The Art of Gaman

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The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans, including men, women, children, the elderly, and the infirm, for the duration of the war. The evacuation affected the entire Japanese American population on the West Coast. Allowed only what they could carry, they were given just a few days to settle their affairs and report to assembly charters. Businesses were lost, personal property was stolen or vandalized, and lives were shattered. Imprisoned in remote camps surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by soldiers with machine guns, the internees sought solace in art.

The Japanese word gaman means enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity. Struggling to form communities within the camps, the internees practiced gaman through artistic expression-fashioning furniture from scrap lumber, weaving baskets from unraveled twine, making corsages from shells dug up from an ancient seabed. What they created is a celebration of the nobility of the human spirit in adversity. The Art of Gaman presents more than 150 examples of art created by internees, along with a history of the camps complemented by archival photography from Ansel Adams, Clem Albers, and Dorothea Lange. Featuring objects painstakingly gathered from former internees and museum holdings, The Art of Gaman brings together a moving and diverse assemblage of internment art never before shown in one powerful collection.

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