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HAFU Project


"3331 Presents TOKYO:Part 2" includes a specially invited project initiated by Natalie Willer and Marcia Lise, known as the "HAFU Project". "HAFU" (half) has become a common phrase to describe someone who has a family background of both Japanese and another "ethnicity". The term is used widely but what is the connotation of this term and how does it reflect our thinking towards ethnicity, nationality and identity?

If someone is designated a "hafu" does this mean they can not be fully Japanese?
There are numerous debates which can be instigated by this term, the political correctness of which is itself highly debateable, and yet this debate does not seem to have a public footing. The image of Japan as a homogeneous society has always been a mirage, and any notion of "race" is itself an imaginary concept, we can claim, but in the last decades with greater ease of transport and global networks, the internationalization and diversity of not only Japan but countries world-wide has highly increased. With such diversity and mix of backgrounds, why then do we still insist on definitions of nationality and ethnicity?

The HAFU project undertakes to question these notions by relating the experiences of people who have roots in different cultures/countries in addition to Japan. The collaboration between photographer Natalie Maya Willer and sociologist Marcia Yumi Lise is a powerful binding of visual expression and social/theoretical investigation. Working with other artists, creative practitioners and researchers, they have been evolving the project over three years, including exhibitions, interviews, seminars and workshops. The team are now in the process of creating a feature film which examines the experiences of individuals and families of mixed Japanese background.

The HAFU project members have very kindly put great effort into realizing a special exhibition as part of "3331 Presents TOKYO" show. Natalie has travelled all the way from Germany, where she is based, especially for this exhibition, bringing the work with her. Here the they present a photographic series, accompanied by interviews and a short preview to their upcoming film. In addition a special addition catalogue is on sale, which highly detailed and insightful commentary upon the debates of "hafu" identity.
Furthermore on 13th August (Friday) from 19:00-22:00, they will be holding a seminar event entitled "Nibun-no-ni (Two out of two)" vol 2 which will discuss the complex issues of ethnicity and identity and the particular experiences of "hafus".

We highly encourage you to come to this event, join the debate and learn a new perspective.

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