YOKOHAMA--With 100 portraits of people of various nationalities and faiths praying for victims of last year's Great East Japan Earthquake, artist Maki Matsuzawa wanted to display them in a disaster-hit area.
However, she met with reluctance in her efforts, so she turned to another way to get the images and messages out to victims and the world: the social networking site Facebook.
The project began from late May on Matsuzawa's Facebook page at (http://www.facebook.com/maki.matsuzawa.18).
"Even I don't know if this can be called 'a work of art,' " Matsuzawa, 30, said. "Although I am somewhat afraid, I want to one day be able to transmit to those living in the disaster-stricken areas my feeling on not wanting to remain silent."
A photo is added to Matsuzawa's Facebook page every day at around 6 a.m., Japan time. The 100th portrait is scheduled to be posted on Sept. 3.
Yokohama native Matsuzawa is a graduate of the Joshibi University of Art and Design as well as the graduate school there. She now resides in Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Her oil paintings that have a surrealistic touch won her a prize that allowed her to study painting in Paris for one year from April 2011.
Just as she was preparing to leave for France, the quake and tsunami struck large parts of the Tohoku region. Her uncle lived in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, and she has other relatives in Sendai. However, she departed Japan without being able to do anything for the disaster victims.
In Paris, artists from various nations who lived in the same residential building would always ask Matsuzawa if everything was all right back home. That made her realize that the world was focusing on what Japan would do after 3/11.
However, as time passed, people's interest faded.
As a way of having those she encountered remember Japan, she asked them to pray for Japan. She began asking if she could take photos of them in prayer, and she told her subjects she would pass on their thoughts to the people in Japan after she returned.
People from different nations and religions obviously pray in different ways. Atheists were asked to to make a pose of when they are thinking about something important.
One Muslim refused to be photographed on the grounds that prayer could not be captured in an instant but was a ceremony that involved a series of movements. Instead, Matsuzawa took a photo of only the prayer mat.
Beginning her project in September, Matsuzawa completed her 100 portraits in March.
After returning to Japan in April, Matsuzawa had her uncle introduce her to someone at the Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun newspaper, which is based in disaster-hit Miyagi Prefecture.
Matsuzawa showed her photos and said she wanted to display them in disaster areas.
However, Matsuzawa said, "I was told, 'While I understand your feelings, the emotions of people who have endured great pain are very complicated and they may not accept simple acts of encouragement.' The person had also been a victim of the disaster so I took the comment very seriously. But, as someone who wishes to express myself, I could not remain silent."
After further discussion, the suggestion was made that Matsuzawa should post the photos on Facebook.
"The suggestion was made to carry the photos over 100 days and direct them not to the Tohoku region, but to the outside world by also attaching explanations in English," she said. "While I feel my seriousness was being tested, it was also a way to achieve the objective of not forgetting the victims."
Matsuzawa has asked viewers to become the 101st person to post a portrait. She plans to post all the photos of those who submit them to become that 101st person and use those to complete the project.
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