Art takes so many forms. Across the world it is a key and hugely important method of expression. But what happens when an art becomes more than that? When it becomes so closely intertwined with a culture or place that it becomes a history, a vast and expansive story. Japan house, located on high street Kensington, was host to an impressive talk and demonstration, showcasing the magnificent Bingata textile art style.

The first question that springs to mind may be what exactly is Bingata? This was the first question addressed by one of the talk leaders, Ueda Miki, from Chinen Bingata Laboratory. Ueda Miki started by commenting (translated from the original Japanese by a present interpreter), ‘ If I were to describe it in just one phrase, it is a historical dying technique rooted in Okinawan culture.’ She then unfolds this, explaining how it is characterised by vibrant colours in addition to intricate and bold designs. She also mentions how the design was heavily influenced through trade links between Korea, China and southeast Asia.

The talk then went on to cover the History of Bingata, which dates back many centuries and believed to have started in the Ryūkyū Kingdom. It was worn and favoured by the ruling class and royalty to showcase their status. The tradition came to face many struggles over time, the Japanese feudal domain of Satsuma’s invasion, leading to crafts people’s loss of profession and then again later on, in World War II, when Okinawa became a battle ground. However, the tradition was kept alive and even through hardship inventive methods were used to make tools, such as bullets as the tops of paste applicators and fragmented LP records to spread glue.

Odo Azusa of the Ryukyu Bingata Preservation and Expansion Consortium, accompanying Ueda Miki, stepped up to clarify the Ryukyu Consortiums role pertaining to Bingata. She taught us that it’s aim was to highlight the importance of preserving the dying technique and fostering appreciation for it among younger generations, aiming to provide the bingata style in the form of more accessible fashion accessories and at cheaper prices.

The talk concluded with a bewitching demonstration by Ueda Miki. She elaborated on the whole technique and then carefully showed us the practice of ‘rubbing’ ink, in the form of a beautiful flower pattern.

The talk was truly captivating with one member of the audience, Wendy Hewitt, remarking,’ This talk has truly inspired me, not only fostering my appreciation for this specific art style, but also encouraged me to look further into it.’ Overall, the presentation left a lasting impression on the audience. Bingata really does seem to represent something deeper than art.