Sunday, February 26, 2012

Looking for Jiro Onuma

Lecture and Exhibition Review

Tina Takemoto's "Looking for Jiro Onuma: Queering Japanese American Incarceration Camps"

On February 7 the Townsend Working Group in Contemporary Art hosted a
lecture by California College for the Arts Professor Tina Takemoto about
Jiro Onuma, a gay Japanese man who was incarcerated in an American
concentration camp during World War II. We know about Jiro because his
photo diary is in the archives of the GLBT Historical Society in San
Francisco. The collection includes photographs from Jiro's life before and
during incarceration.

The photographs before his imprisonment are fascinating. He worked
cleaning laundry for little money, but his pictures show his friends and
himself dressed in suits. They would pose in outdoor public spaces, often
in front of recognizable landmarks and symbols of affluence, such as
luxury apartment buildings. Jiro's photographs are manifestations of his
ambitions for a better life.

Takemoto showed a group photograph of the kitchen staff where Jiro worked
while interned. She attempted to discover the identity and history of each
person depicted. During the discussion a fellow audience member recognized
her father in the photograph and volunteered to help Takemoto with her

The GLBT History Museum in San Francisco also has an exhibit about Jiro
Onuma if you are interested in learning more about him. Their website is

- Ryan McDaniel

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