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Laundry Room

Hibi, Hisako [ bio ]

Laundry Room
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painting

oil
Canvas

Topaz, Utah, April 26, 1945

(96.601.15)

Gift of Ibuki Hibi Lee

Description

Framed, stretched canvas.

Image of women in slacks bathing children in laundry sinks at laundry room of Topaz concentration camp, Topaz, Utah. Two women in yellow shirts stand at either end of industrial sinks washing children; two children stand in sinks waiting. Girl in red top stands with her arm around a smaller child in yellow at BR. A woman in red jacket sits on a bench holding a child in her lap leaning against back wall, left; two children wait beside her. Another sink is visible at midground right. Open doorway in background reveals row of barracks.

Inscription
We only had four bath tubs. Mothers bathed children in the laundry room.

History
Daily life in Topaz concentration camp included having to cope with the inadequate laundry and latrine facilities. These spaces were designed to be completely communal, for example, individual stalls were not even equipped with doors. This resulted in a lack of privacy and embarassing situations for internees. In addition, there were often long lines to use these facilities. Hibi herself noted in her writing that the bath tubs seemed to be almost always occupied. As a result, many mothers remedied the situation by bathing their children in the sinks built for washing laundry. On the back of this painting Hibi wrote, "We only had four bath tubs. Mothers bathed children in the laundry room." Three women and nine children are depicted in this painting. As was typical for Hibi, her figures lack specificity and detail. In the background an open doorway reveals a row of barracks so that the setting is unmistakably that of the concentration camp.

All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from materials in this collection must be submitted to the Collections Management & Access Unit at the Japanese American National Museum (collections@janm.org).

 

 

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