Misuzu Kaneko’s Portrait

Ever since FriBoy was born, I’ve been wondering how much of my own culture to let him appropriate, should he be more Romanian or Swiss or European since he spends a lot of time in Spain or the Netherlands. Then I decided to teach him to be human above all and let him chose what and how much he wants to appropriate of the rest.

Then I came across Misuzu Kaneko, whose life and work is the embodiment of what makes us human.

She was forgotten in her native Japan and all her work almost lost until Setsuo Yazaki, a poet himself, came across one of her poems published in a journal. He started digging more but could not find any of Misuzu’s work, all manuscripts had been lost or destroyed in WWII. He spent 16 years searching until he tracked down her younger brother, who gave him her diaries, the only remaining copy of her work. Most of her poems had never been published before. I hope my son will grow to know such passion and dedication.

In 2011 after the tsunami that devastated Japan, TV commercials were stopped and Kaneko’s poem “Are You an Echo?” was broadcast which “helped to demonstrate … that language could help with the work of healing and maintaining civility in the face of terrible odds.”

This is what I try to teach my son, HUMANITY before ETHNICITY.

Watashi To Kotori To Susuzu To – Me and a bird and a bell

No matter how I spread my arms
I can not fly at all,
But unlike me, a flying bird
Can not run fast on ground.
Though I rock my body back and forth
It makes no pretty sounds,
Yet unlike me, a ringing bell
Does not know many songs.
A bell, a bird, and also me,
All are different, all are good.

This is a mixed media painting, cotton embroidery and oil on canvas. There are few photo’s of Misuzu available. I feel like this is more out of my imagination, but I hope I did her justice.

I wanted to catch the delicateness and melancholy of her poems. I think I made her face look almost too sad.

Read more about Misuzu here and here . Also the book of poems Are you an echo? is available here.

“Are you an echo?” book

Photo and more about Misuzu here.

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