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Art show commemorates 100 years of Japan and Cuba

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-06-20

The Urasoe Art Museum is now featuring a special art exhibition, which is just one of the many festivities that will be happening around the country, as part of the 100th year anniversary of relations between Cuba and Japan. According to immigration records, it was in 1898 that the first Japanese national emigrated to Cuba. This event was followed by a century of exchange of not only people, but also culture.

To commemorate the event here in Okinawa, Pedro Monzén of the Cuban Consulate in Tokyo, visited the island and attended the opening ceremony of the exhibition. Through the consulate, many other activities have been planned, and are taking place around the nation. There will be a salsa dance festival in Tokyo, cultural exchanges, and many other fun events.

The organizers of the art exhibition, who have all been to Cuba, decided to bring to Okinawa the art work of nineteen different artists from Cuba to participate in the "Cuba Modern Art Exhibition." There are several well-known artists that are participating in the exhibition, including Nelson Dominguez.

Walking through the hall that leads to the main gallery, you are first greeted by black and white photographs taken by Masako Hirano. The Japanese photographer's use of black and white captures the many feelings and expressions of the Cuban people through a series of photographs that depict everyday Cuban life. Scenes from children playing to families in their sparse living rooms bring you up close to the many faces that make up the Cuban population.

The first room to your left, at the end of the hall, houses the wood block prints of Julio Garcia. His very colorful images of animals will first capture your attention. Also in the same room is the work of Agustin Bejarno, who uses the same print technique of carving, but instead with plastic.

A giant wood block print collage by William Hernandez Silva commands the second room. The third and largest room brings out both the Spanish and African influences of the island nation. Belkis Ayén's images of African religion and folklore are very intense, done in black and white. Here you will also find huge oil paintings done by Dominguez.

The price for entry to the museum is ¥800 for adults, and ¥500 for elementary, junior high school, and high school students. The price also covers entrance into the museum's permanent collection, which features lacquer ware from Okinawa. The exhibit contains superb craftsmanship of lacquer ware that were used as gifts, and also by the wealthy aristocrats of Shuri. This traditional craft uses the "Urushi" tree, which can only be found in certain parts of Asia. Cuts made into the tree bring out a juice from which the lacquer is made. Some of the older pieces date back to two hundred and three hundred years old. There is also a section that shows how lacquer ware is made.

The museum also has a small reference library on the second floor, and a coffee shop located on the first. It's a pleasant way to spend a rainy afternoon. It is open every day, except Monday, from 9:30 am until 5 p.m. To get there from Kadena, head south on Highway 58. Make a left at the Pizza House restaurant on to Yafuso Main Street. Continue straight, and after you pass over Route 330, keep an eye out for a sign pointing the way on your left. The Cuba Modern Art Exhibition will take place until July 5, so be sure to pay a visit this month to Urasoe's Art Museum.

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