Festival highlights 2017–22

Yambaru Art Festival

January 31, 2022

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Okinawa Prefecture is located at the southwestern tip of Japan and consists of 160 islands of various sizes. Many tourists come to Okinawa to enjoy the subtropical climate, the beautiful beaches surrounded by coral reefs, and the unique culture nurtured by its geography. The northern part of the island has many US military facilities, but it is also home to valuable flora and fauna and was designated as the 33rd national park in 2016. The Yambaru Art Festival was held for the first time in 2017, when the momentum for northern tourism was building.

The exhibition consists of two sections: Exhibition Section and Craft Section. In the Exhibition Section, Takahiro Kaneshima, who has led various art projects including art fairs in Japan and overseas, was invited as the director. In addition, internationally active Japanese artists, artists from Okinawa Prefecture and foreign artists created and exhibited site-specific works in this section. In the Craft Section, young and talented artisans from the prefecture created beautiful items such as pottery, glass, textiles, dyed goods, and wooden ware, all of which evoke the atmosphere of Okinawa.

This festival has created opportunities to experience and enjoy variety of high quality art works in Okinawa Prefecture where there are few museums and art galleries. It has contributed to the cultural education through active interaction with the local people. It is also worth mentioning that the lineup of foreign artists has been enriched every year. In addition, the past five festivals have attracted tourists from Taiwan, China, Korea, and other countries as well as from other parts of Japan, and have been able to promote the culture and atmosphere of Yambaru through art to a total of over 200,000 visitors.

In July 2021, the The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared "Amami Oshima, Tokunoshima, Northern Okinawa Prefecture and Iriomote Island" as Natural World Heritage sites. With this area attracting more and more attention, we intend to host the art festival that that coexists with nature and resources while gradually increasing the number of permanent art works remaining in the area.

Highlights of the past five years:
YAF 2017–18
Although the festival was held during the winter, which is said to be the off-season for tourism in Okinawa Prefecture, many people came to see this unique festival that brought together contemporary artists and a variety of Okinawan crafts.

YAF 2018–19  
In order to convey the beautiful message of the Yambaru region, which is not familiar to tourists from overseas, we began to include artists with an international outlook. Sun Xun, an artist from China, created a completely new "Izakaya" (Japanese style pub) in the home economics room of an abandoned school building, which became a hot topic.

YAF 2019–20
We invited artists with much more international flavor compared to the previous years. The Dutch artist Nick Christensen exhibited in a classroom in an abandoned school building, and a Taiwanese artist held a workshop where visitors could experience the lifestyle of aboriginal people in eastern Taiwan. A Japanese artist, Tatzu Nishi, used an abandoned hospital building to create a work of art that can still be viewed today.

YAF 2020–21
This year's festival was held under unprecedented circumstances due to the Covid19 outbreak. The content of the festival was creatively rearranged by taking measures such as online streaming of talk shows and artist performances, video recordings of interviews with participating artists, and 3D installation views of the exhibition space, therefore visitors who could not come to the festival in person could also enjoy the content. 

YAF 2021–22
The festival was held under during the Covid19 pandemic and overseas artists were not able to visit Japan following the previous year. Although two artists from Europe participated in the event. From Japan, the Hokkaido-based unit THE SNOWFLAKES with Yoshitomo Nara, the internationally active art collective Chim↑Pom, and Kyoto-based artist Teppei Kaneuji participated. 

Download the full press release here.

Yambaru Art Festival 2022–23 confirmed
Details to be announced later this year.

Organized by Yambaru Art Festival Executive Committee.

Press inquiries: Yoshiko Nawa (Relay Relay) / Inquiries about the festival: info [​at​] yaf-okinawa.art.