The Suitcase Project asks yonsei and gosei (4th and 5th generation Japanese Canadians and Americans) what they would pack if they were uprooted from their homes in a moment’s notice. While these descendants of the internment and incarceration may never have to endure the same forced uprooting as their ancestors, Kayla Isomura’s work examines how they remain affected by this history today.

Featuring more than 50 individuals aged two to 50, this photography-based exhibit (with additional video and audio highlights), will exhibit at the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre in Burnaby, B.C., Canada from June 16 to Sept. 3, 2018.

project updates

Thank you to everyone who signed up to participate in The Suitcase Project! More than 100 people have expressed interested in participating and it’s been an exciting process to meet those eligible.

From the opening date of the exhibit to an online look at the images to program events, stay posted on project updates via email below. Connect with Kayla on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook as well! Any questions or comments can be sent to: projects [at] kaylaisomura [dot] com.

ps, are you interested in connecting with or meeting other yonsei and gosei? Get in touch with Kayla via social media or email.

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project background


On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, USA. The United States declared war on Japan and Canada followed. Folks of Japanese descent were targeted in both countries and declared “enemy aliens.” Approximately 23,000 Japanese Canadians and more than 100,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes. Citizens and residents in both countries were ordered to pack their lives into a limited amount of baggage and leave their homes to road camps, sugar beet farms, shacks in ghost towns and more.

The Suitcase Project will explore this narrative through the eyes of Yonsei and Gosei (4th and 5th gen. Japanese Canadians and Americans) through a series of photo, audio and text.

Participants will be photographed in their homes with what they’ve chosen to pack for a journey unknown. A final gallery of images will be exhibited in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the redress movement. The Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement was signed on Sept. 22, 1988.

The Suitcase Project will allow participants and viewers to reflect on the realities of Japanese Canadian internment and how it carries forward to the world today. It will display the struggle and significance of packing a life into a single bag for survival and sentiment.

With funding made possible in part by the Young Leaders Fund, provided by the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) and support provided by the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre.

about the artist

Kayla Isomura is a Yonsei and fourth generation Chinese Canadian living in Vancouver, B.C. In 2014, she graduated with a Diploma in Journalism from Langara College, sparking her interest in storytelling and digital photography. As a journalist, she has lived and worked in High River, Alta., and written for Metro News Vancouver, Megaphone Magazine and the Nikkei Voice. The Suitcase Project will be her first major photography project, with her current body of work centred around people and places. In October 2017, Kayla began an internship at the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre as a Museum Curatorial Assistant. She is actively involved with Kikiai Collaborative and Japanese Canadian Young Leaders, among other organizations within the Japanese Canadian community.