Lasting Impressions

Academic, artist, author and world traveller, Dr. Hiroshi Shimazaki is widely known for his watercolour landscape paintings. Shimazaki's career at the U of L in management and human geography allowed him to incorporate his passion for travel and painting into his life journey.

While working on research projects around the world, he has always recorded his excursions through sketches and paintings.

Here, in his own words, he recalls a trip with University of Lethbridge President Bill Cade and wife, Elsa. Fondly remembering that time and commissioned by the University, Shimazaki painted Solid Foundations as a parting gift for the couple from the University of Lethbridge.

I wanted the subject of the watercolour to be a place with which Bill and Elsa connected through their work with the University, and to reflect their long-standing interest in native cultures and their personal ties. In discussion of its subject matter with the University, several choices presented themselves, all familiar landscapes: the University of Lethbridge, the City of Lethbridge, Lethbridge environs including Waterton National Park, a Kainai site or some other place. What I ultimately chose was Xochimilco (flower field place) at the outskirts of Mexico City, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Xochimilco's history is long and, of course, complex, but what speaks to me in relation to what Bill and Elsa have done for the University these past 10 years is the development of "chinampa" in this area. This agricultural practice enabled the inhabitants to utilize the shallow lake to grow crops and thereby sustain a civilization. The foundation for the crops was created by placing large reed mats on the water, covering them with a thick layer of mud taken from the lake bottom and planting fast-growing trees that put down deep roots to anchor them. Centuries later the chinampa are now solid land crisscrossed by canals like the one in the painting. Families and tourists enjoy music and food on the "trajineras," the colourful boats that ply the canals. The title of the painting, Solid Foundations, speaks not only to the Xochimilco landscape but also to the Cades' innovative, unswerving efforts to strengthen the internal and external foundations of the University, with outstanding results.

Solid Foundations, Xochimilco, Mexico City. Hiroshi Shimazaki.

The original sketch of this waterscape was created in 2002, the year the Cades, Ali Dastmalchian (then-dean of the Faculty of Management) and I visited Universidad Panamericana (UP) and Instituto Panamericano de Alta Dirección de Empresa (IPADE) in Mexico City, and UP's Guadalajara and Aguascalientes (Universidad Bonaterra) campuses to renew the Faculty of Management's first international exchange program agreement. I have wonderful memories of that trip, especially the opportunity it presented for me to get to know both Bill and Elsa better and, of course, the incredible introduction they gave me to the world of crickets as we listened to their love songs on the Aguascalientes campus.

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