Setsuko Winchester: Freedom from Fear — The Yellow Bowl Project 

Setsuko Winchester, Artist/Ceramist/Photographer. Photo: Simon Winchester

SUZE BIENAIMEE: Meet Setsuko Winchester, creator the Yellow Bowl Project as a statement about “Freedom from Fear”. She is American-Japanese, a former National Public Radio (NPR) journalist and an artist/ceramist/photographer.

I find her Yellow Bowl Project very important because it brings to light a dark time in the history of the United States of America — hopefully it will never be repeated.

Welcome to StudioSeeds, Setsuko. What is The Yellow Bowl Project and what inspired you?

SETSUKO WINCHESTER: The Yellow Bowl Project is to remember and bring attention to a time during World War II (WWII) when the US government sponsored a program of forcible removal of a portion of the American-Japanese population from their homes and incarcerated them in internment camps.

Freedom from Fear — Yellow Bowl Project at American-Japanese Internment Camp, Jerome, Arkansas. Photo: Setsuko Winchester

I wanted to bring attention to the internment because ethnic differences in our US population led to the assumption of a threat to the United States and I decided to express myself using something I love that brings me great joy: ceramics. Ceramics is part of your blood if you are Japanese. There is a pot for every kind of food and every occasion in your life.

For The Yellow Bowl Project I made one hundred-twenty bowls and each represents one thousand individuals who were incarcerated. I glazed them every shade of bright yellow and the yellow represents the “Yellow Peril”, meaning fear of Japanese as it was expressed.

The Yellow Bowl Project at Gila River, Arizona, (technically on sovereign land of the Gila River Indian Community). Photo: Setsuko Winchester
Freedom from Fear — The Yellow Bowl Project at Gila River, Arizona, American-Japanese Internment Camp (technically on sovereign land of the Gila River Indian Community). Photo: Setsuko Winchester

My goal was to visit and photograph the bowls at each of the ten internment camps. I have now completed that goal.

Freedom from Fear — Yellow Bowl Project at Amache, Colorado, American-Japanese Internment Camp (considered on of the most humane of all the camps). Photo: Setsuko Winchester
Freedom from Fear —  Yellow Bowl Project at the Topaz, Utah, American – Japanese Internment Camp, Topaz, Utah (Block 29, the Church). Photo: Setsuko Winchester

In addition to the camps, I have arranged and photographed the bowls at other places connected to the concept of “Freedom from Fear” which I call “Iconic American Landscapes”: Four Freedoms Park, Roosevelt Island, New York; Four Freedoms Rotunda at the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts; the steps of the United States Supreme Court, Washington, DC; the Memorial to Japanese American Patriotism, Washington DC; the FDR Library, Hyde Park, New York.

Freedom from Fear —  Yellow Bowl Project on the Steps of the Supreme Court, Washington, DC. Photo: Setsuko Winchester
Freedom from Fear —  Yellow Bowl Project Four Freedoms Park, Roosevelt Island, New York. Photo: Setsuko Winchester

By exposing these places of “fear” we can finally exorcise the shame and guilt and move forward rather than blame the victim or shame the oppressors. In other words, I hope we will always remember and try to forgive.

SUZE BIENAIMEE: Setsuko, well said — thank you for reminding us of the importance of remembering and forgiving as well as bringing a tragic time in US history to light; that kind of violation of basic human rights by either individuals or the government of the United States of America must never happen again.

Again, thank you so much for coming to StudioSeeds. I know my readers will find your Freedom from Fear — Yellow Bowl Project very important.

Please connect with Setsuko Winchester in the COMMENTS section for the post.

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MORE INFORMATION Setsuko Winchester’s website and blog.

Contact Setsuko Winchester — be sure to mention StudioSeeds. Source for information about World War II incarceration of American-Japanese.

Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston is the true story of one spirited Japanese American family’s attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention . . . and of a native-born American child who discovered what it was like to grow up behind barbed wire in the United States. (from the publisher)

Camp Notes and Other Writings by Mitsuye Yamada. An activist, feminist, and poet, during World War II, Mitsuye Yamada’s Japanese immigrant family was forcibly relocated from their home in Seattle, Washington to an internment camp in Idaho. Yamada’s poetry collection, Camp Notes and Other Writings, speaks to that experience of internment — especially as a woman forced to feel like an outsider in her own country — and documents the racial violence and discrimination she and her family faced after World War II. (from the back cover)

George Takei (Star Trek, Heroes) at FDR Library, 3 p.m., Sunday, February 19, 2017 will be speaking of his family’s internment during WWII. Also, he stared in Allegiance, a Broadway musical, 2016. It was inspired by his life experiences in WWII and follows an extraordinary story of a family’s journey from prosperity in Los Angeles to internment in Rohwer, Arkansas.

Setsuko Winchester: In February of 2017, my photographs will be part of a photography exhibition at the FDR Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY. It will be 75 years since Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, which authorized the Secretary of War and any military commander designated by him “to prescribe military areas…from which any or all persons may be excluded.” This paved the way for what would become the mass forced removal and incarceration of all American-Japanese on the West Coast.

List of the ten Internment Camps  of American-Japanese from March, 1942 until their closing in 1945 and 1946.

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Connect with Suze Bienaimee: StudioSeeds, or

Setsuko Winchester: Freedom from Fear — The Yellow Bowl Project  StudioSeeds Inspire By Suze Bienaimee

3 thoughts on “Setsuko Winchester: Freedom from Fear — The Yellow Bowl Project ”

  1. What a fascinating and enlightening project.

  2. Dave Modzelewski, Tolland, Massachusetts says:

    On a photographic junket to the Southwest about 10 years ago, we stopped at Manzanar and we were truly moved by what we saw. In particular, in the cemetery there were signs of visitors having placed offerings on various graves. One had placed on it a heart made of barbed wire. Out of respect, neither of us could take the photograph.

  3. Brian Edgar says:

    I am deeply moved by Setsuko Winchester’s Yellow Bowl Project. The juxtaposition of her bowls within the remains of these tragic sites is quietly profound. And resonates powerfully in our present time.

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