Students were treated to the cultural experience of a lifetime this Wednesday as audience members were astounded by Okinawan Performance Art.
“Marking Bodies of Peace” is a unique show, highlighting art forms such as dance, music and drama, as well as giving the audience a chance to interact with the performers. The show focuses on traditional Okinawan culture.
Okinawa represents a space known as the “Keystone of the Pacific” which is located in the Ryukyu Islands of Japan.
The atmosphere in Okinawa today is tense, due largely to the occupation of nearly 50,000 American troops.
“Okinawans utilize cultural performance as a powerful vehicle to construct a collective identity that resists war, embraces peace and strives for sustainability,” said Valerie Barske, assistant professor of history at UWSP.
The show was a hit from the beginning, drawing in more people than the venue could hold. Every available spot on the floor was taken, and with good reason.
Haruka Shingaki was the dancer of the evening, treating the audience to traditional Okinawan dances about love and farewells.
After a welcoming message from event organizers Valerie Barske and Eiko Ginoza, the show continued with a reading from “June Sky,” a children’s book about the tragedy in Okinawa that occurred in 1959. The story is about a plane that crashed into an elementary school, ending several young lives. The reading was an emotional journey through the eyes of a child dealing with the aftermath.
Then came the highlight of the evening, a one-woman performance by Sumiko Kitajima. Kitajima played a grandmother talking to her granddaughter who was about to be married. The grandmother told stories of when she was first married, and how she received her first Hajichi tattoos.
Hajichi are tattoos that Okinawan women receive when they go through milestones in life, such as getting married or having their first child.
Through Kitajima’s performance, we learned about Okinawan culture and the legend of how the first tattoos were given to women by the gods as reward for their hard work.
Though the one-woman play was entirely in Japanese, it was very easy to understand. “Grandmother” is a universal language. It was a unique experience in storytelling.
The audience got to chime in and help Kitajima sing a traditional blessing song. Everyone lent their voice and for a moment, we were all a family at grandma’s house.
The night finished off with everyone out of their seats and dancing. There wasn’t a face without a smile.
“Marking Bodies of Peace” should be considered a great success. Everyone in the crowd was educated and entertained.