On one side of a two-page spread is a portrait; on the other, the words of that person in Japanese, Spanish and English. The familiarity of their expressions may be due to the fact that the people are Mexicans of Japanese descent.
“A Land of Memories”, is a book of photographs that was born from an art project by a unit made up of Muroran-born artist, Hagino Miho, and architect Taro Zorrilla, who has both Japanese and Mexican roots. For five years since 2008, they visited and interviewed Japanese immigrants and their children and grandchildren – people of Japanese descent – and created the images based on the footage they filmed. The book is a compilation of the photographs and words that were exhibited along with the footage.
The book of photographs contains the portraits of 111 Mexicans of Japanese descent, as well as words regarding their identity and other things they learned from their immigrant forefathers.
“First, purity comes from the heart”, “Never forget gratitude and appreciation” – words like these were inherited from their forefathers as something special, and it is comforting to know that they are being passed on to their children and grandchildren. As a Japanese, I wonder if I have words to inherit and pass on to my descendants.
The history of immigrants to Mexico and Central and South America began in 1897. From 1906 through ’07, approximately 9,000 people arrived in Mexico and they continued arriving until the 1970s. The immigrants themselves created the term “of Japanese descent” and discovered their identity in the new culture they developed. More than 20 years have passed since Hagino herself emigrated to Mexico, and she is also conscious of being “of Japanese descent”.
All the photos in the book were taken in monochrome, and information on what generation of Japanese descent they are was excluded as far as possible. By just looking at their faces, it is unknown if they spoke in Japanese or Spanish.
According to Hagino, “We wanted to express their existence using just words”. “The Japan that they speak about is different to Japan that I was born, lived or experienced; in their imaginations is something like an ideal country.” What Hagino and Zorrilla created is a small history that exists in each individual. With the records eliminated, the words of the individual memories that were extracted have reached our hearts by transcending the background of Japan, Mexico or Japanese descent. This is shareable heritage that transcends time and locations, and is Hagino’s contemporary art.
The postscript of the book of photos contains a particularly memorable quote from one man. “The first time you understand who you are and what you are, I think lots of things – many of them good – start to emerge.
Hagino,Miho and Zorrilla,Taro. A Land in Memories (Scheduled to be published/sold in the spring of 2019)