Manga and Uighur Camps: Shimizu Tomomi
Activists throughout the globe have recently been demanding change regarding Uighur camps in China through various media platforms. The situation is so grave that the “U.S. State Department estimates at least 1 million Uighurs have been detained and forced to work in internment camps. There are also allegations that detained Uighurs are being forced to make products that U.S. consumers are buying, including 13 tons of human hair for weaves and wigs that were seized earlier this month” (wbur.org, Tonya Mosley). Yet, amidst a political crisis, many may feel they do not possess the power to make change. Within the art community, Shimizu Tomomi refuses to remain quiet, using his art as a platform to demand change and spread awareness.
In 2019, Tomomi’s manga “What Has Happened to Me ~ A Testimony of a Uyghur Woman~” gained traction, garnering the attention of millions, and her work has even been translated in over 10 languages. With just a few black and white panels, Tomomi manages to provide social commentary on the Uighur camps through the eyes of Mihrigul Tursun, a now United States resident who survived harsh beatings and unjust detainment.
After being interrogated, she had the opportunity to see her children, only to be met with horror: her oldest child was dead and the others had neck scars from unknown operations. From having her triplets taken away at the airport to being met with countless electric shocks, Tursun has faced many traumas, and her story should not be ignored.
In an interview with Reuters, Tomomi explains that she “decided to use manga for this purpose because [she] believes manga has a power to convey things to people in an easy-to-understand way” (reuters.com, Hideto Sakai).
With simplistic and powerful images, Shimizu Tomomi’s incentive to express the story through manga renders logical and meaningful. Her work has undoubtedly reached a wide audience. But, one story alone is not enough to combat this crisis: everyone has a responsibility to work together and end the tragedy happening before our eyes.