The story of Chika Honda
a Japanese tourist who spent a decade in Melbourne prisons
A Documentary Performance

Poster Design by Janette Hoe
REAL TIME + On Screen Review
Photos: Jon Armstrong
Four ways to tackle injustice
John Bailey
Mayu Kanamori's Chika is a beast of a different stripe. Billed as a "documentary performance", it blends live music, dance, photo and video footage with performed narration to tell the story of Chika Honda, a Japanese tourist jailed for over a decade for the alleged importation of heroin. Kanamori, a documentary photographer, regularly visited Honda during her incarceration and, though her subject was initially reluctant to be photographed, gradually developed a kind of visual diary conveying her experiences. This reticence, it appears, is part of the reason the resulting documentary is largely impressionistic: the projected images of clouds or wire fences suggest the hand of an artist rather than an objective recorder of facts, and Kanamori eventually acknowledges that at some point she moved from documentarian to friend. The record of injustices portrayed thus takes on a personal hue: Kanamori's plain narration from the front of the stage does not suggest artifice, but neither does it pretend to offer the facts from an impartial standpoint.
Supplementary material on offer in the foyer (a letter from Honda's pastor and a religious statement from Chika herself) hints at stories untold. What Chika does provide, in the end, is not so much the story of one person's life gone awry as the story of a sensitive and sophisticated artist's response to another person's pain. This is apparent in Kanamori's decision to invite Butoh artist Yumi Umiumare to perform several interpretive renditions of themes suggested throughout the piece. At the same time, Kanamor's journalistic kudos is affirmed with police video and television news footage. Tom Fitzgerald's musical direction and performance alongside musicians Anne Norman (shakuhachi), Satsuki Odamura (koto) and Toshinori Sakamoto (wadaiko) is an astonishing complement; a concert-level performance that adds immeasurably to the emotive power of this intimate unfolding. Chika is an impassioned plea for justice that speaks well of its creator, and records an otherwise unnoticed travesty of the Australian justice system.
April / May 2005

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