In the spring of 2018, two collaborative projects in contemporary art and dance were held in Havana in commemoration of the 120th year since the first Japanese immigrants arrived in Cuba. In the area of dance, the world-renowned choreographers, Saburo Teshigawara and Rihoko Sato, who are also Japan's leading dancers, took up temporary residence in Havana, where for three weeks they worked together with dancers from a local dance company, Acosta Danza, to carry out creative activities and stage a new production called One Thousand Years After. On April 6, the world debut of the work was successfully performed at the Gran Teatro de La Habana, known normally as the "Alicia Alonso" Theater. Upon his return to Japan after giving three public performances in Cuba, Teshigawara was asked about the processes and results of his creative activities with the Acosta Danza, which has developed unique methods at its foundation.
My first impressions of Havana were of peace and tranquility, almost as if time had stopped in the mid-twentieth century. The Old Havana area in Cuba's capital is a magnet for Western sightseers, and has many classic American cars that were imported in the 1950s before the country's relations with the United States soured. Repaired over and over to keep them running, the cars are a wonderful match for the colonial-style architecture painted in pinks and greens. The area has plenty of music, too, with the son and rumba reverberating from ubiquitous street-corner cafes and restaurants.
From a Western perspective, Japan lies on the furthest cusp of the Far East, and Europeans were fascinated by this exotic and mysterious Eastern nation. In the Book of the Marvels of the World, Marco Polo describes Japan as "a land of gold," yet it seems the Western attraction to Japan was less motivated by material considerations, and more by its unique culture. Just what is "culture"? It could be defined as the energy that empowers life.
Sandra Phillips has been contributing to collect/exhibit Japanese photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ever since she joined the museum's department of photography as a curator in 1987. Phillips has also helped disseminate Japanese photography in the world history of photography through her publications and lectures. In recognition of her achievements, she received the Photographic Society of Japan's International Award in 2018. We have received this contribution from Phillips that summarizes her commemorative lecture delivered in May 2018 at the Japan Foundation Headquarters (Tokyo). She was a recipient of the Japan Foundation's Artist Fellowship Program in 2000.