Words by Kazunori Nakashima
Okinawa is located in Southwest Japan and is surrounded by the sea and its nature. In terms of natural and cultural features, Okinawa is distinct from other parts of Japan, and its unique tradition and culture are still very much alive.
Bingata, for many years, has been one of the most popular of its kind, which illustrates Okinawa by means of its colorful patterns and beautiful colors.
Traditional Textiles Reflecting Okinawa
At one time Okinawa was independent nation called Ryukyu Kingdom. Bingata is an Okinawan traditional resist-dyeing cloth, which dates from the Ryukyu Kingdom period.
Originally, only aristocratic social classes, such as kings and warrior families, could wear Bingata. Its textiles were also used for the costumes of dancers who welcomed envoys especially from China.
It is generally bright-colored and features various patterns, which express prosperity of Ryukyu Kingdom at that time. Its original technique has been passed down while adopting superior techniques from the neighboring countries via trade.
Bingata was once about to be extinct in postwar poverty, but many people took action to save Bingata, which is interweaved Okinawan natural features and history.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
Noriko Tanaka carries her Bingata studio with her husband in Okinawa. Since she read a book about Okinawan handcrafts in her school days, she became addicted by the vividness and the strength of Bingata. “I really like the sunlight in Okinawa,“ she says. She respects shadow, which thought to be the opposite of light. As sunlight gets stronger, it deepens the shade.
“Kumadori” is one of the most important processes of Bingata to represent light and shadow. She tries to render powerful colors of Okinawa, such as colors of sea, mountain, plants and sky, in her Bingata. The contrast of light and shadow allows viewers to experience an overwhelming life, which might be the biggest charm of Okinawa and Bingata.
Putting the Respect into the Tradition
Bingata is generally designed in classical patterns, which have been said to be strongly influenced by the Southeast Asian countries like China, and Japan.
However, in Noriko’s works, there are many works, which show her little movement in daily life. Accordingly, each drawing inspires our affinity and many of them attract our sense of closeness and convey his humanity to us.
She expresses her feelings of the impression in everyday lives by dearest drawings. Her own color is being piled on her pieces putting the respect into the tradition, which was built up by the predecessors.