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The "East-West Family" Christmas Art Show & Sale

Date Posted: 2000-12-01

There are extreme differences in the opportunities for achievement between Okinawan and American quadriplegics. Most Americans have noticed that buildings throughout Okinawa are not wheelchair accessible. In fact, even if Okinawans in wheelchairs could find jobs, many buildings would be inaccessible. Conditions are slowly improving, but attitudes about the potential of individuals, who are disabled, need to be changed. Two Okinawans that encourage this change are Naoto Kadekaru and Yoshifumi Kimura, both disabled by accidents. They struggle with not only the disabilities of quadriplegics, but also the "disabled" thoughts of others who see art as the only hobby anybody with a "problem" can do.

Joyce and Abel met Naoto ten years ago in a hospital where he had lived for 17 years. Then, Joyce and Naoto painted together in the hospital, until finally he had the chance to go home. Although Joyce Trafton had been a professional artist and teacher for 25 years, she felt that meeting Naoto enabled her to once again become a pupil. There were many obstacles to overcome. George also joined them, encouraging Naoto to develop his uniqueness and offering painterly advice. Since Abel also knew the healing power of art, they had many lively, and sometimes philosophical, discussions about life. Naoto’s pursuit of art became a family affair. His mother assisted him by organizing his materials and his father and brothers developed ways for him to paint more easily. His sister frequently travels to Naha to purchase materials. A local framer, also in a wheelchair, frames his works promptly for exhibitions. The family openly welcomed other Americans who have helped tutor Naoto so that he received his American high school diploma, presented to him last year by Brigadier General Smith. The family got bigger as other quadriplegics became aware of Naoto's artwork.

One of those artists was Kimura, a quadriplegic as a result of a car six years ago. In spite of his injuries, he was determined to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming an artist. His attention to minute details astounds those who view his paintings. In fact, his first painting of Shuri Gate, which was sold at the Art Expo on Butler, had several buyers waiting to purchase it. Against many obstacles, such as a second floor apartment without air conditioning and wheelchair access, he enthusiastically continues to paint and dream. Naoto Kadekaru and Yoshifumi Kimura are not "handicapped" artists. They are artists who have ambitions and dreams like any other people. They are individuals who inspire those whose potential is disabled only by thoughts.

Please come and enjoy this East-West family's artwork on display at Kadena USO from December 1 - 8, 10:00 AM - 9:00 PM. George Lamson, Naoto Kadekaru, Joyce Trafton, Yoshifumi Kimura and Abel will be there during the opening December 1st from 6:00 PM - 9:00. For details: trafton@sunny-net.ne.jp or 935-5579. In Japanese: Naoto Kadekaru 956-4611.

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