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Publication Announcement – Okinawan Art in its Regional Context: Historical Overview and Contemporary Practice

The Sainsbury Institute is delighted to announce the publication of the second volume in our Occasional Paper Series, Okinawan Art in its Regional Context: Historical Overview and Contemporary Practice.

Okinawan-born artist Yuken Teruya presents at the symposium in 2019.

The paper is the result of a conference supported by the Sainsbury Institute in October 2019 and organised by Dr Eriko Tomizawa-Kay which brought together researchers specialising in art history, history, political science, and sociology along with contemporary artists active outside Japan. The important discussions on the socio-cultural complexities of Okinawan identity that were facilitated by the symposium highlighted the need for a paper to disseminate the findings and outcome of the conference to a wider audience, and encourage the continued exploration of Okinawan art, culture and identity.

Despite the interruption of the pandemic, the paper not only brings together a wide range of experts and topics on the subject but is also bilingual – an impressive feat thanks to the hard work of the editors and contributors to the volume. By bringing the proceedings of the conference in both English and Japanese, it is hoped that the discussions and research of the conference will continue to grow, transcending national and linguistic boundaries.

The paper covers a broad range of topics across the field of Okinawan studies. Contributions by Ikegami Hiroko and Machida Megumi both assess the current state of studies of Okinawan art and give an overview of some of the complexities and characteristics of the field. Articles by Kobayashi Junko and Hirakawa Nobuyuki explore Ryūkyūan painting, highlighting the importance of the period of the Ryūkyūan Kingdom, which has been largely neglected, to bridge the gap between past and present. The articles also highlight the unique style that can be attributed to Ryūkyūan painting, with its vivid realism and brilliant colours, the development of which has social, political and historical underpinnings. The influence of Chinese, Japanese and Fujian painting are also subsumed into an artistic language that can be classed as distinctly Ryūkyūan. Okuma Seisaku’s article discusses the post-war period, and how Okinawan artists responded to increased commercial demand for art from a market formed of US troops, and how these commercially driven, and often more visible, art forms can in turn alter our own perception of how Okinawan artists responded to the aftermath of the war.

Abstracts from the talks that formed the symposium are also testament to the breadth of topics and disciplines covered by the conference and this subsequent publication, spanning from photography to sports tourism in Okinawa. The paper also features an essay from Okinawan-born artist Yuken Teruya about the relationship between his work and identity, and how this has affected, shaped and influenced his artistic practice. 

The importance of this paper lies in its demonstration of the richness, complexity and multi-faceted nature of Okinawan culture, encompassing a range of diverse elements, from the Ryūkyūan Kingdom to the US occupation and post-war period. We invite you to take a look and hope that the content will be of interest to yourselves for your research, teaching, or curatorial work.

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