Okinawan artist Bokunen Naka, the Akara Art Gallery owner in Mihama American Village and renowned for his acclaimed Okinawa-inspired woodblock prints and other artworks, is holding his 30th exhibition named “The Shisa.”
The exhibition at Bokunen Art Museum on the 2nd floor of the Akara Gallery is open every day except on Tuesdays and runs from Apr. 2 through Sep. 26.
Preparing for the exhibition, Bokunen encountered some unexpected problems. “When we decided on this project, the coronavirus pandemic did not exist in the world. We Imagined a lively hall with parents and children during the summer vacation, and I was excited to introduce “Shisa” as the mascot of Okinawa,” he says.
“However, the significance of the exhibition has changed as an unprecedented disaster has hit the world, and we had to delay the exhibition period. We have collected all Bokunen’s Shisa works here to dispel the evil of this painful world and give everyone a little power,” he explains.
Shisa is a fictional creature that originated in China and was adapted to Okinawa to acquire a local character. It’s a figure that is a talisman against evil spirits. It has become a familiar presence on Okinawan roofs, gate pillars, and also inside houses.
Bokunen has drawn various shisa-themed images he feels have affected and blended into his life. They are the powerful figures glaring from the roofs and those with a mischievous smile, which run around playing innocently. In Shisa’s expression as a powerful guardian god, you can feel the warmth that is Bokunen himself while his overflowing vitality pours into every work.
As Bokunen says, “I hope that this power will help you to get rid of evil and bring you a smile.”