Marja-Leena Rathje
Home ::: Champuru


This just arrived in my inbox courtesy of a Japanese artist friend (thanks Tomoyo!) and it sounds like a fascinating exhibition, both culturally and historically:

CENTRE A presents


IE Ryujin
MAEDA Hiroya

Presented in partnership with the Okinawa Museum of Contemporary Art

Exhibition: June 4 - 25, 2005
Opening: Friday, June 3, 8pm
Location: Tinseltown, 88 W. Pender Street

Symposium: Saturday, June 4, 10 am - 5 pm
featuring Okinawan food, music and dance, and sumi painting workshop
Location: Vancouver Japanese Language School, 475 Alexander Street

Curated by Hank Bull

Okinawa is a group if semi-tropical islands located between Japan and Taiwan. Although a province of Japan, Okinawa maintains its own distinct culture. Over centuries of trade with China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia and the Pacific Islands, Okinawa has developed a unique cultural mix, popularly called "champuru", which is reflected in its exquisite textiles, ceramics, music and lacquer. Okinawa also has strong local traditions that include matriarchal shamanism, cuisine, a close connection with nature and the world's best longevity statistics.

It is a tragic counterpoint to this alluring image that in 1945 Okinawa was the site of the longest pitched battle in history, one which took an awful toll on the civilian population, and that the presence of huge US military bases remains today a highly unpopular fact of life. Okinawa has been a staging ground for the Korean war, the Vietnam war and both wars in Iraq and constitutes a bastion of US foreign policy in Asia.

The exhibition, the first of its kind to take place in North America, will present examples of contemporary collage, sculpture and installation art.

The symposium will begin with a discussion of planning for the Okinawa Museum of Contemporary Art, slated to open in 2007. The afternoon session will feature performances of Okinawan music and dance, karate, and a sumi painting workshop.

Three artist/curators associated with the Okinawa Museum of Contemporary Art will attend the exhibition and symposium. Many years in the planning, this museum project raises questions about the role of the museum in the construction of national identity and offers an opportunity for comparison with Centre A's own development plans. Experiencing Okinawan contemporary art will offer insights into neo-colonialism, globalization and trans-culturality.

The Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the BC Arts Council, the BC Gaming Branch and the City of Vancouver through the Office of Cultural Affairs.

Media Contact: Hank Bull, 604-683-8326;

Marja-Leena | 01/06/2005 | 2 comments
themes: Art Exhibitions


Ah, the tragedy of Okinawa. What angers me about what happened to them is that the Japanese, in their ever-arrogant way, now consider it as always having been part of Japan. Most Japanese would get angry with me if I suggested that Japan annexed Okinawa without the consent of the Okinawans.

The American airbases are so heavily concentrated in Okinawa simply because "real" Japanese would never put up with such an American intrusion anywhere else in the country. Okinawa is the poorest of Japan's prefectures and doesn't have the political clout or ancient familial connections to be able to stand up to the oligarchy. The Okinawan's anger is further being fueled by the huge new American airbase being built that threatens to destroy a great part of the reef along the main island's coast. Already the Americans have destroyed an entire smaller island off the coast of the main island by using it as a missile targeting site.

In recent years Okinawa culture has become popular in Japan, but always packaged as an integral part of Japanese culture, most people claiming it as a "nostalgic" part of their past, when, in reality, Okinawa is distinct and, until recently, was disdained by Japanese for its poverty and lack of economic "drive".

Thanks Butuki for your comments, coming from someone living in Japan. There's a lot I did not know about Okinawa that you've just opened my eyes to. Indeed, it's tragic how these people have been oppressed by both the Japanese and the Americans. I look forward to seeing their art, which they still manage to create, and hope that their new museum will be a shining success. Maybe this will be a way for them to gain some of their own power back, hmmm?