Trunk that inspired the new ballet Kimiko’s Pearl to be displayed at the premiere

June 10, 2024


Ottawa, Ontario, June 10, 2024 – A special display awaits ticketholders for the premiere of Kimiko’s Pearl. The family trunk that inspired this compelling story will travel from the Canadian War Museum and be put on display on June 22 and 23, before two performances at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines.

Kimiko’s Pearl is a new original ballet commissioned and produced by Bravo Niagara! Festival of the Arts. The ballet, based on a story by Emmy Award-winning writer Howard Reich, traces the tragedies, triumphs and perseverance of one family before, during and after the internment of Japanese Canadians. It was inspired by the family history of Bravo Niagara! co-founders, Christine Mori and her daughter, Alexis Spieldenner, who are also the co-creators and producers of the ballet.

The trunk was originally built by Shizuo Ayukawa, Christine Mori’s grandfather. He had come to Canada from Japan in 1917 and was part of the strawberry-growing community in Mission, British Columbia, when the Second World War broke out. After Japan entered the war in December 1941, many people and politicians pressured the federal government to take action against Japanese Canadians. In early 1942, the government used its powers to uproot and relocate some 21,000 Japanese Canadians living on the Pacific Coast. The government seized their homes, businesses and most of their belongings. Ayukawa and his family were sent to the New Denver internment camp. He built the trunk to store the family’s possessions when they were again relocated, this time to the Tashme internment camp. The trunk remained in the family until they donated it to the Canadian War Museum in 2017.

“In the same way that Kimiko’s Pearl is an artistic expression of one family’s experience as Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, the trunk is a tangible connection to that experience,” said James Whitham, Director General of the Canadian War Museum. “We are pleased to be able to preserve the Ayukawa family story, which enhances our shared understanding of the impact of the Second World War.”

“We’re honoured to have the Canadian War Museum display the Ayukawa family trunk for the world premiere of Kimiko’s Pearl,” said Christine Mori and Alexis Spieldenner. “This trunk, which inspired the story behind the ballet, holds deep significance for us — not only as a treasured piece of our family history but also as a symbol of the strength, resilience and perseverance of the Japanese-Canadian community.”

The production design also features projections of photographs of the Canadian War Museum (courtesy of Moriyama Teshima Architects) and projections of original artwork by Norman Takeuchi, C.M., and Lillian Yano Blakey. Takeuchi’s multimedia series A Measured Act was acquired by the Canadian War Museum in 2015. Three works by Lillian Yano Blakey are currently on display in the War Museum exhibition Outside the Lines – Women Artists and War.

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The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum of military history. Its mission is to promote public understanding of Canada’s military history in its personal, national and international dimensions. Work of the Canadian War Museum is made possible in part through financial support of the Government of Canada.

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