Walking through a trendy artsy student area one lazy Sunday in Kyoto, I entered this famous bookstore that is a famous landmark in the area. I found many interesting things, graphic zines, rare comics, out of print journals etc. Stacked to the gills with narrow passages in the way many bookstores are here, I came to the children's book section. Glanced down and saw Chibi Kuro Sanbo staring back at me.
The title in my limited scope of Japanese can be read as Little Black Sambo. I looked at Sambo for a while and he looked at me. Not sure of what my reaction should be. I stood there thinking that I am expected to have a reaction right or is that outdated in 2010? If I am not certain about my reaction, maybe I should have none but by having none am I agreeing to Chibi Kuro Sanbo; and thereby disregarding all that forefathers passed through so that I may be able to stand in Kyoto leisurely looking at this book? By now I could spy the bookseller looking at me either curiously or nervously.
My question is, what would you do, is it meaningless and outdated to feel something about these stereotypes seeping back into daily life. If my objection to it is not going to interrupt the importance in this culture then how do I regard it? Are our reactions programmed expectations or do we have a valid point? Can it be explained away as part of the 'kawaii' cute culture in Japan and therefore harmless? ...and in a country where in most rooms you will often be the only person of colour can we expect a reaction to be understood or even heard?
I was thinking about these things all that time. I still had not much of a real emotion so took a photo instead.
Figurines seen in restaurant windows in Teramachi shopping district, Kyoto
ART:Jamaica is closing out. This site has been edited and written mostly by practicing visual artist & lecturer, Oneika Russell, since 2006. There are a couple of projects that will be keeping me busy for a while. Thanks for your support and I will continue to maintain our Facebook group and page however. For further inquiry, reach me at Oneika Russell on Facebook or @oneikarussell on Instagram and Twitter.