70m sea wall mural with high school students
I made this mural in 2021 at Ohama beach in Sumoto, which is on Awaji Island in Japan. As part of my “regional revitaliser” role at Sumoto city, we made the Ohama mural project to bring some life and colour to a grey car park at Ohama beach.
What is a “regional revitaliser” (地域おこし協力隊 – chiiki okoshi kyouryokutai）- in Japan?
It is a contract for 3 years with a regional “city” (not usually urban, just an area of countryside) that is supposed to bring life and interest to places that have a declining population. The aim is to bring tourists in, as well as encouraging people to relocate from the big cities. They also want to make the places desirable so that people don’t leave, 0r if young people go away to university, they want to come back to their “hometown”. In order to do this the city employs “regional revitalisers” to create events, projects, open businesses, make improvements etc. I was employed from 2019-2023 and in that time I started my indigo business https://aiaii.blue/
as well as creating murals and various other projects. There are thousands of these positions across rural Japan and at least a hundred or so are non-Japanese people, as far as I know.
Ohama Hekiga (ohama mural)
We made a project with Mr Takada and the art club of Sumoto High School’s art club. It is a 70m x 1m wall on the carpark of the south side of Ohama beach.
Although we started in August, by the time we had done 4 workshops and decided on the design, it was already November. We completed the painting bit by bit in 3 weeks after school and on weekends.
It is a very long and thin shape, so we put it into 3 zones; the sea is purple, pink and blue, the sky is pink, yellow and orange, the mountain is yellow and green. It looks very bright but nevertheless they are still colours found in nature!
After deciding on the themes and colours the participants could paint freely. We deliberately painted directly onto the wall, without using chalk first, to keep it fresh.
I often use wavy lines in my painting, and they have multiple, flexible meanings. The border between the sea and the sky, the sea and the sand, the land and sky, the waves on the water or in the air, to give the picture rhythm.
The central part in yellow, orange and pink is the sky and thread section. Within the gradations of colours you can see significant patterns emerging. These patterns are based on the local fishermen’s coats (‘shishu donza’) embroidery designs. The embroidery thread connects people, place and history.
Finally, we decided the title and subtitle towards the end of the painting. ”Ohama Hekiga” just means Ohama mural, and we thought that would help it be easy to look up online. The subtitle means “Life fabric nurtured by mountain and sea”.
I hope that this is an artwork that all kinds of people can enjoy. It is for the local people who walk there everyday, with their friends, dogs or kids, or visit for fishing from time to time. It is also for the many kinds of visitors who come to enjoy Awaji Island; the bikers, people on holiday to celebrate special occasions or just passing through. It would be nice if they saw it from far away and were compelled to walk closer and closer until they can see the tiny details, painted with love by Awaji island people.
We were blessed with rainbows and beautiful sunsets while painting this wall.