Journalist Kenji Goto’s efforts to aid people living in conflict zones may have gone widely unnoticed if his kidnapping and beheading by the Islamic State militant group had not caused outrage worldwide last month.
But in the wake of his tragic death, an exhibition in Tokyo has included a piece of artwork created jointly by Goto and graphic artist Nakaba Kozu in 2010, which highlights their efforts to show the plight of those living amid war, especially children.
“Broken boy,” a collage depicting the face of a boy killed in Liberia’s civil war, is on display at the ongoing “Flowers of Lives” exhibition at Gallery Hibiya in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward until Wednesday.
The exhibition, which is organized by a Tokyo-based nongovernmental organization called the Japan-Iraq Medical Network (JIM-NET), features dozens of drawings and photographs, many of which are the work of children from Middle Eastern countries.
Maki Sato, secretary-general of the group, regretted that Goto himself could not attend the exhibition. Goto hosted an art exhibition in collaboration with Kozu five years ago.
“When I went to see Goto’s work in 2010, I thought how similar our efforts were,” Sato said. “A few years ago we planned to organize such events together.”
Goto’s piece is displayed above pencil drawing by Rana, a 12-year-old Iraqi girl who died of leukemia. The sketch is a self-portrait in which she is walking hand in hand with a Japanese friend.
In 2003, when Sato met Rana for the first time, he promised to bring her colored pencils so she could complete her drawing during his next visit. But she died later that year before she got the chance, Sato said.
“I’ve always wondered what colors Rana would have used,” he said.
Goto’s piece depicting the Liberian boy is displayed in a frame filled with colored pencils, a reference to Sato’s exchange with Rana.
“I also remember our conversation and what Goto aimed to convey at that time,” he said, which was to communicate the plight of children living in war zones.
That was what prompted Sato to contact the artist with whom Goto collaborated in 2010, leading to the artwork’s inclusion in the current exhibition.
“He was not the only one providing support for people” in war zones, Sato said.
“But without a place to present the efforts of people like Goto, their voices would remain unnoticed and unheard. I want people to see it and contemplate” how they can help those in need, he said.
“It’s not only about Goto or our organization’s efforts. It’s a symbol of what we all should be engaged in.”