James Jack’s intricate work in progress, “Tokunoshima Blueprint for Resistance” (2020), is composed of patterns from the rich tradition of weaving and dyeing practiced on the islands of Amami and Tokunoshima, a tradition that has outlasted the test of time and oppression. The use of these patterns reveal the spirit of the community, of the people, who refuse to bow down to external influence in an attempt to preserve their roots. The piece is drawn from this strength of spirit, as it engages with cultural crafts that refuse to die out. Jack is an artist who shares ancestral islander roots threatened to the point of disappearance, thus the desire to hold on to identity and culture is both personal and political. The text woven through the piece comes from signs paraded during a successful island-wide movement against the relocation of the Henoko military base to Tokunoshima in 2014, representing their power to stand ground. It also represents a resurgence of identities from the past in the realities of the present, which resonates with all those for all those witnessing culture they care about threatened in the present reality. In Sri Lanka, we have a saying for this phenomenon, “the whiteness of the crane appears only when it flies,” which means we see the worth of something when its existence is threatened; when it takes flight. The rebirth of identity is increasingly difficult on occupied lands in which indigenous cultures are being forced out, but recognizing this very threat of extinction, or of disappearance, wills a resurgence. This artwork engages with resistant culture both traditional and contemporary in solidarity with the attempt to rise above oppression.

—Shenali Wijesinghe

Special thanks to Yoichiro Fujioka, Junichiro Tomi, Morihiro Toshi, Setsuko Toshi and Kristen Ho Hui Yan.