My Mother, the stranger

Winner of the 29th Tadahiko Hayashi Award

My Mother, the stranger


Publisher: Creo

After the death of her mother in 1998, Japanese artist Etsuko Kasagi decided to retrace her life in pictures. “I came to realize that I had known nothing about my mother. I knew that she was born in Korea, lived in Taiwan and Manchuria, barely made it back to Japan alive when the war ended, and met my father […] But it seemed like the life story of a stranger.”

Her approach to this deeply personal exploration of her mother’s life transcends time and space and truth. Photographs of her mothers life – in Manchuria, in Japan – are manipulated and pastiched with photographs taken decades later, of the same locations, the same people, or similar situations. Kasagi inserts her present self into family photographs from 80 years ago, traces her mother’s journey in pictures as if it were her own, and describes the process – ending after 20 years with the publication of this book – in pictures and text (in Japanese and English translation).

While Kasagi’s story is a sentimental, touching one, it also blends with Japan’s history as a colonial power, tracing historical events on the level of individual people. Superimposing the present on the past, Kasagi also reveals the past’s long shadow on the present.

“By getting to know the mother I had never known, I would finally be able to let her go.”


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Book Size
380 × 265 × 17 mm
132 pages
Publication Year
English, Japanese