Hiroshima Appeals – Burning Butterflies by Yusaku Kamekura

In 1983, Yusaku Kamekura completed a work for a project called “Hiroshima Appeals”, run by the Hiroshima International Cultural Foundation in partnership with the Japan Graphic Designers Association. Kamekura was the first artist to contribute to the 21 piece collection, with his work “Burning Butterflies”. The purpose of the project as explained by these two associations is to highlight “‘Hiroshima’s Spirit’ that transcended words to widely convey the prayers and wishes of Hiroshima, which experienced the ravages of the first atomic bomb used on mankind,” (“HIROSHIMA APPEALS Exhibition.”). As Kamekura’s piece was the first to be added to the collection, it is widely regarded as groundbreaking. The lithographic piece, which features delicate, colorful butterflies falling in the flash of an atomic bomb with bright flames emerging from their wings, at first glance may speak to the tragedy that happened in Hiroshima (Van de Ven, Anne-Marie). However, Kamekura designed this piece to juxtapose the horror associated with the events of World War Two and wanted the audience to interpret this piece as one that promoted peace. In this work, Kamekura diverged from his traditional artistic style, and this perhaps speaks on the artist’s strong feelings about the subject of this particular artwork. The juxtaposition between beauty and tragedy displayed within this work of Kamekura’s highlights the devastation that took place in Hiroshima and honors the innocent lives that were lost on that day. To this day, “Burning Butterflies” as well as all of the other Hiroshima Appeals works, are significant artworks that promote world peace. 

Works Cited

“HIROSHIMA APPEALS Exhibition.” 21_21, www.2121designsight.jp/en/gallery3/hiroshima_appeals/. 

Van de Ven, Anne-Marie. “Hiroshima Appeals Poster.” MAAS, 2005, collection.maas.museum/object/349928#&gid=1&pid=1.