what happens when illegal construction goes hand in hand with unwarrented liscences to operate or build things, even if at great risk to humanity?

Even though the Japanese society has learned its drills and schools go through regular exercises, there was applied an information policy which did not arouse Japanes society in its apprehension about nuclear power despite Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even though there happen throughout the year almost regularly small ripples but not such a big one, nevertheless the eventuality of a big bang exists always. To dispute that is more than complacency. It is a kind of insane recklessness which goes beyond the mere playing with people's lives. But by following a careful policy of half informing the public, while Japanese people are by their own culture inclined to stay calm even to the point of being obedient at their own peril, it may explain why no public outcry followed the realization what happens once a Tsunami strikes a nuclear plant build directly beside the sea. That no one objected to the nuclear plant of Fukushima being constructed directly beside the sea, nor ever demanded its closure especially after what everyone could see what is possible once a huge Tsunami strikes as was the case of devastation in Indochina in 2004, that is more than a mystery and something other than a simple human failure.

Now that the Japanese society faces the prospects of radiation fall out from the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, people have to prepare for the worst since the government of Japan has admitted that the radiation fall-out is as high as was Chernobyl.

Hatto Fischer 22.4.2011

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