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Resilience—A Sansei Sense of Legacy

December 15, 2024 - June 1, 2025

In 1942, in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law Executive Order 9066. The law ordered the forced imprisonment of all Japanese Americans living on the west coast of the United States, which has the second largest population of Japanese people living outside of Japan. Told from the point of view of Sansei (third generation) Japanese Americans, Resilience—A Sansei Sense of Legacy is an exhibition of eight artists whose work reflects on the effect of EO9066 as it resonated from generation to generation.

While several of the artists employ traditional Japanese methods in the construction of their work, others use iconography relating to Japanese culture as a jumping-off point for personal explorations on the subject of the incarceration camps. Each in their own way, the artists in this exhibition express moments of deeply felt pain and reluctant acceptance, emotions which were often withheld by their elders.

In the years following the retraction of EO9066 at the end of WWII, expatriate Japanese families and individuals were forced to come to terms with lost property, the shame and indignation of incarceration, and the task of re-integration into a society that had expelled them. After their release from the incarceration camps that dotted the American West and Midwest during the war, Japanese Americans used the phrase “shikata ga nai” – it cannot be helped – and the word “gaman” – to persevere and stay silent – to speak to their resilience against the losses they incurred at the behest of Roosevelt’s order.

Exhibition artists include: Kristine Aono, Reiko Fujii, Wendy Maruyama, Lydia Nakashima Degarrod, Tom Nakashima, Roger Shimomura, Judy Shintani, and Jerry Takigawa.

A Program of ExhibitsUSA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance, and The National Endowment for the Arts.

Wendy Maruyama, The Tag Project from the series Executive Order 9066, 2011; paper, ink, string, thread, 120 x 24 x 24 inches per column; Courtesy of the artist.
Roger Shimomura, American Infamy #6, 2015; acrylic paint on canvas, 72 x 108 x 2 inches; Courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery.
Jerry Takigawa, Traces of Misconduct, 2019; pigment print on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag, 17 x 22 inches; Courtesy of the artist.

Illinois Holocaust Museum’s presentation of Resilience—A Sansei Sense of Legacy is made possible with generous support from:


Golder Family Foundation

Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation


Mark and Lisa Pinsky


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