Photo Exhibition "Okinawan Narratives"


Wednesday, May 12, 2021 (All day) to Monday, May 31, 2021 (All day)


Tunnel Gallery


A photography exhibition by the OIST Community.

Collective consciousness in Okinawa is an intricate issue. Okinawa turned from independent seafaring nation, to Japanese colonial subject, to atrocious war theatre and American dominion, and lastly to a tropicalised tourism destination. This small island has seen an extensive and institutionalised construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of memory, which makes it a fascinating yet almost insurmountably difficult task to discern and understand the various narratives that intertwine in this space. 

Most of us, members of the OIST community, come to Okinawa lacking an understanding of the complicated history and geo-politics of the island. We go on to live within a historical tension between the tourist gaze and the local consciousness of Okinawa. We have little to no access to the now fading oral histories and customs, except in polished and romanticised snippets. We are sold on a tropicalised narrative of Okinawa, one which seeks to enhance its distinctive features (especially compared to the mainland), in order to increase its appeal in the eyes of the Japanese or international tourist. All the while, we try to contribute to Okinawa’s growth and development.

Through aesthetically cohesive, yet interesting juxtapositions, and while avoiding an overt guidebook perspective, in this exhibition we want to shed light on the narratives about Okinawa that we internalise and reproduce through our own work. We want to start a conversation about our role as foreign long-term residents on this island and the ways in which OIST, as an institution, contributes to such narratives.

These are difficult questions and we don’t claim to provide any answers. However, in carving our own “situated knowledge”, we want to recognise the significance of our partial perspective and provide context for narrative inquiry.

This exhibition brings together the photographic perspectives of various OIST members into our syncretised Okinawan narratives, centred tentatively around four main themes:

  • heritage 1 — natural landscapes and environments;
  • heritage 2 — Okinawan cultural heritage and its modern re-appropriations;
  • figures/characters — portraiture and wildlife, lived experience;
  • angles/contrasts — architecture, anthropic landscapes.

These themes are neither disjoint nor do they encompass the full richness of Okinawa, but will hopefully provide new lenses through which to understand the spaces we inhabit.

--from Foreword


  • curation Adrian David
  • assisted by Ainash Garifullina
  • typography Rachapun Rotrattanadumrong


  • Aleš Buček
  • Theo Boulumis
  • Bala Chockalingam
  • Adrian David
  • Neil Dalphin
  • Audrey Denizot
  • Ankur Dhar
  • Ainash Garifullina
  • Przemek Keppe
  • Alexandru Mihai
  • Nico Moreno
  • Rachapun Rotrattanadumrong
  • Patricia Webfer

Note: OIST Campus is currently not open to visitors.

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