The Suitcase Project

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The Suitcase Project by Kayla Isomura

Cortes Island Museum & Archives

July 6 to November 29, 2022

Opening, July 10, 2 – 4 p.m.

“If you were going to lose everything—your home, your business, your memories and personal possessions—what would you take outside of things for survival? Or would you focus on your practical needs?”

This is the question photographer Kayla Isomura asks in The Suitcase Project. On loan from the Nikkei National Museum, this mini travelling version of the original exhibition explores – through video, photographs and text – cultural identity and dispossession in the context of Japanese Canadian and Japanese American internment.

In 1942, approximately 23,000 Japanese Canadians and more than 100,000 Japanese Americans living on the west coast were uprooted from their homes and placed in internment camps or incarceration. Isomura, who identifies as a fourth generation – or yonsei – Japanese Canadian, invited those of her generation and the next generation – or gosei – to participate. Subjects for The Suitcase Project were given 24 to 48 hours’ notice to assemble their things, similar to what many Japanese Canadians faced in 1942.

This exhibition highlights why this history is still relevant even now 80 years later.  As Isomura writes, “Struggling to understand and see ourselves is one aspect of that, as well as recognizing the ongoing displacement and discrimination other minority groups and people of colour face today.” This exhibition is also an opportunity to reflect on the many current situations of displacement and loss experienced by people both here and abroad. As Isomura writes about her project, “The original idea wasn’t just about what or how people would pack, but also what they are forced to leave behind.”

We invite you to see The Suitcase Project and other small exhibits that explore historic and current Japanese Canadian culture on Cortes Island. Please join us for the opening event July 10, from 2 to 4 p.m.

Cortes Island Museum | Main Gallery | 957 Beasley Road | Tuesday to Sunday | 10 am to 4 pm