Lillian Michiko Blakey

Region: Ontario
Sansei | Born 1945, Coaldale, Alberta


I am a sansei, a third-generation Japanese Canadian artist. Currently, my art explores multifaceted Japanese Canadian experiences of intergenerational healing. By exploring my family’s relationship with Canada through my art, I have finally found my identity as a Canadian who is Japanese. As one of eight Japanese Canadian artists telling the Japanese Canadian story of forced relocation in WWII through art, in the Royal Ontario Museum’s BEING JAPANESE CANADIAN: reflections on a broken world, 2019, I feel that our story is now an important part of Canadian history.  LOST LIBERTIES: THE WAR MEASURES ACT at the Canadian Museum of History 2022 includes one of my works, TAKING THE NANCY, BRITISH COLUMBIA  1942. This is another exhibition which probes the fears, crises and social upheaval that drove the suspension of civil liberties in Canada during WWI, WWII and the 1970 October Crisis, and features firsthand accounts from the people who experienced these events. Our voices are finally being heard.

Artist Statement

Who am I? Being both Canadian and Japanese, the nature of my identity has been a troubling issue. On the one hand, I inherited the strong feelings of shame that Japanese Canadians experienced following the repressive actions of the Canadian government in World War II. On the other hand, there is the fact my family members have been loyal Canadians for over 100 years and I have nothing to be ashamed of. Nevertheless, I grew up denying my cultural roots, my first language and my people. In recent years, I have tried to reconcile my dilemma by depicting my family's story in my art. I have attempted to bring past and present together by including myself, as I am now, looking back at the events which happened so long ago and analysing the effects on succeeding generations. Alienation and persecution continue to be suffered by people all over the world. Many people have come to Canada seeking a peaceful existence in a just society. I hope that my work serves as a tribute to my courageous family who came before me, and as a visual warning that the persecution suffered by any family can be repeated, even in the most democratic of countries – even in Canada – if we are not vigilant.
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