Okinawa Island Guide

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Okinawa Island Guide

Woodblock print artist Bokunen Naka

The “Ki no Musume” series, crafted with colorful paints to imprint primitive designs that appear to represent a spirit, or kaminchu.

Bokunen Naka is a woodblock print artist who was born on Izena, an island with deep ties to the Ryukyu Kingdom. His artworks displayed in Bokunen’s World (Bokunen Art Museum) are not only characterized by vibrant colors that are typical of a subtropical island but also express – sometimes gently and sometimes dynamically – a spirit that cherishes the islands of Okinawa and the natural environment that exists there.
Bokunen’s production process is very interesting. He seemingly tries to concentrate his mind by praying in the direction of a woodblock while standing in front of his workbench, but after a while he quickly draws an outline with a brush and starts carving the woodblock with a chisel. Sliding his chisel speedily over the woodblock and carving it as if he were being urged on by some invisible force, Bokunen breathes life into the woodblock in the blink

Bokunen's grandmother was a well-known kaminchu (woman with exceptionally high spiritual power) on Izena Island. He says that as he was interested in how the kaminchu conducted solemn ceremonies, he often climbed trees in his early childhood to secretly watch what was going on. Bokunen was a nature-loving boy who would immediately climb any tree he happened to find. He says that even today he still climbs trees in the mountains to commune with Mother Nature. Perhaps he pretends to be a stone, listening attentively to various sounds of nature, feeling them with his five senses and storing various records in the memory banks of his mind.

The “Ki no Musume” (Tree Daughter) series is a group of recently created works reflecting a new aesthetic and expressing Bokunen’s world, which has indeed evolved through his dialogue with Mother Nature. At the Bokunen Art Museum in Chatan Town, it is possible to see these woodblock prints that convey the realistic sensation of hearing the voices of spirits or living things. Through his artworks visitors are encouraged to experience the attractive features of Okinawa such as the starry sky, scorching sun and sparkling sea illuminated by sunlight.

‘I approach woodblock printing always feeling that I am “receiving or picking up a picture” rather than drawing one’

At his atelier located near a beach in Yomitan. Bokunen creates his artworks applying the urazaishiki, or back-coloring method. He performs all the steps involved in the work – those of artist, carver and printer – himself.

Bokunen Naka
Born in 1953. Established graphic design company Project Core in 1979. Started production of woodblock prints, publication of woodblock print collections and appearances on film and television in 1987. Won various awards and selected as an overseas cultural exchange ambassador by the Agency for Cultural Affairs in 2007.

“Daishoenkan,” a large piece of work measuring two meters high and 12 meters wide, reflects Bokunen’s impressions of the world below the sea. Various kinds of fish are accurately depicted by Bokunen, who loves the sea.

Bokunen Art Museum
A permanent exhibition based on seasonal themes can be seen at Bokunen Art Museum inside the AKARA building located in Mihama, Chatan Town. Original artworks are available for purchase. With gentle curves designed by Bokunen, AKARA, also a work of art in itself, is a facility where visitors can enjoy art, fashion and dining.