The Rich Diversity of the Yambaru Art Festival

The Yambaru Art Festival 2020-2021 takes place in Yanbaru, the northern part of Okinawa Main Island. In 2021, it will be held from January 23rd to February 21st. Mr. Choji Nakahodo, the general director, introduces us to the festival.

A New Era of Art

The Yambaru Art Festival (YFA) was first held in 2017, and takes place in the buildings that were previously Ogimi Shioya Elementary School. Located beside the mountains and the ocean, the site is surrounded by nature. The reason for the festival being held in Yanbaru is because of the region’s unique cultural life and its deep connections between the people and nature. It allows for the creation of “art that can only be achieved here and now.”

In its fourth year, there is the sense of a new era. The festival has embraced the theme of Yanbaru chishin that plays on the idea of onko chishin which means revisiting the old to understand the new. As we live in an era of digital, virtual and remote technology, art can give us a feeling of connection even from afar.

Mr. Nakahodo has also taken part in the Yambaru Art Festival as an artist. “The nature of the Yanbaru region fires up my creativity, and it provides me with many new ideas.” Each year, many artists from mainland Japan and overseas visit the Yanbaru region to create their work. By the time they leave, they have fallen in love with the area, and we hear words of praise such as, “It is hard to believe there is a place such as this in Okinawa,” and “I want to stay longer and continue to create.” The Yanbaru region is inspirational for artists, and this leads to new opportunities for Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands. It provides tourists with the chance to discover something new, and for local artists and the next generation of artists it is a unique opportunity to reexamine the origins of art on their own island.

Life is Art, So Live Free

Mr. Nakahodo believes that life itself is art. Each time we hold this festival, my understanding of the Yanbaru region deepens through the relationships we create between the staff, participating artists and the local people. I strongly feel that through art we all have a greater love for the Yanbaru. The culture of Okinawa is often described as champuru which means mixed in the Okinawan language. He believes the same applies to the Yambaru Art Festival which connects to the geographical and historical characteristics of Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands. This art born of the Yanbaru, just like the region’s nature should have a rich abundant diversity.

The Yambaru Art Festival is the only opportunity for domestic and foreign contemporary artists and Okinawan artisans to meet together on such a scale. As such it has become a source of inspiration for Okinawa’s art community. Exhibiting artists and visitors can enjoy the opportunity to meet while viewing the artwork. Visitors can also enjoy the beauty and artistry of the surrounding nature and the delicious local cuisine. A visit to the Yambaru Art Festival, gives you the opportunity to break free from the traditional framework of what art should be and embrace the beauty and freedom of the Yanbaru region.

CAUTION

  • For those who are interested in visiting the event. Please ensure that you wear a mask, wash your hands and social distance in order for everyone to have a safe and enjoyable time.

Posted on January 19th, 2021
Text by Kei Itaya
Magazine editor, writer, newspaper journalist in Tokyo and NYC for more than 15 years. Returned to her hometown of Okinawa in 2019.

Useful links

Yambaru Art Festival *Only in Japanese

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