Sansei’s Granddaughters’ Journey: From Remembrance to Resistance

From left to right: Na Omi Judy Shintani, Reiko Fujii, Ellen Bepp, Shari Ari Deboer and Kathy Fujii-Oka. (Photo by Bob Hsiang)

SAN FRANCISCO – Honoring the history of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II provides an opportunity to understand the terrible injustices that took place. A new art exhibit titled “Sansei’s Granddaughters’ Journey: From Remembrance to Resistance” runs from July 24 through September 3 at the AZ Gallery of Tanforan Shops, San Bruno.

Most significant is the fact that the AZ Gallery sits on the land where the old Tanforan Racecourse and Tanforan Assembly Center used to be.

“Sansei Granddaughters’ Journey” features the work of five celebrated third-generation Japanese American artists (Sansei) who have dedicated their extensive artistic careers to honoring the legacy of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. The participating artists are Shari Arai DeBoer, Ellen Bepp, Reiko Fujii, Kathy Fujii-Oka and Na Omi Judy Shintani. Impressive works of art are on display, including videos, installations, prints, paintings and multimedia works.

Eighty years ago (February 19, 1942), President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which unjustly ordered the forcible removal of Japanese Americans from their homes and their incarceration in American concentration camps. . As descendants, the five artists share a unique vision that, through art, brings to life the dehumanizing conditions in which Japanese Americans have been forced to live, including poor housing and food, a lack of privacy and inadequate medical care.

“The injustice of our government which incarcerates innocent men, women and children on the basis of greed, fear and racial prejudice, resulting in the loss of lives, homes, businesses, trust and self-esteem, is deplorable,” says Fujii. “I am adamant about chronicling their stories so that they become an integral part of American history and that the experiences of these people are not forgotten.”

A main feature of the exhibition will be the Sunday August 14 screening of the film “The Journey of the Sansei Granddaughters” (2020, 27 minutes), which documents the experiences of the five artists during an annual 2018 pilgrimage to the site. from the Manzanar camp. . This film was produced and directed by DeBoer, Bepp, Fujii, Fujii-Oka and Shintani and includes family archive photos and the Densho Encyclopedia. A lively discussion follows the screening of the film.

Did you know?

• In 1942, Tanforan Racecourse was turned into the Tanforan Assembly Center.

• Nearly 8,000 people, mostly Japanese Americans from the San Francisco Bay Area, were imprisoned at Tanforan from April 28 to October 13, 1942, a total of 171 days.

• About half of the inmates lived in former stables.

• Most of those incarcerated were transferred to the Central Utah WRA camp, also known as Topaz.

To deepen the public’s understanding of this forced incarceration, the exhibition coincides with this year’s unveiling of the “Tanforan Memorial”, located between the San Bruno BART station and the Tanforan Mall, and the updated permanent exhibition “Tanforan Incarceration 1942”, which is in the San Bruno BART station. Some of the scheduled programs will feature personal stories of Tanforan’s incarceration experience.

“The core of my art is research, understanding and healing – things you can’t get from a textbook,” Shintani explains.

The purpose of this exhibit and educational programming is to inspire dialogue about racial discrimination, identity and civil liberties, trauma experienced by those arrested and incarcerated, and more.

“People who are different aren’t necessarily dangerous, even if they ‘look’ like the enemy in some way,” Shintani says. “Learning from the past can lead to fair and humane treatment of all.

Location: AZ Gallery, The Shops at Tanforan, 1150 El Camino Real, Suite 254, San Bruno, CA 94066

Dates: Sunday July 24 to Saturday September 3

Opening hours: Wednesday-Friday, 11am-4pm; Saturday, 11am-6pm; Sunday, 11am-5pm

Free admission

Info: [email protected]

Upcoming Free Programs

Opening: Saturday July 30 from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. With artists and taiko performance by Naoko Amemiya and Lori Honjiyo.

“Shedding Light on Remembrance” lantern-making workshop: Sunday, August 7, from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Hosted by Na Omi Judy Shintani. Twelve participants will create lanterns to honor and celebrate their loved ones and those who inspire them. Registration required. Go to:

“Topaz Stories: Preserving stories of the Japanese American Incarceration”, Saturday August 13, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Hosted by Ruth Sasaki, editor of the Topaz Stories Project. Five local authors will share writings on Tanforan, followed by a Q&A panel.

Screening of the film “Sansei Granddaughters’ Journey” and conversation with the artists: Sunday, August 14, from 1 to 2 pm Screening of the film followed by a question-and-answer session with the five artists. This film was presented at Films of Remembrance 2022 in San Francisco, DisOrient Film Festival 2021 in Eugene, Oregon, and others.

“Remnants of Tanforan Incarceration”: Saturday, August 20, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Taiko performance by Naoko Amemiya and Lori Honjiyo. Slideshow: Exhibition of Tanforan artifacts and lecture by Nancy Ukai, director of the “50 Objects” project.

Cherry blossom blooming workshop: Sunday, August 21, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Hosted by Kathy Fujii-Oka. Twelve participants will create textile cherry blossom flowers from personal photos of their loved ones. Registration required. Go to:

Tsuru for solidarity art and social justice Conference, film screening and round table: Sunday August 28, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Screenings of “Flying Cranes” (2:09 min) and “Tsuru History” (15:31 min) , presented by award-winning producer/director Emiko Omori. Members of the Tsuru for Solidarity group will share their stories and display their large-scale origami creations with messages of hope and support. Hands-on activity of creating origami.

Guided tours by artists: Sunday, August 7, from 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; Saturday August 13, from noon to 12:30 p.m.; Sunday, August 21, from 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday August 28, from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.; and Saturday, September 3 from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

For updates on all programming, visit:


Instagram: sansei_granddaughters

Email: [email protected]

AZ Gallery:

Support provided by Dragonfly Community Arts with additional support from AZ Gallery and the Asian American Women Artists Association.


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