Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mrs. Yohena’s Garden: A living Work of Art

The entrance way into Mrs Yohena's Garden in the Izumi district of Motobu Town
I had the privilege yesterday to observe a couple of artists at work. One of them was Ryukyu Mike, a world infamous wildlife photographer and renowned party animal. The other was the matriarch of a farming family in rural Okinawa.
Room with a view. This rest area overlooks the lower part of the garden and is a great place to grab some shade and a cool drink on a hot day.

Now a lot of people claim to be artists these days and from what I’ve seen, a lot of them should be ashamed of themselves for calling themselves artists. For example, one fellow in a nearby village draws pictures with crayons that would make your average third grader’s work look like a Rembrandt!
With the price of everything else going through the roof these days, it's ice to see something to do that people can still afford.

Just the other day on the news, some fellow visiting Okinawa from some foreign country was being heralded for his pottery. To be honest, I couldn’t differentiate it from the mass produced junk that comes from the third world hell holes to be sold in the local 100 Yen shop. Artists, hardly!
A  view of the Yohena family homestead. Talk about a room with a view!!!
I think what makes someone an artist isn’t the fact that they think they’re an artist. What makes them an artist is that others call them artists. When you can look at what they’ve done in the medium of their choice and are awe struck by it, I think that makes them an artist!
Hey, where'd these pink Hydrangea's come from??? By the way, they're called "Ajisai" in Japanese...

As far as the medium of choice, it has no limits. For the writer, it’s the pictures they can paint in your mind with their words on the page. For the actor, it’s making you believe that they really are the character they are portraying on the stage or silver screen. For the sculptor, its making you believe the clay or stone they’ve lovingly shaped with their hands is real flesh and blood. In short, I think art is art when the one who crafts it has put a bit of themselves into it. In a word, they’ve breathed life into it. Art becomes art when the work moves the one who views it emotionally.
Mrs. Yohena, 95 years young and plenty spry poses for a picture with world famous wildlife photographer Ryukyu Mike

For Mrs. Yohena of Motobu Town, Okinawa, art is more than Van Gogh’s splashing of color on canvas or the minimalist beauty of an Ikebana sensei’s spiritual expression display of flowers. For her, a piece of canvas would be far too insignificant and a vase far too inadequate. For the Yohena family of Motobu town, art is life and their canvas is the hillside where they live.

The Ajisai will be in bloom for just a few more weeks so get out and enjoy them while you can. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Dances of Okinawa (a quick look) Photos & Video

Okinawan dance is the traditional dance that has developed in Okinawa prefecture, which includes the southernmost islands of Japan.

Okinawan dance is also called Ryukyu dance or Ryukyu Buyo, since it was originally developed during the Ryukyu Kingdom era, between the 15th and 19th centuries.

There are three basic genres of Ryukyu dance: Classical dance (or Court dance), Zo dance and Folk dance.

Classical dance was developed at the Royal Court during the Ryukyu Kingdom era, and was performed to entertain Chinese envoys and Japanese clans. Classical dance movements are generally slow in tempo, with dancers keeping their feet on or close to the floor at all times, and; wearing colorful clothing called Ryukyu Bingata.

Zo dance developed in the local theaters after the Ryukyu Kingdom era ended with the creation of Okinawa Prefecture in the late 19th century. Zo dancers dress in casual kimono like those worn by ordinarily people, but Zo dance movements are much more energetic and fast in tempo.

In learning Okinawan dance, students get to experience both formal classical and Zo dances, dancing roles that express love and other aspects of the human condition.

 The other type of Okinawan dance is called folk dance. It dates back to the 600s, and has evolved ever since from the ceremonial arts used by priestesses to express their appreciation to the gods in the spirit of prayer.

Folk dances often incorporate the use of an unusual type of drum called Eisa [E-i-sa-] – Bon dance (or bon odori), which are becoming very popular not only Okinawa but throughout Japan.