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Yambaru Art Festival 2019-2020 is a Fantastic Event You Can Enjoy During Okinawa’s Winter Season
post : 2019.12.26 23:00
The third Yambaru Art Festival began this month on December 14, and this year’s concept is Yabaru Kugani-nu Mui. Visitors can enjoy numerous artworks and crafts here together with the various venue locations spread out in these sacred areas of the northernmost point in the Yanbaru (northern) region.
The eight locations where you can enjoy art exhibits for the Festival include communities of Ogimi Village, Hentona, Okuma, Motobu Town and others, all in this area that is referred to as Yanbaru. The main venue is the former Ogimi Municipal Shioya Elementary School, and here, you can see and experience different types of art, get to know various Okinawan arts and crafts, and even purchase the pieces. Also, there will be overnight workshops again this year which were very popular last year, in making stone axes,with artists from the eastern region of Taiwan, and learning simple Kintsugi (a form of Japanese art that uses lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver, etc. in mending areas of broken pottery), Yachimun pottery nail art, and others. Artwork will also be displayed at places like the former Ogimi Village Office, Okuma Private Beach & Resort, and Okinawa Commemorative National Government Park where the famous Churaumi Aquarium is located. In this article, I’ll focus on the former Shioya Elementary School venue and introduce points that you wouldn’t want to miss in this year’s Yambaru Art Festival.
The entrance to the venue is through the front gates to the former school, and here, the dynamic poster with the actor Nijiro Murakami welcomes the visitors. Nijiro-san was a former resident of Higashi Village and has close ties with the rich nature of the Yanbaru area. The mysterious and eye-catching appearance is impressive, adorned with Gettou ginger lilies and hibiscus, and wearing accessories made of shells. The poster heightens your expectations on the wonderful artwork you’re about to see and experience.
Proudly standing in the middle of the school grounds is a sculpture by Kamu Nagasawa, titled UTAKI-Seimi no Rekishi (history of life). Focusing on the rough yet delicate and sensitive features of the Ryukyu limestone, this sculpture was inspired by the circle of life that takes place on Okinawa.
One of the former classrooms is used to exhibit the works of Dutch artist, Nik Christensen. His work consist of water-based ink on silk and the silk cloths are installed like walls. Through the semi-transparent silk, one can see the other works like they’re overlapping, and the natural light that shines into the room creates a comfortable atmosphere and shows varying expressions in the works.
Another area showcases works by manga artist, Yuichi Yokoyama. The manga displays are based on two episodes surrounding the mythical Kijimuna and Gajanbaru of Okinawa. Upon closer look, the language used in the manga display is in Uchinaguchi or the Okinawan language. The artwork and storyline is surreal, and the Okinawan language really matches the artwork and the flow of the manga. The size of the manga displayed in the room is large, making the layout and atmosphere excitingly chaotic.
On the first floor of the venue are various arts and crafts on display. Shown above are the well-known Bashofu textiles of Kijoka, Ogimi Village, and fabric with Bingata dye produced by the Gusukuma family, one of the three major families of Bingata craftsmen, and a family that has continued and passed on this art across 16 generations of their lineage at the foot of the Shurijo Castle. Visitors are treated to see the amazing beauty of a kimono by Toshiko Taira, a Living National Treasure, and Obi sash made by the Gusukuma family Bingata Kobo studio that boasts over 300 years of history, founded from the time of the Ryukyu Dynasty era.
The craftworks on display in the multi-purpose classroom are not just for visitors to enjoy their beauty, but people are welcome to touch and hold the pieces, and even purchase them, too. These crafts on display and sale are put together by YAF CRAFT MARKET, offering works by 25 various artists based in the Yanbaru area and other parts of Okinawa. They offer a wide range of works like Yachimun pottery, Ryukyu Glass, Bingata dyes, Bashofu textiles, textiles dyed with Ryukyu indigo, woodwork, lacquerware, gold work, plants and more. You’ll certainly find something that’ll catch your eye, so be sure to pick it up!
Paired with the YAF CRAFT MARKET is another shop, put together by a group from Kyoto, the Fukusanbutsu Shoten (by-product shop) which adds to the interesting aspect of this area. The group went around to the studios of the artists participating in the YAF CRAFT MARKET and collected materials from the experimental stages of creating the artworks, as well as the ends and remnants of various materials used, and also the tools that the artists no longer needed. With these items, they have created an exhibit and sales of “by-products from the creation of artworks” and added value to them. It was an interesting exhibit and invited visitors to imagine the story behind the creation of the artworks by seeing their by-products as well.
In the gymnasium are a museum shop and a café area. The gymnasium stands facing the Shioya Bay, and the view alone is definitely worth the visit here.
The museum shop offers original T-shirts and official goods for the Yanbaru Art Festival, and also items by the participating artists. One piece that really captures attention is the large Kubrick by Cookie from the comedy duo Yasei Bakudan, titled Misty 1000% with a price tag at 44,000 yen. The museum shop offers a number of unique items, but this piece was certainly colorful and prominent. Now, let’s go on to the other venues.
Built in 1925, the structure that used to house the Ogimi Village Office is the oldest building constructed with reinforced concrete. It drew much attention at the time for being one of the first structures to be built with concrete in the area, and in 1997, it was designated as a tangible cultural property by Okinawa Prefecture. The structure has a distinctive style that is unique to the bygone era and brings a sense of nostalgia. Who can it be that chose to display their work here?
Inside, I found works by artist Cookie, from Yasei Bakudan, titled Kijimuna to Niku Yashiki (Kijimuna and the meat mansion). As the title suggests, the exhibit was exploding with the very, well, unique world of Cookie. As I read the concept explanation on the board which began with “A Kijimuna was secretly living in a meat mansion and inside was a meat pillar which the Kijimuna drank the seeping blood and…” I had to stop there because I was starting to feel dizzy.
On the second floor of the old Ogimi Village Office is a small space that displayed works by Mitsuo Shindo, the art director who is in charge of the visuals and booklet for this year’s Yambaru Art Festival, and works by Keng-Sing. There is a sculpture inspired from Hajichi, a traditional culture of Okinawa from a long ago where women tattooed designs on their palms, back of their hands and on their elbows. The large piece displayed in the small space has a powerful presence and was quite impressive.
I then drove to the Hentona shopping area to the new hot spot, YANBARU HOSTEL. They renovated an accommodation facility that was built over 40 years ago to make this hostel. The atmosphere they created and enhanced through the renovation was lovely and brought out the advantages of an older structure. Now, let’s see the art pieces await.
Installed here was Love Sanctuary, an exhibition of works using plants by artist Yuko Morii. Selecting plants like the fan palm and lygodium, which are used for ceremonies and rituals in Okinawa, the exhibit expresses the inner sanctuary the artist finds within herself that lives harmoniously with the sanctuaries that exist in nature. Combining the pieces with the stylish interior of the place really made the space delightfully comfortable. I wanted to sit there and just stare up at the pieces all day.
Finally, the last piece I want to introduce is Wasureyotatte Wasurerarenai (I can’t forget even if I tried) by Tatsu Nishino. The work is actually an abandoned building within the shopping district in Hentona. The building used to be a medical clinic, the Hikari Iin, and before that it was a cooperative store. It has been an important part of the lives of the people in the area and for the district, no matter what it housed. By painting the building white and presenting it as a monument that is filled with various memories by the people of the town, the work aims to bring memories held by each person and leaving a simple image. As I looked at the pure-white building, I remembered the small town that I used to live as a child, and the hospital that I used to go to back then.
This year’s Yanbaru Art Festival is full of wonderful works of arts and crafts, and also invites visitors to thoroughly enjoy the history, memories and stories of the local Yanbaru region through its venues. After visiting the Art Festival venues, take some time to stroll around the communities and see the neighborhood and shopping areas. You’ll probably find something that will unfold its charming story for you.
Yanbaru Art Festival 2019-2020 Yanbaru Kuganinu Mui
Exhibition Period: Saturday, December 14, 2019 – Monday, January 13, 2020
Hours: Every Tuesday, 11:00 to 17:00 (at Ogimi Village Kyu (former) Shioya Elementary School),
Closed New Year’s Day & January 2
*Hours will change when events are held in the evenings.
General Director: Choji Nakahodo
Exhibition Venues: Ogimi Village Kyu (former) Shioya Elementary School, Former Ogimi Village Office, Former Hikari Clinic Building in the Hentona Shopping District, YANBARU HOSTEL, Okuma Private Beach & Resort, Okinawa Commemorative National Government Park (Ocean Expo Park, Tropical Dream Center), Kanucha Resort, Agu Sculpture in Front of the Nago Shimin Kaikan (municipal hall)
Participating Artists: 22 in the Exhibition Category & 25 in the Crafts Category, Total of 47 Artists
Hosted by: Yanbaru Art Festival Executive Committee
Co-Hosted by: Ogimi Village, Shima Zenbude Okina-Sai
Supported by: Okinawa Prefectural Government, Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau, Association of Northern Municipalities, Kunigami Village, Higashi Village, Motobu Town, Nakijin Village, Nago City
Official Website: http://yambaru-artfes.jp/
Okinawa CLIP photo writers, monobox (Tetsumasa & Kozue Kawano)