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Manchester to return historic paintings to Hiroshima

Manchester,July 12th, 2016
Report provided by Sean Morris, UK & Ireland Mayors for Peace Chapter Secretary

Pictures held in Manchester, that were painted by pupils of a school destroyed in the atomic attack in the Second World War, are now being returned to Hiroshima over 60 years after they were painted. The paintings were originally made by students in Hiroshima in the early 1950s, and exhibited at a UNESCO Conference in the United States before being brought to England by an art teacher.

The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima devastated the city and destroyed its Methodist Girls’ High School. The blast resulted in the deaths of over 300 of the school’s pupils with many more being seriously injured. Despite most of the city being levelled, less than three months later, the school was reopened in a new location. The school is believed to be one of the first schools to resume teaching in Hiroshima after the bombing. Dr Takuo Matsumoto, the school’s principal, was one of five teachers to teach 100 surviving students. In the early 1950s, Dr Matsumoto took a collection of his student’s artwork to the United States where he gifted the 'Hiroshima Collection' to English art teacher Prue Wallis-Myers. The collection has since been in the UK where it was passed on to Michael Stevenson who was responsible for art education in the borough where Miss Wallis-Myers lived. During its time in the UK it has been shown at various conferences and training events for teachers and students in the North West of England.

In 2015, during the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, the collection was exhibited at the House of Lords, and at the Daiwa Centre in London. Pictures of the Hiroshima Collection were shown to the Mayor of Hiroshima in November 2015 during his civic visit to Manchester. At his meeting with the then Lord Mayor of Manchester, Paul Murphy, both agreed they were keen to see the pictures return to Hiroshima. The pictures have now all been digitised and it is hoped to exhibit them shortly in Manchester.

On July 12, current Lord Mayor of Manchester Carl Austin-Behan met with Michael Stevenson to congratulate him on his successful project to work with Manchester City Council to return the artwork to Japan. The Lord Mayor said: "Manchester has cooperated with Hiroshima for many years through the Mayors for Peace organisation. These pictures have a truly fascinating history and their return is another example of the close links between our cities." Michael Stevenson said: “This is the end of almost five years of work for me. I believe that the paintings should be appreciated not simply as beautiful objects, but for the lessons they contain about the wonderful resilience of the human spirit expressed in art by young people. For that reason they deserve to be conserved for future generations to appreciate, and Hiroshima is the right place for that to happen, since that is where they were made.”

The artwork has now been sent to Manchester City Council to Hiroshima Jogakuin Junior and Senior High School, where it will be received by the Headteacher. Manchester is delighted to have cooperated with Hiroshima on bringing the paintings back home.

>Manchester City Council's media release

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