It's not yours to decide!: Yoshiko Shimada


"Self-determination means declaring it is not yours to decide.'"

Ryuko Kurita, Umeki kara hajimaru (Starting with a Moan), Shinkyo Shuppansha, 2022.

Ota Fine Arts is pleased to present "It's Not Yours to Decide!", Yoshiko Shimada's first solo exhibition in 21 years. Since the late 1980s, Shimada has been working on the theme of women and war, and has long been at the vanguard of feminist art in Japan and abroad. She is also known as a scholar of avant-garde art in 1960s Japan.

In this exhibition, Shimada will feature the Chupiren (Women's Union for Liberalization of Abortion and Legalization of the Pill), an organisation founded in 1972 to oppose the anti-abortion law and demand the lifting of the ban on the pill. The Chupiren, led by Misako Enoki, wore pink helmets with female symbols and engaged in radical and outrageous activities, which were widely covered by the media at the time, including weekly magazines and variety shows. Due to the way the Chupiren was portrayed in the media, the group is still being treated as a joke today, and not at all appreciated, even amongst feminists. Shimada, however, urges that the activities of the Chupiren, which clearly asserted women's "right to self-determination" regarding sexuality and reproduction, needs to be re-examined now.

Sexual and Reproductive Rights are human rights that allow women to decide for themselves, and the idea that these rights should be guaranteed is globally recognized as a goal for achieving Gender Equality, one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In Japan, however, the law requires spousal consent for abortion, even for unwanted pregnancies caused by domestic violence, and abortion surgeries are not covered by insurance. Women's health and human rights are still under the control of the state and its authorities.

Shimada likens the Chupiren to a prophet (Sybil), and attempts to revive the spirit of the Chupiren, who acted proactively to win rights from the paternalistic authorities. In this exhibition, we present photographic works, paintings, and video works that embody this determination. Rights are not something that someone hands you. And if someone tries to "grant" you the right concerning your own affairs, you should firmly declare: "It's Not Yours to Decide!"