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Friday, May 25, 2012

This photo is heavy

Melissa Tsang
VOIS Manager
As I work on next year's Vancouver Opera In Schools (VOIS) remount production of Naomi's Road,  I have been delving into archive photographs used on the set and in the resource guides from when the show was originally commissioned and toured seven years ago.
I'm sitting with Annie Mack, VO's Graphic Designer. We are discussing the usage of one of the photos as part of our Naomi's Road mail-out materials. We've decided to share this one again because, as the saying goes, a picture says a thousand words. We find this one, from Library Archives Canada, to be the most striking.

Its title and description reads: "Japanese-Canadians being relocated to camps in the interior of British Columbia, 1942." While the original photo was in black and white, the imagery remains emotionally evocative, depicting a young Canadian family soon to be devastatingly torn apart for being of Japanese ethnic descent; for being who they are.

Photo (Modified from the original): Japanese-Canadians being relocated to camps in the interior of British Columbia, 1942.
Source: Library and Archives Canada/British Columbia Securities Commission collection/C-057249

"The photo is so heavy," Annie tells me. "Every time I look at it I feel the weight." 

Annie has two young children, including a daughter who is about the same age as Naomi at the beginning of Joy Kogawa's novel. As she shares this, I can sense her teetering emotion while she is imagining what a situation like this would be like. She is swallowing back what I think could be a flood of more feeling and tears.

I see this and look back at the photo. I too begin to feel the heaviness of emotion and compassion.
Throughout the course of the afternoon I repeatedly pick up the copy of the photograph and stare for moments at a time, trying to understand.


In our opera, Naomi's Road, nine year old Naomi and her older brother Stephen struggle with the harshness of war, racism, bullying and the loss of family. Ultimately brother and sister triumph by discovering the gifts that sustain them, music, words and love. 

As adults I think our inclination may sometimes be to shelter children from the realities of war and painful and complex social periods, that for many years were not discussed in schools.  We hope that Naomi's Road will inspire audiences to discover the power of human understanding and the beauty of compassion.

"War happens because people don't know we are all the same." 
- from the libretto of Naomi's Road.

- Melissa Tsang, Vancouver Opera In Schools Manager

Vancouver Opera In Schools presents
Naomi's Road
Music by Ramona Luengen. Libretto by Ann Hodges.
Based on the novel, Naomi's Road, by Joy Kogawa.
Originally commissioned by Vancouver Opera for Vancouver Opera In Schools 2005-2006.
Click here for information about how to bring the VOIS tour to your school.
Naomi's Road by Joy Kogawa is an adaptation for children of the author's novel Obasan.

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