Lanesboro Arts is honored to present “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard,” an art exhibit featuring prints of pictures drawn by children who survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb, as a thank-you for school materials sent in 1947 from All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington DC. The exhibit is part of the “In Peace, With Honor” program and will open with a reception in the St. Mane Theatre Lobby on Thursday, September 21, 2017, from 6-8 p.m. in conjunction with “Return of Sword.” The exhibit will conclude with a closing reception in the Lobby of the St. Mane Theatre on Saturday, September 30 from 6 – 9 p.m. in conjunction with a screening of a documentary film that tells the story of “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” The exhibit will also be available for viewing 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. September 21 – 23 & 28 – 30, in the St. Mane Theatre Lobby.
In 1995, a box was uncovered at the home of a parishioner of All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington D.C. In that box were 48 colorful drawings made by children as thanks for gifts received from the church fifty years earlier. The brightly colored pictures depicted scenes of beauty and joy—self-portraits, a cityscape, festival flags and kites flying against a bright blue sky, children on a playground, cherry blossoms in bloom, city traffic on a bridge, a girl in a beautiful kimono—these were the subjects the children chose to draw. There were no pictures of sadness, no trauma, no fear. None of the pictures reflected the horror these children had endured less than two years earlier when a bomb, like no other before it, was dropped and detonated above their homes in the city of Hiroshima, Japan.
Kenji Nakazawa remembered a clear blue sky on the morning of August 6th, 1945. While talking to the mother of a friend on his way to school, he noticed a B-29 bomber plane miles above the city. Kiyomi was late to school that morning. As she and a friend changed into the gym shoes before joining their classmates in the yard, a second sun detonated above their city. All went black. Kiyomis was the only student of Honakawa Elementary School to survive that day
On August 5, 1945, the Reverend A. Powell Davies, Pastor of All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington DC, was horrified to hear about the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. He knew that the bomb’s release had changed the world forever. Paul Pfeiffer, a parishioner at All Souls, was a Naval officer in the Pacific fleet in 1945. He remembered the feelings of elation and relief when the bomb was dropped. Judith Bauer, also a parishioner, remembered a somber reaction to the news. Though bitterness ran deep across America after such a brutal war, many recognized the horrible magnitude of the event.
One year later, near the anniversary of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Rev. Davies saw a photo in a newspaper that shocked and enraged him. Davies’ indignation over the image was reported nation-wide and eventually reached a member of General MacArthur’s civilian staff in Japan, Howard Bell. Mr. Bell wrote to Rev. Davies and suggested a way to help.
Davies inspired his congregation to collect school supplies for the children of Honkawa Elementary School in Hiroshima, who had survived the bombing and were struggling to move on with their lives. In December of 1947, a ton of school supplies and other gifts were delivered to Hiroshima. In gratitude, those same children sent a collection of drawings to the All Souls parishioners, beautiful drawings of cherry blossoms, festivals, children playing and picking flowers, kites in the sky. The drawings showed in brilliant color the children’s memories of better times and their hopes and dreams for the future.
The pictures were celebrated in 1948, but over the decades they disappeared from view and memory until they were serendipitously rediscovered in 1995. The pictures were moved to a vault in the church, and for years members would pull them out exclusively for atomic bomb survivors, or “Hibakusha,” the Japanese word meaning “explosion affected person.”
In 2010, the drawings were brought back to Hiroshima and reunited with the artists who drew them. Working together, members of All Souls Church and the surviving artists hang the pictures on the very walls of the building in which they were created, allowing them to radiate their message of peace and hope to the world.