Shiuko was a beloved elder in the Japanese American community, a world traveler, a decorated civilian administrator for the US army, and a painter. Once Shiuko moved back to the West Coast in retirement, she volunteered as a librarian and archivist at the Japanese American Museum of Oregon. Her passing in 2022 was a huge loss to the community, and we are so grateful that she generously donated a collection of over 700 documents, artifacts, and photographs to the museum in 2008 so that we can continue to remember her life through her archives. You can view a selection of her collection here.
Shiuko Sakai started making art when she was in grade school and thinks she may have taken some drawing supplies with her to Minidoka. She used to wander the camp looking for things to draw and paint–it was something that she enjoyed doing. Many incarcerees made art to relieve boredom, pass the time, and perhaps record or make sense of their experiences there.
“I liked to paint, so I just looked out the window, maybe look out and see the canal, then go out there and paint a little canal scene. Or…I’d see the barbed wire fence, I’d see a guard tower in the distance…part of the barrack next to me. So, I have a corner of that. Then it was, I think, close to sundown, and the sky was bright orange, it was pretty. So, I painted that. And other times I’d look out where the canal was, and I’d see beautiful skies. I didn’t paint that, but I just liked to look around and see different things that I could paint.”