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Yellow Bowl

A couple pay their respect at ten former Japanese internment camps




Photos by Setsuko Winchester

February 19 saw the 75th anniversary of the signing of FDR’s wartime order condemning 120,000 West Coast Japanese—most of them American citizens—to years of detention in ten remote concentration camps. Setsuko Winchester, former NPR journalist turned ceramicist, expresses her disquiet at this near-forgotten injustice in a unique and strangely beautiful art project, as her husband Simon Winchester explains:

We set off from Sandisfield early on a November Sunday morning in 2015, bound for the Mississippi Delta, that floodplain-flat expanse of cotton plantations and pecan orchards and blues-and-jazz country that still is said to be “the most Southern place on earth.” Our car was fully laden—suitcases, hiking gear, maps, cameras, and one enormous box filled with the purpose of our marathon: 120 small yellow ceramic bowls, carefully packed in foam, made as memorials to a barely remembered American tragedy.

Born in New York City of Japanese immigrant parents, Setsuko came only late in life to an understanding of the wartime internment program. After much thought, she decided she would employ her ceramic skills to give substance to what she sensed was growing fear and intolerance in today’s America—and to use what had happened to the internees as an instance of the kind of injustice that could well happen again to other vulnerable minority groups.

For several weeks during the late summer of 2015, she laboriously hand-pinched 120 tea bowls, one to symbolize every thousand prisoners. She fashioned these bowls, symbols in Japanese culture of courtesy, gentility, and civility, into a variety of shapes and sizes—just like the prisoners themselves, a third of whom were infants and children.

She then glazed them in various shades of yellow—the Japanese were, not so long ago infamously regarded alongside the Chinese as constituting a “yellow peril,” who might overrun America with their widely-feared and alien ways.

Setsuko’s plan was to place and then photograph her collection in various configurations at each of the ten internment camps that had been constructed to house the Japanese. The camps, in remote and inhospitable corners of the country, were hastily and shoddily built by the War Relocation Authority in early 1942. Surrounded by barbed-wire fences and guarded by soldiers, the camps today are mostly unvisited and overlooked, and reveal little of their wartime history. We were off to visit them all. 

We first arrived at the pair known as Rohwer and Jerome, built in southeastern Arkansas, where 17,000 internees had been held—George Takei of “Star Trek” fame, the best known. During their three-year existence, the camps were equal in population size to the biggest cities in the state. Now private farms, not much remains, just the chimneys of the old hospital building—though efforts to preserve evidence of what happened are popping up.

Interpretive kiosks have been built at Rohwer, a scale replica of the guard tower at Jerome. There is a scattering of grave markers, both for those who died while interned as well as memorials to the internees who served heroically in the U.S. Army. Those who died in battle were, in the cruelest of ironies, brought back to be buried in the camps since their family homes had been forcibly abandoned. 

Where the barracks had once stood, there were now expansive fields ready for planting. We spent some hours in the damp warmth of early December imagining the mosquito-busy heat of summer, arranging the bowls, and Setsuko took her photographs. More than an occasional car whooshed by, none stopped.

Next morning we headed west across Texas, New Mexico, to the far edge of Arizona, the site of a second prison, the baking-hot Poston Camp. Just as in Arkansas, there was little to see—a rather handsome memorial a mile or so away, and behind a chain-link fence, a few half-broken barrack blocks used 20 years ago as a community center. Few locals knew much about the place, as though the sorry history needed to be erased from memory. 

It was much the same at the three other camps we visited over the coming weeks of late fall. Gila River Camp, between Phoenix and Tucson, was on Native American land; Manzanar, in the mountains of southern California, was run by the National Park Service, but few visit, funds are scarce, and park signs bear gunshot scars. At Amache in southeastern Colorado, a local schoolmaster had raised funds to build a watchtower and restore a couple of buildings. His students, almost entirely Hispanic, visit the site often, though when we arranged the bowls on the grass, the site was deserted, too, and the soughing of the chill foothill winds was the only sound we heard.

We returned to the Berkshires for the winter, then set out in mid-spring to visit the final four camps in the north. Heart Mountain, Wyoming, near the cowboy town of Cody, had an impressive interpretive center. At Minidoka in southern Idaho, a young couple arrived while we were visiting: The wife’s Japanese parents had been interned there. 

At Tule Lake Camp in northern California near the Canadian border, a ranger remarked that more people were visiting these days—but to see how internment operated after hearing Mr. Trump refer to it as a solution. 

Finally, after a day-long drive over some of the emptiest desert territory in the West, we came to the vast wilderness of Topaz Camp in central Utah, all cactus, blistering heat, and nothingness. As we placed the bowls one final time, we could only imagine how it must have been for thousands who had been compelled to make their lives here until the war was over. And then, when peace returned, to be given $25 and a bus ticket, and told to get going. 

After that, we went home, too. The 120 bowls, each intact and unbroken, were taken from their box and returned to the studio in Sandisfield where they had been made. What now remains is how my wife will use her pictures to help ensure that internment without trial is never used in this country again—not on Japanese, Muslims, Mexicans, anybody.


A selection of Setsuko Winchester’s photographs— titled “Freedom From Fear/The Yellow Bowl Project”—is on exhibit through December 31 at the FDR Presidential Library & Museum in Hyde Park, New York. On Saturday, March 25, at 5:30 p.m., she and her husband, Simon Winchester, will give a  talk at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.  The event is co-sponsored by the Norman Rockwell Museum and Berkshire Magazine.

Photo: The Norman Rockwell Museum Four Freedoms Rotunda in Stockbridge.

 Photo: U.S. Supreme Court building

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The Washington Art Association & Gallery is pleased to present State of Abstraction, an exhibition of contemporary abstract art by Connecticut artists from May 5 - June 16, 2018. Co-Curated...

Cost: Free and open to the public

Where:
Washington Art Association & Gallery
4 Bryan Hall Plaza
P.O. Box 173
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: Washington Art Association & Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-2878
Contact Name: Barbara von Schreiber
Website »

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Take a one-hour guided tour of the historic Lyndhurst mansion overlooking the Hudson River. The Gothic Revival mansion has been used as a movie set for six major motion pictures...

Cost: $18

Where:
Lyndhurst
635 S. Broadway
Tarrytown, NY  10591
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Website »

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This hilltop paradise, now a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. Read our review of the guided...

Cost: $25

Where:
Kykuit
381 N. Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, NY  10591
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Website »

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KMR Arts is proud to present MAYDAY, an exhibition of new photographs by Barbara Vaughn. Please join us for the opening reception with the artist on June 2, 2018, from 3-7pm, 2 Titus Road,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot , CT  06794
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Website »

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Architect and designer, Osvaldo Borsani (1911-1985), was a giant of Italian modern design and co-founder of Tecno. George Champion Modern Shop will celebrate...

Cost: free

Where:
George Champion Modern Shop
442 Main St. South
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: George Champion Modern Shop
Telephone: 203-263-8442
Contact Name: George Champion
Website »

More information

SilverSource – the leading resource for older adults and their families– announced today that it is now accepting nominations for the 2018 SilverSource Awards.  The awards...

Cost: FREE

Where:
SilverSource, Inc.
2009 Summer Street, 3rd Floor
2949 Long Ridge Rd
Stamford, CT  06905
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Sponsor: SilverSource, Inc.
Telephone: 203-324-6584
Contact Name: Kathleen Bordelon
Website »

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Opening Reception: Apr 28 at 2:00 PM Date of Show : Apr 28 - May 27  See the artists website at www.erikacrofut.com Each month the Sandisfield Arts Center proudly...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sandisfield Arts Center
5 Hammertown Rd.
Sandisfield, MA  01255
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Sponsor: Sandisfield Arts Center
Telephone: 413-258-4100
Contact Name: Marcella Smith
Website »

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West Stockbridge Chamber Players’ Spring Benefit Concert   On Friday, May 25th at 6 p.m., Boston Symphony Orchestra members Sheila Fiekowsky, violin, Daniel Getz, viola, Oliver...

Cost: 35.00 per ticket

Where:
Old Town Hall
9 Main Street
West Stockbridge, MA  01266
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Sponsor: West Stockbridge Historical Society
Telephone: 413-232-5055
Contact Name: Carol Kuller
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Kick off your Memorial Day weekend with family fun under the stars with a FREE showing of the animated movie “Ferdinand” (rated PG) on Friday, May 25th at Jesse Lee Memorial United...

Cost: Free movie, food is for purchase

Where:
Jesse Lee Church
207 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT  06877
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Sponsor: Ridgefield Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 120-343-85992
Contact Name: Jen Mulhern
Website »

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The event, L.O.L. Love of Languages, will be a celebration of world languages and culture, and will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Foran High School cafeteria and courtyard. Teachers Pam...

Cost: Free

Where:
Foran High School
80 Foran Rd
Milford, CT  06460
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Website »

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Peter and the Starcatcher is a play based on the 2004 novel Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, adapted for the stage by Rick Elice. The play provides a backstory for the...

Cost: $20 admission; $15 for seniors; $10 for kids

Where:
Western CT State University
Visual Performing Arts Center
Danbury, CT  06811
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Website »

More information

With his unique blend of Blues and Americana, Keb Mo has garnered four Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Blues and Best Country/Acoustic Blues Albums plus five more nominations for Blues,...

Cost: $48-$88

Where:
Tarrytown Music Hall
13 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
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Website »

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A community-based, family-oriented event with dance performances, professional dance instruction, bands, DJs, and social dancing for youths and adults.​ We are thrilled to continue our...

Where:
Hilton Stamford Hotel & Executive Meeting Center
1 First Stamford Place
Stamford, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

The big glitzy musical Sister Act fared better than the original movie. It received four Olivier Award nominations for its original stage production at London’s West End Theatre. It...

Cost: $59-$89

Where:
Westchester Broadway Theatre
One Broadway Plaza
Elmsford, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

The Pirelli World Challenge series serves up races from all 7 car classes from the Big Dogs (Cadillacs, Bentley’s, Lomborghinis & Porches) to the TC class of Mustangs and BMW 228is, and...

Cost: $60

Where:
Lime Rock Park
60 White Hollow Rd
Lakeville , CT
View map »


Website »

More information

See the majestic beauty of the Hudson River on this 2-hour narrated river adventure from Newburgh to West Point taking in the sights of Washington’s Headquarters, World’s End, Mt....

Cost: $22

Where:
Blu Pointe Landing
100 Front Street
Newburgh, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

Are you just dying to get some dirt under your fingernails this season? Come to Back 40 Farm for Friday Field Days and help us out with weeding, transplanting, hoeing, harvesting, and more! Who:...

Where:
Back 40 Farm
Washington Depot, CT


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Melissa Meyer: Hitting the Right Notes,” her first solo exhibition with the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception...

Cost: Free

Where:
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840


Sponsor: heathergaudiofineart.com
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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Join the Litchfield Historical Society for a Saturday walking tour on May 26 at 10 a.m. Explore some of the sites related to the famous Beecher family, residents of Litchfield from 1810 to 1826....

Cost: Free for members; $5 non-members

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
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Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Litchfield Historical Society
Website »

More information

The Washington Art Association & Gallery is pleased to present State of Abstraction, an exhibition of contemporary abstract art by Connecticut artists from May 5 - June 16, 2018. Co-Curated...

Cost: Free and open to the public

Where:
Washington Art Association & Gallery
4 Bryan Hall Plaza
P.O. Box 173
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Washington Art Association & Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-2878
Contact Name: Barbara von Schreiber
Website »

More information

The US any Blue Angels headline the Jones Beach 15th Annual Memorial Day Weekend Air Show. Plus The Royal Canadian Air Force Snow Birds, the F22 Raptor the Air Force’s newest fighter...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jones Beach
895 Bay Pkwy
Wantagh, NY  11793
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a one-hour guided tour of the historic Lyndhurst mansion overlooking the Hudson River. The Gothic Revival mansion has been used as a movie set for six major motion pictures...

Cost: $18

Where:
Lyndhurst
635 S. Broadway
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

This hilltop paradise, now a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. Read our review of the guided...

Cost: $25

Where:
Kykuit
381 N. Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

KMR Arts is proud to present MAYDAY, an exhibition of new photographs by Barbara Vaughn. Please join us for the opening reception with the artist on June 2, 2018, from 3-7pm, 2 Titus Road,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot , CT  06794
View map »


Website »

More information

The first Litchfield County Zine Fest (and the first zine fest in Connecticut) is coming to Kent, CT! The fest is a free, all-ages, public arts event where self-publishers of all stripes will...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kent Community House
93 North Main Street
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Website »

More information

Architect and designer, Osvaldo Borsani (1911-1985), was a giant of Italian modern design and co-founder of Tecno. George Champion Modern Shop will celebrate...

Cost: free

Where:
George Champion Modern Shop
442 Main St. South
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: George Champion Modern Shop
Telephone: 203-263-8442
Contact Name: George Champion
Website »

More information

SilverSource – the leading resource for older adults and their families– announced today that it is now accepting nominations for the 2018 SilverSource Awards.  The awards...

Cost: FREE

Where:
SilverSource, Inc.
2009 Summer Street, 3rd Floor
2949 Long Ridge Rd
Stamford, CT  06905
View map »


Sponsor: SilverSource, Inc.
Telephone: 203-324-6584
Contact Name: Kathleen Bordelon
Website »

More information

Opening Reception: Apr 28 at 2:00 PM Date of Show : Apr 28 - May 27  See the artists website at www.erikacrofut.com Each month the Sandisfield Arts Center proudly...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sandisfield Arts Center
5 Hammertown Rd.
Sandisfield, MA  01255
View map »


Sponsor: Sandisfield Arts Center
Telephone: 413-258-4100
Contact Name: Marcella Smith
Website »

More information

Ridgefield Guild of Artists’ eighth annual Juried Member Show opens Saturday, May 26th, with a reception scheduled for Saturday, June 2nd from 4-6pm (due to the Memorial Day...

Cost: Free

Where:
Ridgefield Guild of Artists
34 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Website »

More information

Oil paintings by Carol Brightman Johnson will be on display at the Smithy Store Loft Gallery from May 25 to July 7. Hours: daily from 10:00 to 5:30 Subjects include horses, dogs, orchids,...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
10 Main St.
New Preston, CT  06777
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Sponsor: The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

A Benefit For Veterans Featuring exclusive footage of edisun on tour with US Armed Forces. 2005-2018 6PM doors 7PM Film and Musical Performance

Cost: $10.00

Where:
Wall Street Theater
71 Wall Street
Norwalk, CT  06850
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Sponsor: Wall Street Theater
Telephone: 203-283-5290
Contact Name: Jeanne Moore
Website »

More information

Peter and the Starcatcher is a play based on the 2004 novel Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, adapted for the stage by Rick Elice. The play provides a backstory for the...

Cost: $20 admission; $15 for seniors; $10 for kids

Where:
Western CT State University
Visual Performing Arts Center
Danbury, CT  06811
View map »


Website »

More information

Music: Boris Asafiev Choreography: Alexei Ratmansky, after Vasily Vainonen Cast The Bolshoi Principals, Soloists and Corps de Ballet In the era of the French Revolution, Jeanne and...

Cost: $25

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Website »

More information

An evening of ribald, one-man comedy with Wet Hot American Summer actor and stand-up sensation Michael Ian Black. Fans of sketch comedy might know Black’s work from such seminal television...

Cost: $29

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company StageOne
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

“Country Music’s Newest Star”, Jessica Lynn who has been called “Shania’s Successor” is coming to ChappPac. A Lakeland HS and Pace University grad, she...

Cost: $35

Where:
The Chappaqua Performing Arts Center
480 Bedford Road
Chappaqua, NY  10514
View map »


Website »

More information

A community-based, family-oriented event with dance performances, professional dance instruction, bands, DJs, and social dancing for youths and adults.​ We are thrilled to continue our...

Where:
Hilton Stamford Hotel & Executive Meeting Center
1 First Stamford Place
Stamford, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

The big glitzy musical Sister Act fared better than the original movie. It received four Olivier Award nominations for its original stage production at London’s West End Theatre. It...

Cost: $59-$89

Where:
Westchester Broadway Theatre
One Broadway Plaza
Elmsford, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

The Pirelli World Challenge series serves up races from all 7 car classes from the Big Dogs (Cadillacs, Bentley’s, Lomborghinis & Porches) to the TC class of Mustangs and BMW 228is, and...

Cost: $60

Where:
Lime Rock Park
60 White Hollow Rd
Lakeville , CT
View map »


Website »

More information

See the majestic beauty of the Hudson River on this 2-hour narrated river adventure from Newburgh to West Point taking in the sights of Washington’s Headquarters, World’s End, Mt....

Cost: $22

Where:
Blu Pointe Landing
100 Front Street
Newburgh, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery will open an exhibit of fine paintings by Carol Brightman Johnson. Ms. Johnson's show opens on Saturday, May 26 and run through Sunday, July 8, and will feature...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: (860)868-9003
Contact Name: Susan
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Melissa Meyer: Hitting the Right Notes,” her first solo exhibition with the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception...

Cost: Free

Where:
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840


Sponsor: heathergaudiofineart.com
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Do you wish you could read great literature but fear you just can't fit it in? Do you join book clubs only to find yourself not having enough time to read through the entire book? Do you love a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Danbury Library- Lower Level Meeting Room
170 Main St
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Website »

More information

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