The Vanishing Act – Part Two

By Jaye Ho

The Vanishing Act’, a two-part solo exhibition of new paintings by artist Jaye Ho.

Part One is still available to view here.

Part Two: Seeking Justice

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Previously I explained why I created ‘The Vanishing Act’, a series of paintings about war crimes. I think many are morbidly fascinated by piles of skulls of victims displayed in genocide museums. I’ve painted some of these remains, including from Sook Ching, Cambodia and Srebrenica. I obscure the remains to highlight the distance of the viewer who may not have experienced the horrors of the atrocity crimes.

My aunts who lived during WW2 occupied SE Asia were lucky to avoid capture by Japanese soldiers. Those that did were often forced to become sex slaves, which they called ‘comfort women’. At the end of the war it was reported that they were forced to commit suicide or were killed, removing the evidence that war crimes were committed. Those who survived had to live with the stigma and shame, meaning it would require incredible courage to speak out to seek justice.

I think comfort women in South Korea are better known than those in SE Asia. Kim Hak-Sun, a South Korean former comfort woman was the first to speak out publicly about her experiences. ‘Kim Hak-Sun the survivor and the skeleton spectre’ is based on ‘Takiyasha the witch and the skeleton spectre’ by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. The pixelated characters represent Kim Hak-Sun and the Japanese Government. To some she is regarded as a witch conjuring up a spectre of the past, highlighting some of the scepticism survivors have to face. To me, the witch is the heroine.

It is important to acknowledge it wasn’t just the Japanese who raped and killed civilians during WW2. Soldiers from all sides were involved, including the allied powers. I know this is uncomfortable to think about as we approach Remembrance Sunday.

I previously worked on accountability for war crimes for the UK government, and found the difficulty of delivering justice for the victims incredibly frustrating. I painted a portrait of Dominic Ongwen, standing trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, far removed from the atrocities and victims in Uganda. Slobodan Milošević was the first sitting head of state to be charged with war crimes, but died of a heart attack in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia detention centre, meaning judgement was never passed. Sadly, this is not an isolated case: many perpetrators or victims die before seeing justice served.

In 2012 a DRC village, Minova, was attacked by the military and the police, many raped and murdered. ‘Minova’ is a painting based on a photo by Diane Zeyneb Alhindawi, of a disguised woman giving a testimony in court of rape by soldiers, whilst her perpetrators stand behind her. This is the only painting that I haven’t obscured, because she is already anonymised. Her courage is awe inspiring.

On 31 October we celebrate the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, created to make positive steps on women, peace and security. Globally we are heading the right direction, but sadly sexual violence in conflict continues, so we still have a long way to go.


Tell us what you think by completing our feedback form below, and don’t forget to visit our window gallery where three paintings from this exhibition are on display until 22 November.

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Posted on October 27, 2020
Categories: Art for Social Change
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