HIGASHIMATSUYAMA, SAITAMA PREF. – While nearly 70 years have passed since the end of World War II, highlighting the horror of the atomic bombings of Japan can still be controversial in the United States, where many believe the attacks were necessary to bring a quick end to the war.
An upcoming exhibition at a university museum in Washington may prove no exception as renowned atomic bomb paintings by Japanese husband and wife artists Iri and Toshi Maruki will be displayed in the United States for the first time in 20 years.
But the organizers believe the exhibition of the so-called Hiroshima Panels will be worth seeing because it will not only offer images of Japanese civilian victims but will also allude to the implications for nuclear weapons at a time when the push for nuclear disarmament suffered another setback at a United Nations conference in May.
To mark the 70th anniversary year since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, six of the panels will be showcased as part of the Atomic Bomb Exhibition at the American University Museum in Washington from June 13 to Aug. 16. They will also be exhibited at the Pioneer Works Center for Arts and Innovation in New York between November and December, according to the Japanese gallery.
While each panel has its own significance, Peter Kuznick, an American University history professor who has been preparing the event, said two paintings have been added to the exhibition lineup to avoid portraying Japanese as “simply innocent victims.”
One of them, titled the “Death of American Prisoners of War,” depicts U.S. POWs who died in the atomic blast in Hiroshima as well as some who survived it but were beaten to death by Japanese captors. The other titled “Crows” features the discriminatory treatment of Korean forced laborers who were also among the atomic bomb victims.
The two works “show the Japanese as both victims and victimizers and that’s usually the way things are in reality in history,” Kuznick said in a recent telephone interview. He added that the important thing is to “complicate” simplistic historical narratives to recognize that what happened to the Japanese could have been anyone else’s fate.
Read more at Famed Hiroshima Panels bound for U.S. in bid to spark rethink of A-bombings