From Devil to Human Being — Postwar RECONCILIATION between former enemies

From Devil to Human Being: Celebrating Postwar Reconciliation,  Herbert Smith Freehills Library, University of Sydney (Photo by Felicity Jenkins)

From Devil to Human Being: Celebrating Postwar Reconciliation, Herbert Smith Freehills Library, University of Sydney (Photo by Felicity Jenkins)

Group Peace Activities, depicting groups who are currently reaching out across cultures for peaceful reconciliation (Photo by Felicity Jenkins)

I curated an exhibition of historical photographs and documents in the Law Library at the University of Sydney which reflect grass-roots reconciliation efforts between Japan and other nations involved in the Asia-Pacific theatre of WWII. From Devil to Human Being: Celebrating Postwar Reconciliation (23 Sept. 2015– 6 January 2016) illustrates individuals’ and groups’ efforts to reach out across cultures and animosities. The exhibition presented case studies from the research of Sydney University academic Dr. Yasuko Claremont and coincided with the conference Wounds, Scars and Healing: Civil Society and Postwar Pacific Basin Reconciliation (30 September – 2 October 2015).

Testament, depicting memorials to Chinese victims of the Japanese in WWII (Photo by Felicity Jenkins)

Many of the stories represented offer examples of bravery and compassion, as former prisoners of war revisit sites of torture and former enemies tell each other about their experiences of the war. Alongside this, there are remarkable tales of individuals who showed kindness to one another whilst ‘enemies’ during the war.

I designed and installed the exhibition. As the images reflect grass-roots reconciliation activities many were privately taken photos and were of a lower resolution quality. Due to this my exhibition design had to problem-solve the small size of many of the images. I chose to embrace the sense of memory and personal interaction found in many of the images by displaying the photos in six mock photo-albums mounted in box frames, and illustrating six salient themes.

Following the exhibition, I assisted Dr. Claremont with the production of a publication on her research into grass-roots reconciliation, titled Citizen Power: Postwar Reconciliation (published by the University of Sydney Press, 2017).

The exhibition was made possible by the University of Sydney Chancellor’s Committee and the Australia Japan Foundation.

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