By Passport Miami Editors
Consul General of Japan in Miami, Eiichi Kawahara; Stella Holmes; Ambassador of Brazil, Helio Vitor Ramos Filho; Neil Hecker, WPBT Vice President Programming.
By Passport Miami Editors
The venerable University of Miami Lowe Art Museum was the setting for a reception and preview of a new documentary produced by Miami based art collector and museum trustee Stella Holmes entitled “WEST Encounters EAST”. The documentary examines the artistic origins and history of Japanese Brazilian artists whose story is little known outside of Brazil.
More than 200 guests attended the reception. Among the dignitaries in attendance were Ambassador Hélio Vitor Ramos, Consul General of Brazil, and Mr. Eiichi Kawahara, Consul General of Japan, both of whom Ms. Holmes thanked in her opening remarks for their support of her documentary project, as well as City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado.
Brazil is the home to some 1.5 million Japanese which is the largest population of Japanese in the world outside of Japan. The first Japanese immigrated to Brazil in the early 1900’s to work on the coffee plantations amid difficult conditions. With the end of feudalism in Japan came great poverty, and many Japanese began to immigrate in search of a better life. So began the story of the introduction of the Japanese culture in Brazil.
This interplay of the Japanese and Brazilian cultures has influenced the community of Japanese artists in Brazil who have emerged from this unique experience. “West Encounters East” explores the unique fusion of Eastern and Western artistic traditions found in the works of well-known and emerging Japanese-Brazilian artists who immigrated to Latin American during the 20th Century.
The documentary examines their lifestyles, traditions, culture and art while exploring the themes of immigration, dual identity, alienation and assimilation in their work.
Ms. Holmes and her team traveled to Brazil and to Japan in the making of the documentary. In the documentary, Holmes guides viewers through Brazil’s Japanese artistic community, introducing the artists and discussing their modes of expression and creative processes. In Sao Paulo she met and interviewed several Japanese artists including Tomie Ohtake, now almost 100 years old, who is an icon of the Japanese Brazilian artistic community. Another, Yutaka Toyota, who is known in both Brazil and Japan for his monumental sculptures, also toured the documentary team in Japan, where he introduced them to many Japanese artists, gallery owners and critics.
“Bridging cultures through art has always captured my soul, especially cultures that are so vastly different,” says Ms. Holmes, whose experience in growing up with a Paraguayan mother and Argentine father gave her valuable insights into the issues and challenges examined in this film.
Ms. Holmes also noted in her remarks at the reception that her perspective on the subject was also shaped by her experience living in culturally diverse Miami.
The debut of the documentary trailer was followed by “Art-Historical Crossroads,” a lively and informative discussion between Cornell University Professor Pedro Erber, PhD, who specializes in Brazilian literature, intellectual history and visual culture, and Takashi Fukushima, one of the artists featured in the film, whose father was one of the founding members of the Japanese-Brazilian art movement in São Paulo.
Ms. Holmes is a benefactor of the Stella Holmes Research Center at the University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum where she is a member of the Director’s Circle and the principal supporter of ArtLab, an exhibition program launched by the Lowe and the Art and Art History Department to provide students with hands-on experience in curating museum exhibitions.
“West Encounters East” is being aired on 180 television stations around the United States, and plans call for it to be broadcast soon in Brazil. For further information on “West Encounters East” visit www.westencounterseast.com.