Kokeshi exhibition involved and inspired young people

The Kokeshi exhibition, on display at the Yorkshire Craft Centre gallery in Bradford in March and April 2011, explored the story of a Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki, and her friends, following the atomic bomb that devastated the city of Hiroshima, Japan.  The exhibition specifically focused on the work of Sadako’s friends, who after her death formed Kokeshi-no-kai (the ‘Little Doll Association’), a campaign group. They successfully raised awareness of the plight of child victims of the atomic bomb.  The exhibition showed why and how this group of pupils from Hiroshima in 1955 decided to stand up, speak out and make a difference; it asked audiences to consider what mattered to those pupils then and what matters to our children and young people now and what they can do about it. ‘Kokeshi’ is a type of traditional Japanese doll that symbolises friendship. The exhibition was created to facilitate pupil-led peer education, to improve awareness and understanding among all generations and communities of human rights and responsibilities and the consequences of violence, extremism, racism, hate crime and community tension. The Kokeshi exhibition uniquely involved pupils working as interpretive guides.  These specially trained youth interpreters, or ‘Kokeshi Ambassadors’,  guided school groups through the exhibition.  Education Bradford first tried this model of training young people to be ambassadors to act as exhibition guides with the run of the Anne Frank + You exhibition at Cartwright Hall and Art Gallery in Bradford in 2009.  At that time over 50 ‘Anne Frank Young Ambassadors’ were trained.  These Ambassadors have gone on to peer educate other primary and secondary school pupils, passing on their skills and knowledge to others who have taken on the role of Bradford’s ‘Kokeshi Ambassadors’. This year’s Kokeshi exhibition was led by 156 Ambassadors aged 10-16. The Kokeshi exhibition featured photographic images, information panels, a short film, young people’s artwork, music, and hand-held learning and web-based interactive ICT, all created in Bradford.  Some materials for the exhibition were donated to Education Bradford by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and also panels from an exhibition called “The A-bomb and Humanity”  made available from The Peace Museum were used as inspiration.  The exhibition was curated by staff from Education Bradford’s Diversity and Cohesion team and Carlton Bolling City Learning Centre as part of a wider community cohesion initiative.

Resource materials for teachers and educators

Resource materials for the Kokeshi exhibtion are available from the Education Bradford, Community and Cohesion website (the resource may be downloaded by clicking on the menu on the left hand side of that website page).

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