Okinawa Culture and Spirit Project


November 8 – 12, 2016
Gallery Talk: Wednesday, November 9, 5-6pm
By Hiroshi Jashiki, New York based textile designer and Emi Matsumora, Okinawa based textile producer


Onishi Gallery is pleased to host “Churanunu: KŌGEI from Okinawa,” a stunning exhibition organized by Okinawa Prefectural Government that shares the unique fiber arts of Okinawa with the public. Running from November 8th to the 12th at Onishi Gallery in New York City, this exhibition coincides with “Bingata! Only in Okinawa,” an exhibition of the traditional resist-dyed fabrics from the prefecture on show at the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, Washington D.C., held from November 5, 2016 to January 30, 2017.

This exhibition will showcase extraordinary kimonos as well as design objects, all made with Okinawa fabric. Many works on display will also be for available for purchase, allowing visitors to take home with them a special treat from Okinawa prefecture. In Gallery A of the Onishi Gallery, designated works of dyeing and weaving from 11 different productions areas will be on show. These seventeen works represent the following regions: Ryukyu Bingata, Kijoka Basho-fu, Shuriori, Yuntanza Hanaori, Chibana Hanaori, Ryukyu Kasuri, Kume Island Tsumugi, Miyako Jofu, Yaeyama Jofu, Yaeyama Hanaori, Yonaguni Hanaori. In Gallery B, modern design objects made from traditional techniques will be available for viewing. These 50 pieces are created to meet modern lifestyles while adhering to traditional methods, and have been created by young artists who balance cutting creativity with traditional influence.





Okinawa Culture and Spirit Project

Okinawa is an island prefecture located in the southwest of Japan, and until about 140 years ago, it constituted an entirely different country called the Ryukyu Kingdom. The 14th to 16th centuries were known as the “Golden Age of Trade,” in which the Kingdom had prosperous trade with foreign countries. It was during this period that the Ryukyu people began adopting technology and cultural elements from Japan, China, and other Asian countries, and a unique culture and set of customs flourished. This exhibition aims to promote understanding and awareness of Okinawa’s unique history, culture, natural environment, and peace-loving nature through its special fiber art traditions to people around the world.

The Onishi Gallery, an art gallery in the heart of the artistic capital of the world, will host this exhibition in New York City for the first time, featuring traditional Okinawan dyeing and weaving that express the deep threads of Okinawan culture. This exhibition is the first attempt of Okinawa Prefecture to showcase in the United States its traditional Okinawan dyeing and weaving. We hope that the U.S. public thoroughly enjoys the beauty of the rare works, and experiences the depth and appeal of the Okinawan culture that has fostered this abundant beauty.


Okinawan Dyeing

Okinawa is home to many different traditions of dyeing and weaving. Dyed fabrics were once presented to the royal government of the Ryukyu Kingdom, and from this history, distinct styles of weaving and dyeing became deeply rooted in local areas. Weaving mainly consists of kasuri, roton, hanaori, and minsa patterns, whereas dyeing developed with special support from the royal family and now consists of various designs including the bingata, unique to Okinawa, all of which are still praised today for their artistry and technique. In this current year, 2016, Okinawa has boasted a large number of traditional crafts following Kyoto and Niigata. Fourteen traditional crafts have been recognized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, 12 of which are dyeing and weaving crafts.

The title of this exhibition,“Churanunu,” is the Okinawan word for beautiful, pure fabric. In the Ryukyu Kingdom, all women, regardless of social class, used a loom as a way of praying for the health of their household and growth of their children. Much of the weaving and dyeing of fabric today is performed using the same process. Churanunu does not simply refer to the beautiful appearance of the fabric, but also embodies the respect for purity and compassion that each dyer or weaver puts into every thread.

The exhibition will feature a total of 17 works, including 15 from six designated production areas on the Okinawa mainland, five from Kume Island, Miyako Island, and the Yaeyama Islands, and two by the Living Natural Treasure Toshiko Taira.

We hope this exhibition will help you discover the special characteristics of Okinawan dyeing and weaving, and experience the richness of the Okinawan culture and customs reflected in the bold and colorful bingata kimonos and the delicate, elegant Okinawan embroidery.


Major Production Areas and Works

1) Ryukyu Bingata

Bingata refers to Okinawa’s unique traditional dyeing pattern, which was first established 300 years ago. The bingata is now known by the bright, colorful bingata which was originally only permitted to be worn by royal or noble families. The sober, calming aigata which uses dark and light indigo shades to form the dye patterns was commonly worn by ordinary people.

In this exhibition, we will introduce the bright, colorful bingata which was worn as an extravagant dance costume and was created in the image of a bridal robe worn by the queen of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

2) Kijoka Basho-fu

Basho-fu is a type of cloth unique to Okinawa and was once found all over the country and worn by common people throughout the year as work-wear. The fibers are tough and cool when worn, and were used even in kimonos for special occasions and garments for royal and noble families. In 1974, the Kijoka Basho-fu Preservation Society received recognition as a national Important Intangible Cultural Property, and the Society’s representative, Toshiko Taira, went on to become recognized as a Living National Treasure in 2000.

In this exhibition, we will present two of Toshiko Taira’s works, the Basho-fu kimono ‘Gomai’ and the obi ‘Yellow Striped Silk Weave.’

3) Shuri-ori

The kasuri-ori and mon-ori patterns that were passed on to the city Shuri and are collectively known as shuri-ori. Shuri, a city that flourished as the capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom, was influenced by China and southern countries and brought about a unique style of weaving. It is said that the weaving techniques were passed down through royal and noble families and women, and today we can still see many different examples of refined design and extravagant coloring.

In this exhibition, we will introduce the Shuri Roton-ori, which features beautiful embellishments and was once used to make noblemen’s clothing. We will also show the Shuri Hanakura-ori in its beautiful vermillion with floating embroidery, which was loved by noblewomen.

4) Ryukyu-kasuri

Haebaru, an area that produces Ryukyu-kasuri, has been known to produce kasuri since the Ryukyu Kingdom era. The colorful patterns, of which there are over 600 types, are distinct. Many of the patterns represent the lifestyle and natural environment and have a certain simplicity and nobility. In this exhibition, we will share examples of the shikigawara pattern, which has complexity within simplicity, as well as the beautiful and refreshing yutamanokashiaya pattern.

At this exhibition, we will also have an Okinawa Cultural Information Booth present, which will introduce the Okinawa prefecture by exhibiting information panels about Okinawa’s natural environment and culture.

For more information on the exhibition, please contact Nana Onishi at 212-695-8035, or by email at nana@onishigallery.com. Or, please visit the gallery website at www.onishigallery.com.


Organizer: Okinawa Prefectural Government Department of Culture, Tourism and Sports, Exchange Promotion Division

Collaborators: Ryukyu Bingata Business Cooperative, Naha Traditional Weaving Business Cooperative, Kijoka Basho-fu Business Cooperative, Yuntanza Hanaori Business Cooperative, Chibana Hanaori Business Coorperative, Ryukyu-kasuri Cooperative Association, Kumejima-tsumugi Business, Cooperative, Miyako Textile Business Cooperative, Yaeyama Hanaori Business Cooperative, and others.