When Shizumi Shigeto Manale was visiting All Souls Unitarian Church in 2006 and saw the 48 colorful drawings made by children who had survived the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, she was driven to share with the world the children’s powerful story of resilience and hope. The drawings had been uncovered in a box in 1995 by a church parishioner after 50 years since the Japanese children had sent them in appreciation for the art supplies they received after the war from the church.
During their visit to All Souls Unitarian Church last month with Maryland-based artist Shizumi Manale and Seijyu Kahou, founder of the Pan Asian Association, Henry and Lisa Polgar of the Panamerican-Panafrican Association (the PaPa), easily understood Manale’s passion to bring the drawings to world attention through her documentary film, “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” The beauty and joy of each brightly colored drawing had no resemblance to the horror that the children had just experienced from the bombing. While 400 children died on that day in the Honkawa Elementary School in Hiroshima the drawings symbolized the ability that children have to overcome devastation.
To tell the dramatic story, producer Shizumi Manale and the film’s director, Bryan Reichhardt travelled to Japan and were able to identify the artists who, now in their 70s, revealed in their own words how their paintings could have expressed such joy and innocence when they were children. The documentary also captures the emotional journey of members of All Souls Unitarian Church to Japan to reunite for the first time the drawings with the surviving artists.
The PaPa was instrumental in having the film shown in October 2019 at the United Nations Side Events of the meetings of the First Committee in cooperation with the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs on the occasion of the Youth 4 Disarmament Initiative and Peace Boat landing. Clearly, the young people at the UN event appreciated hearing the heart rendering stories from the survivors and the positive effects of kindness and reconciliation.
Shizumi Shigeto Manale is a dancer, performing artist, choreographer, director, author, and film producer born in Hiroshima and raised in Osaka, Japan. She has received numerous awards for her works, nationally and internationally. Her Japanese-language children’s picture book and storytelling DVD 48 Colors of Dreams was privately published in Hiroshima in 2012 and in 2019 copies were distributed to schools in the Hiroshima region. The English version, Running with Cosmos Flowers, was published by Pelican publisher on 2014. Shizumi’s new Japanese fiction book Crayons of Dreams on Hope was published by Bungeisa in Tokyo in 2019.
All Souls Unitarian Church has been in the forefront of the social justice movement. And when it’s pastor A. Powell Davies, read an article in the Washington Post celebrating the atomic bomb task force which showed a photo of an angel food cake in the shape of an atomic bomb mushroom cloud, which was being proudly cut by the celebrants, he was so angered by the casual response to the devastation of the bomb dropping. He gave an Armistice Day sermon titled “Lest the Living Forget” and launched the effort to get art supplies to the young children whose classrooms were destroyed during the bombing.
Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard was supported by the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, the City of Hiroshima / Mayor of Hiroshima, and the United States-Japan Foundation, among many others.
The film will be have its next showing on March 26 at The Aligned Center in Irvington, NY, in the Film+Maker Series with EngageAsia!
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