New photos revealed of Japanese internment camp

On April 3, 2014

Art and photographs from the Rohwer Japanese Internment camp were displayed for public viewing for the first time in history Tuesday as part of a research project conducted by Sarah Wilkerson-Freeman, professor of history.

Students, faculty and the public were invited to the free exhibit and presentation hosted in the Wilson Hall auditorium.

The photographs taken were of residents held at the Japanese internment camp. The photos reflected what their life was like onsite and how their families interacted with one another.

“It is my goal to have the photos, which I call the faces of film, to reach the public so that they may see (Japanese internment) involved real human beings with real feelings and emotions,” Freeman said.

The Rohwer relocation camp was located in Desha County, Ark., and in operation from 1942 to 1944, during World War II.

The maximum population was recorded at 8,475 evacuees in 1943, according to

The photos displayed were from Paul and Ann Faris, married photographer historians. They were invited to the camp to photograph camp life and artists at work.

The photographs they took were brought back to Hendrix College in Conway during their lifetime, and the public since has seen only a few.

Camp residents were not allowed to take photographs, but they found other ways to create art and express themselves.

Artwork was used to commemorate special moments and record their lives while they were interned.

One artist mentioned during the presentation was Japanese internee Henry Sugimoto, whose watercolor paintings reflected camp life for him and his family.

Another resident of the camp key to the exhibit was May Yakura.

The research on Yakur was presented by Wilkerson-Freeman’s student Alissa Smith.

“Yakura led a flower arrangement class for men and women at the camp,” Smith said.

Many of the residents were gardening contractors, fishermen and farmers. Wood carving was another popular art in the camp.

“The people in the camps made something out of their unusual existence,” Freeman said.

The residents used Kobu wood for wood carving and polished it with a rag and tooth powder.

“Fanatics would polish, or pet, their wood carvings at night sometimes,” Freeman said. This was due to the detachment many people had from pets and the feeling of loneliness acquired while isolated from the rest of the world.

One such wood carving artist was Chester Fujino, who came to the camp in 1942.

He taught woodcarving and became chairman of the community council and influenced the creation of the Teenage Club.

This was a place where the Japanese teenagers could go to hang out and listen to music in the camp.

“It was important for the adults to make sure the children had as much of a childhood as their predicament would allow,” Freeman said.

This event marked the first public viewing of Paul and Ann Faris’ photographs.

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