We tend to think that whatever is going on in the news won't affect us, but I saw it first hand with my dad,  Oscar Takashi Oshiro, how he became the protagonist overnight, not always the kind of main character who makes it out alive. For me this is where painting takes over and becomes the witness, the proof of my father’s presence. That he was not the ghost that we lived with for years, or the black and white faded picture on a banner waving on the streets of Buenos Aires during a protest, but a human being who gave his life to make a better world standing up to the repression and injustice of the military dictatorship. 

I'd like to catch those ephemeral moments, depict his smile when he wasn't a political activist or a labor lawyer defending factory workers but just my dad. 

The gesture itself of creating a new image out of nothing, as a reaction of the action done by his murderers who tried to make his identity disappear, switching his name and those of the other 30 thousands with a number.

I spent more than twenty years drawing, painting portraits, eyes of strangers. Always avoiding the subject that it was right in front of me since I was 5 years old, but that I was never seem ready to face. I carried that emotional backpack since the day my dad was taken by the Argentinean military dictatorship during the 70's. The weight was always there, or better yet that absence continuously reminding me that I didn't have the definite closure, it was also mixed in with the hope that never dies, the hope to see my father again, unexpectedly, the same way that he was taken a 21st April in 1977.

 

What’s Kintsugi?

It’s the Japanese art of mending breakage in pottery, but it’s not just a technique, it’s also a philosophical idea connected to the wabi-sabi, which is finding beauty on something imperfect and flawed. I felt that Kintsugi fit as the perfect metaphor to remember those men and women struck by the tragedy of losing their loved ones so suddenly, having their lives in pieces, they found the resiliency and the courage to pick up those pieces and move on, demanding answers from a government that was committing genocide.

Embracing the acceptance of change, (mushin) like in “Kintsugi” the object repaired with gold becomes more beautiful due to its history and flaws.

Historical Background

Japanese people moved to North and South America for economic opportunities during the first half of the 20th century. Their main goal was to return to Japan once they had the resources. After Japan’s defeat in World War II, most of the Nikkei decided to stay and make the visiting country their home. They kept a tight grip on their roots, and traditions. Most of the Nikkei still considered themselves visitors, so they wouldn’t take part in local politics; they kept to themselves and married among themselves. What the seventeen have in common is that they were outspoken, they took part in politics, they didn’t stay on the sidelines, they considered themselves true Argentineans and they disrupted the status quo, that started with small revolutions at home, like marrying who they loved without worrying about ethnicity.

 

Who is a Desaparecido?

 

The dictatorship eliminated any opposition by using the excuse of going after armed  insurgency groups to exterminate a generation. Violence was the norm, not the exception, employed to maintain power over citizens. Many methods were used to keep up this “social discipline,” as they called it: fear-mongering, censorship, surveillance, exile, incarceration without trials. This state-sanctioned violence culminated in the establishment of secret detention centers throughout the Argentinian territory where citizens could be taken against their will, interrogated, tortured, murdered, robbed of their possessions and either buried in mass graves or thrown out of an airplane into the Río de la Plata.

This phenomenon of the “disappeared” or desaparecido was the military dictatorship’s attempt to erase opposition, people’s identities, histories, and what they stood for. 

There are 17 desaparecidos Nikkei (Japanese descent) in Argentina that we know of.

 

New Point of View for Kintsugi, Part II.

The installation comprises seventeen chairs holding 16 (36 in x 36 in) portraits, an extra empty canvas remembering Juán Alberto Cardozo-Higa and the 30 thousands desaparecidos of Argentina.

From the day that my father was torn off our lives, my dad’s chair at the family table was the constant reminder of his absent.

The places we visited, the people we knew were always there, everything was the same except for his presence that changed from his physical self, the funny outgoing dad that would take me to school on his shoulders to a silent space, a memory in my brain materialized in the shape of a chair. His chair was holding his absence like the chairs in the installation.

I am coming to terms with the absence, accepting their fate not as a defeat, but I understand that they were taken because of their value for society. The military took the crème de la crème, artists, professionals in every field, journalists, poets, etc.                                 

The past two years have seen a lot of changes among the relatives and inside myself. Each family has become stronger and realizes that the desaparecidos Nikkei lead the way to be part of society and not just guests.  

In the first installation at “Espacio Cultural de la Biblioteca del Congreso de la Nación in Buenos Aires, the installation was made of doors forming a circle that it was closed with only one door opened inviting the visitors to have a dialogue.                                                      

We are all the result of all the events and experiences that shaped our existence, adversity and all that makes us unique beautiful individuals.

After years of silence and carrying the disappearance of our loved ones almost as an stigma I wanted to shout to the world that we’re not hiding anymore, that we are proud of our desaparecidos, that we are letting go of the pain and we are wearing the scars and imperfections as “battle scars” and it’s something that made us stronger.                                   

Today the huge absence left by the desaparecidos is still palpable, it’s felt as much as their presence was once felt or perhaps even more, there’s also the realization that their legacy of openness to other races, their hybrid mentality, integration to their South American country and their commitment to make a better place is alive and kicking with the new generations.

After forty-two years in Argentina the relatives of the desaparecidos are still looking for justice to be made and answers about the fate of the desaparecidos. After all this time these faces on canvas haven’t been forgotten.

Why is important to remember these stories?

History revisionists are trying to erase the desaparecidos from Argentina’s history. Like the Holocaust deniers, many Argentinean politicians deny the number of desaparecidos. 

Nowadays the government in Argentina has improved since those dark days from 1970's and 1980's, but it is still adopting the same common practices used during the repression of state terrorism like disappearance, torture and murder.  

Zamba de mi Esperanza

 

Zamba de mi esperanza

amanecida como un querer,

sueño, sueño del alma

que a veces muere sin florecer.

Zamba, a ti te canto

porque tu canto derrama amor,

caricia de tu pañuelo

que va envolviendo mi corazón.

Estrella, tu que miraste,

tu que escuchaste mi parecer,

estrella, deja que cante,

deja que quiera como yo se,

estrella, deja que cante,

deja que quiera como yo se.

El tiempo que va pasando

como la vida no vuelve mas

el tiempo me va matando

y tu cariño sera, sera.

Hundido en horizontes

soy polvadera que al viento va

zamba, ya no me dejes,

yo sin tu canto no vivo mas.

 

The military published a list with forbidden books, movies, music,  following song was of the forbidden 

This one in particular is one of the songs that my father used to sing with me. 

I wanted to be one of the songs playing during the art show.

"Takashi" Acrylics on canvas. 36 in. x 36 in.

"Julio Gushiken" Acrylics on canvas. 36 in. x 36 in.