Hiroshima children's art restored in Washington

Takashi Sadahiro / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent
Drawings and calligraphy by children who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima have been restored and are to be be exhibited, possibly next month.

The 48 powerful works--created 60 years ago by primary school children shortly after the bombing--depict scenes of peace such as sports days and carp-shaped streamers flown for Children's Day, and had been hidden away in a Washington church.

Negotiations are under way to display the works in Japan and the United States.
"What a beautiful gesture and what love in their hearts the children must have had, after the horrible thing that had happened. The spirits of the drawings struck me," said Paul Pfeiffer who cooperated in restoring the pieces and lives near All Souls Church in Washington, where the children's drawings had been stored.

The art works were sent to the church as thanks for stationery and study material donated in 1947 by the church to schools in Hiroshima.

Rev. Powell Davies was critical of public sentiment at the time in the United States that praised the atomic bomb as a new weapon that put an end to the war. He decided to send stationary to schools such as Honkawa Primary School that were located near the epicenter of the bombing.
Pfeiffer's wife Jane, who had worked as Davies' secretary said, "Rev. Davies said, 'You people don't understand the implications of the atom bomb.' He'd used all the money he had available to show there were Americans who cared about people in Hiroshima."

A thank-you letter and drawings using crayon and paint from a school that was nearly destroyed greatly impressed the American people and the works were exhibited across the United States.
However, the works were forgotten and kept in a warehouse belonging to the church. Mold grew on the works from the glue used during the exhibitions and in some cases the surface of the drawings were damaged.

After learning about the pieces, Shizumi Manale, a stage artist originally from Japan and now based in Washington, decided she wanted to revive the children's feelings by restoring their work.

Manale asked museum restoration workers to cooperate and began to film the process. The cost of the project, which reached 20,000 dollars, was funded by the parish.
She said that children today should learn from art inspired by deep feelings as well as from classic art works.

Manale is seeking support for exhibiting the children's work in Japan as well as information on students at the school at that time.


Drawings coming home
Honkawa Primary School was located about 350 meters west of the Ground Zero. Of 1,200 children and teachers, about 400 died in or after the bombing.
Honkawa Primary School has received photographs of the drawings from the United States, and it now carries them on its Web site.

But the school has none of the original works, the school said.
The school has cooperated with the restoration project as well as the filming by providing information obtained from three bomb survivors whom the school tracked down through essays by bomb survivors compiled by the school.

Part of the bombed school building is now a peace museum displaying drawings and photographs.
"This is good news. It should be memorable for those who created the works," said Principal Hiromichi Sorama.

The children's drawings are expected to be returned to Honkawa Primary School on Aug. 5, one day prior to the anniversary of the atomic bombing, by people working on the the project in the United States.
(Jun. 27, 2007)