I have recently returned to an active life in the arts, painting Buddhist subjects in the ancient Yamato-e (literally “Japanese painting”) style. Through this process, I have rediscovered traditional paper, inks and brushes and the beauty of classical mounting techniques. I showed my new works to the Honolulu Museum of Art in early 2011, and was surprised when the museum proposed an exhibition. This seemed a perfect opportunity to sift through the recesses of my culture and explore the use of traditional means to represent current themes. I have been at work for more than a year now, painting my thoughts and feelings about the difficult situations that we are now facing: the devastation of the earth, violence, and war. My work is intended as a heartfelt letter to a world that has turned down a dangerous path.
Not only has this project given me the opportunity to explore my heritage of traditional Japanese art, but, more importantly, I have learned to embrace a philosophy and lifestyle that advocates peace between people and the land. This way of life has increasingly been threatened in the last 70 years; starting with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and continuing with Fukushima, the fear of nuclear holocaust is ever more tangible. The Shintö sun goddess Amaterasu that is one of the subjects of this exhibition is a symbol of our continuing life force; it is my hope that we, as the children of Amaterasu, can transform our beloved earth into a land of love and aloha.—Mayumi Oda