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Monday, January 24, 2022

Trampled lives

During World War II,Kim Yoon Shim,a 16-year-old South Korean girl was playing jump-rope in front of her house when an automobile pulled over.

Written by Anjuly Mathai |
January 24, 2010 1:08:40 am

A South Korean artist traces the lives of women taken as sex slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II

During World War II,Kim Yoon Shim,a 16-year-old South Korean girl was playing jump-rope in front of her house when an automobile pulled over. She had never seen a car before in her village. When the driver offered her a ride,she,curious and naïve,climbed in with her friend. She was taken to Japan to become a sex slave. She never saw her village again.

It is the story of Shim and an estimated 2,00,000 others like her that provided inspiration for 44-year-old South Korean artist Kim Kyoungae’s latest exhibition ‘Resonance’. In early 2008,the Baroda-based artist went to her hometown Sunsan in South Korea with her daughter Aditi after a gap of five years. It was there that a documentary on the South Korean sex slaves gave birth to the idea for the exhibition. The show consists of 27 acrylic on canvas and paper paintings. Kyoungae has been working on them for the past three years.

The paintings have a dark,almost feral feel to them as though they’ve been wrenched from a mind cluttered with turmoil. “The paintings are not political. They’re personal,” stresses Kyoungae. “What they capture is my mood. It’s my way of coming to terms with what happened in South Korea more than 60 years ago.”

Kyoungae has held four solo shows in Baroda,two at the Hacienda Gallery in Mumbai and several group shows in South Korea,USA,and various Indian cities including Chennai,New Delhi,Mumbai and Baroda.

“I can’t describe to you the feelings I had when I saw the photograph of the temporary construction (or comfort stations as they’re referred to) where this inhumanity took place,” says Kyoungae. “I just closed my eyes and felt consumed by the deepest sorrow.”

What angers her most,says Kyoungae,is the inaccuracy with which history has shaded the episode. The aged victims have been demanding a public apology from the Japanese government which staunchly adheres to the warped justification that the women were prostitutes and came of their own free will. “There were girls of 16 and 17. What free will are they talking about?” asks Kyoungae.

Kyoungae has chosen to title the series of acrylic on paper paintings as Albatross,a metaphor for the burden these women have become to their families and nation. Little more than 200 victims are still alive. When their mangled bodies are brought to their hometowns from Japan,there is no one to claim them,no one to attend their funerals.

There is no dignity for them even in death,says the artist.

At Hacienda Gallery,Kala Ghoda,till January 31

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