Entertainment Hive 2017

OzAsia shines a light on forgotten photographer

Photographer Mayu Kanamori has not been able get the image of Yasukichi Murakami out of her head – so she crafted a performance piece for Murakami. The multi-disciplinary work features photographic projections, video, narration and live action to tell the story of fellow photographer Murakami who moved to Australia in 1897 – almost 40 years before the bombing of Darwin in World War II. Murakami’s story struck a nerve with Kanamori, who also moved from Japan to Australia and she was intrigued that there was another Japanese photographer living and working in Australia so long ago. “I have been researching the story of Murakami for three years, but it all started in Broome back in 1998,’’ Kanamori says. “I was photographing portraits of people who had mixed blood between Japanese and Indigenous Australians and while I was there I spoke to this one person who told me her great grandfather was a Japanese photographer as well. “My interest was sparked and I haven’t been able to forget about Yasukichi and his family and what happens in war time.’’ Kanamori says that with the 100 th   anniversary of World War I many military endeavours are focused upon or missing personnel, but it’s quite often the everyday people who are forgotten. “Yasukichi story is just fascinating. He came to Australia in 1897 from a fishing village in Japan and he came to Australia because he was the second son and needed to make his own way. “A lot of Japanese people came to the Australian north for pearling and Yasukichi had a relative here in Cossack and then Yasukichi moved to Broome where the pearling was better. “There he started a photographic studio at the back of an Emporium and he again moved to Darwin through work and re-established himself as a photographer.’’ Kanamori says this production tells the story that black fella, yellow fella and white fellas were all integral to pioneering and lived side-by-side. “Yasukichi had lived in Australia for almost 40 years and had a family – his wife was a Japanese woman who was born in Australia and they had nine children. “They were people like you and me just trying to make a living and then war starts and things change. These stories don’t often get told and it’s wonderful to tell this one.’’ Murakami and his family were sent to an isolated internment camp in Victoria. Kanamori says they were treated quite well but Murakami had lived in the tropics all of his life and he caught a bad cold and died of bronchial pneumonia at the age of 64 in the camp. “He just wasn’t used to that cold weather, but I would say he died of heartache.’’ Kanamori says the journey to find Murakami’s photographs has been well-received by so many people and she finds it heartening that Murakami’s family were taken back into the Darwin community after the war. “People in the eastern states just don’t know this story and it needs to be told. “This production has dramatic action between two actors, there are musicians on-stage and there is projection all the way through the piece and still photography, both my works and photos we have uncovered of Yasukichi Murakami.’’ Kanamori says there are two things she would like the audience to take away with them. “I would love more Asian Australian voices to be heard or really for voices across all nationalities to be heard. It’s not just about black/white/yellow – it’s this mixture. “I would also love people to come out and feel what is really important on a basic human level about love and the story that is underneath all of the politics and underneath all of this war. “To understand what is important in life and deep down everyone loves their families and wants to contribute in one way or another. It’s also about recognition and we can recover some heritage lost.’’ Yasukichi Murakami - Through a Distant Lens, OzAsia Festival, Adelaide Festival Centre, Space Theatre, September 9-10. Bookings: BASS 131 246
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