Jerry Takigawa – Artist Statement
Initially an identity project, Balancing Cultures gives voice to a story suffered in silence by my immigrant grandparents and American-born parents. My mother’s passing left my brother and me with boxes of photographs. Among them were photos of family members taken in camp that we had never seen. In my family, when anyone spoke of camp, they weren’t referring to a pine-scented summer retreat—they were referring to the WWII American concentration camps sanctioned in 1942 by President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066.
Piecing together a historical puzzle of photographs, memories, and artifacts, I began an exploration into my family’s undisclosed past. For the first time, the hardships my family endured in the camps were illuminated to me. EO 9066 caused 110,000 Japanese Americans economic loss, the pain of prejudice and imprisonment, and the repercussions of re-integration into post-war America.
Although racism is deeply woven into our institutional and social fabric, there is no scientific basis for race. Race and racism are social constructs. This project is a testimony to the shame and indignation my family kept hidden due to their cultural stoicism and fear of retribution. Left untold, their experience would remain buried, a casualty of the country they loved and fought for. Balancing Cultures is especially relevant as long as America continues to incarcerate people—not for crimes they’ve committed, but simply because of whom they are.
About the Book:
Jerry Takigawa’s Balancing Cultures presents the work of a multi award-winning photography series about the artist’s family’s experience with the WWII American Concentration camps. This project offered an opportunity to confront the racism perpetrated on the Japanese that resulted in their confinement in the American concentration camps sanctioned by President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 issued on February 19, 1942. Awakened by a discovery of old family photographs, taken in an Arkansas camp, Takigawa was compelled to speak out in deference to his parents’ silence on the matter. Creating a visual journey through transitory collaged photographs using artifacts, documents, and memories resulted in a unique telling of one family’s journey from immigration to incarceration, and re-assimilation. Balancing Cultures reminds us that racism, hysteria, and economic exploitation are all attributes of xenophobia. We see renewed violence against Asian Americans today. To share these feelings publicly can feel like a betrayal—a revealing of family secrets. Yet, it’s not only healing, but now, it’s crucial to the context of the times. If silence sanctions, documentation is resistance.