SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
XIE Zhihai ”Thinking of ‘War and Peace’ from Picasso-Guernica”
Summer vacation is over now, and we can see school children who carry Randoseru (school bag) in school uniform. In Japan, on August 6 and 9, we consider of atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and on August 15, we welcome the End of World War II Memorial Day and taste the preciousness of peace. However, everybody can hardly believe there was a war on earth now, 77 years after World War II.
We, my family, ended August without any trips or outing. However, I think we could spend memorable summer vacation having a chance to speak about war and peace. There is the Museum of Modern Art in Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture and we can see a famous tapestry “Guernica” by Picasso as their permanent collection. My wife told me she likes to let our children see it and I accompanied. Staff member of the Museum had a plan “Let’s talk in front of “Guernica”. He explained children kindly the most interesting part of “Guernica” withholding the words “War” and “Peace”. Children could not think of a word “War” from Guernica and wondered “why human and animal are drawn in this way?” However, they were inputted “it is an anger against war drawn by famous painter Picasso”.
Museum staff explained us that there are three Guernica tapestries in the world, and one is in United Nation Headquarters in New York. He also explained Picasso himself joined supervision of threads and colors which were used for making tapestry. According to him, he visited a school near the Museum and discussed with students how they feel in their heart in front of Guernica.
A few days later, Guernica became a topic again at home. My son, primary school student, told us that teacher told him about a picture book, the word account is low, titled “Sensou sinai (we do not engage in War)”. According to my checking, it was written by Shuntaro Tanigawa. I recalled he has said in some TV interview that it was at his junior high school age when there was the Great Tokyo Air Raid, WWII in 1945.
I think it is great to engrave the history of War in children’s heart by handing down the War using pictures and picture books for thoughts of peace. According to my son staff member of the Museum told him “In Japan, student study about Guernica at the sixth grade in elementary school.” I asked my wife “Is it sixth grade when you learn about Guernica?” She replied, “At seven-year-old!” She added “I had a birthday present titled “Beautiful Picture” written by Kako Satoshi at the first year of elementary school. Guernica was introduced in this book.
Shuntaro Tanigawa and Kako Satosi ! There is no place where I, as a scholar of international relations can do. Because they convey easily toward wider generations what they like to say and remains in readers’ heart long.
I had a class this spring about “International Relations” and “Learn about history of international relations”. And I taught about difficult issue “War and Peace” also. We recalled war and peace in the 20th century and thought of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine together. I told students that there is a war in the 21st century and now is the time to consider war strongly.
I have been reading difficult academic books about war and peace. However, I like to read now easier books which are written for ordinary people and children.
In autumn term I will keep in mind to speak to students about war and peace more easily to understand.
XIE Zhihai / Associate Professor, KYOAI Gakuen University
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala