Oka is a Sansei, raised in southern Ontario from the 70s to mid 90s. He is honoured to work on the unceded, ancestral and traditional lands of the shíshálh (Sechelt) Nation and the Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw (Squamish Nation). Oka studied at Queens University in Kingston gaining a degree in Sociology. He furthered his education through the BC/Yukon Society of Transition Houses gaining certification as a Children who Witnesses Abuse counselor. He has spent the past 25 years working in the non-profit sector providing support to vulnerable children, youth and families on the west coast of British Columbia. Oka's artistic expression began as a musical artist playing with bands as a music producer, dj, vocalist and percussionist then evolved those forms of expression five years ago to focus on visual art pieces and writing. He spent five years as a juror on the Daniel Kingsbury Music Endowment fund furthering the music dreams of underprivileged youth. Oka was a story consultant on the Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa International Film Festival selected film Four Faces of the Moon and the ensuing award YASLA nominated graphic novel. He resides in a place where he sees trees out his window.
Artist StatementOka draws on his Japanese Canadian roots to express himself and his experiences struggling with discrimination, cultural identity and trying to fit into a world he felt and still sometimes feels apart from. Drawing on mixed media and collage, the themes of his work aim to communicate the confusion and challenges that Japanese Canadians have endured in coming to terms with their ethnicity and the labels that society has given them. The medium is itself a symbol of the mixed messages and confusion felt. Oka looks to honour those who have created the opportunities that he is fortunate to have and celebrate the ongoing search for cultural pride, internal growth and positive changes we see with the new generations of Japanese Canadians. The process can begin with an object found that for some reason resonates, a story heard, a photo seen, a memory which is ready to be told and always courage. Oka aims to challenge the viewer to ask questions and reflect on the cultural challenges of minorities growing up where silence is a norm and expression is a fear.
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