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Oleander Art, Memory and Peace Study Visit

During February 26 – March 3, 2023, the UME Oleander Initiative implemented the  Art, Memory and Peace Program in Hiroshima, Japan for participants from Northern Ireland.

This program was a collaboration with the Belfast based  Centre for Democracy and Peace Building and placed special focus on the nexus of public space, art and historical memory. The four participants from Northern Ireland investigated how Hiroshima transformed its painful history into the optimistic and forward facing “City of Peace” it is known for today. 

This program was made possible through funding from the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, and Diawa Anglo Japanese Foundation. Additional support was provided by the Otterman Foundation

The Oleander Art, Memory and Peace program marked the seventh time we implemented a program in Hiroshima. Similar to previous programs, this program featured core activities that generate the complex mix of historical tragedy and optimistic peace culture that is at the heart of the learning process at the Oleander Initiative. The Oleander Art, Memory and Peace program for Northern Ireland featured “core” program activities such as:

Visits to sites of Conscience

Participants on Peace Park Tour  

Ticket to the Peace Memorial Museum 

“Facets of Hiroshima” Foundational Lecture by Professor Ron Klein

Visit and discussion session at the World Friendship Center

Trip to Miyajima, UNESCO World heritage site

Facilitated discussion sessions in formal and informal settings for participants to explore the “lesson of Hiroshima” and make meaning of their experiences

New Program Activities 

At the UME Oleander Initiative, we pride ourselves in custom tailoring our programs to the specific learning objectives of our participants.

The Art, Memory, and Peace program included a new program activity –  a trip to Hifukushisho, a former Japanese army clothing depot that housed over 2,000 workers and their families. On August 6, the workers of Hifukushisho and their families were devastated by the atomic bomb, but the structures of Hifukushisho survived. Like the A-bomb dome, Hifukushisho is a silent witness of the history of Hiroshima. Unlike the A-bomb dome, it can also be interpreted as a symbol of Japan’s militancy during WWII. The controversy surrounding its preservation or demolition explores the complex dynamics of how the city of Hiroshima has chosen to publicly display its evolution from a military city to the “City of Peace.”

The highlight of the Art, Memory and Peace program was a testimonial and enamel jewelry workshop conducted by world famous artist and hibakusha, Toshiko Tanaka. Toshiko – san is a hibakusha survivor whose experience on August 6, 1945 shaped her artistic vision. Her compelling works are displayed at the United Nations in New York, the Vatican and gallaries around the world.


Toshiko-san giving her hibakusha testimonial at her workshop

Toshiko-san first recounted her moving hibakusha testimonial and then led a reflective enamel jewelry making workshop for our participants.  

Lastly, our participants had the opportunity to meet with the curator of the Peace Memorial Museum on the topic of what was preserved and what was left out during the renovation of the museum in 2019. This talk was the perfect capstone for the overall theme of remembrance and public spaces at the Art, Memory and Peace program for Northern Ireland.

The UME Oleander Initiative is proud to have facilitated this unique connection between Hiroshima and Northern Ireland. We hope that it will be the first of many programs that links the two communities in the spirit of peace.

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