Learning Across Boundaries (LABs)

*Closed* Our See of Islands: Creative Arts and Social Engagement in Okinawa

June 2019

A Summer LAB led by Dr. James Jack and Lawrence Lacambra Ypil

This summer opportunity is a LAB/internship hybrid. Up to 12 spots are available on the LAB. Additionally, two internships placements will be available following the LAB: one Arts and Culture internship with a project/site funded by the Okinawa Arts Council (updated) and one internship with BARRAK, a local art gallery. For more details on these positions, please see the “Internships” tab below.

LAB DATES: Monday, 3 June – Monday 10 June, 2019

Students from all majors are encouraged to apply to this LAB. No formal background in the arts or in creative writing is required.

CO-PAY: S$700
Some need-based financial assistance will be available for students with demonstrated financial need. There will be a separate application for financial assistance after students are selected for the LAB.

LAB DESCRIPTION: This LAB is an experiential journey through creative arts in the social context of Okinawan culture and history. The Ryūkyū archipelago has a rich creative history of songs, poems, artwork and music passed on from oral traditions recorded in song books. Passed on from one person to another in an oral tradition, these songs tell the creation myths of Okinawa and Amami islands, the power of priestesses, the daily life of common people and their agricultural practices. These Omoro contain literary culture in the archipelago before the invasion of the Satsuma Clan in 1609, the beginning of the occupation of the islands that continues today. These songs and poems preserve spirits of the people, spirits and environment of the islands that still exist today amidst dominant belief systems from Japan. They also show maritime connections with the Pacific as well as trading with Taiwan, Java, Sumatra, Luzon, Malacca, China and Korea in addition to Japan. Islanders drew upon these maritime exchanges on the Kuroshio Current in composing colorful songs, literature, customs, chants and other cultural expressions. Amidst violence imposed on Okinawa in the past and continued destructive actions occurring now, these creative expressions resist dominant narratives of the islands told by the conquerors. Okinawa was occupied by the United States from WWII until 1972, but 70% of the military is concentrated in Okinawa which represents less than 1% of the total land mass in Japan. The promise that these lands would be returned to Japan was changed to a relocation project, and this has caused contention towards the construction of new military facilities.

The LAB will investigate these social issues and explore indigenous perspectives from the point of view of islanders. We will examine the richness of local stories from the viewpoint of artists, poets and other cultural workers who embody the spirit of the islands. Islands as points in interconnected networks with other islands will be emphasized both through preparatory work conducted in Singapore, creative research held in Okinawa as well as a mini-exhibition held on campus.

Upon return to campus, participants of this LAB will be split into four smaller groups and invited to work on specific topics:

  1. Island ecosystems and maritime currents: how they have shaped island cultures
  2. Islands as destinations and ports in travel routes and narratives
  3. Island-mainland relations: how islands and continental land-masses relate to one another through history
  4. Islands as enabling factors in artistic creativity: how indigenous knowledge shapes creative works

Each of the groups will produce output in the form of text, images and A/V clips. Such output will correspond to the work undertaken during the trip by each participant, but will provide four parts of a cohesion exhibition. The output from these four groups will be exhibited on campus in September 2019, and will be open to the entire campus community.

Have Questions?
Annette Wu
Executive, Experiential Learning

Contact with questions about travel fellowships and LABs.


To apply, please complete the following and submit to Annette Wu annette.wu@yale-nus.edu.sg by Sunday, 17 March 2019 at 11:59pm SGT. 

Please submit your application via email, using the subject header “Okinawa LAB Application”. Include personal information in the body of your email, and attach your statement of interest in a PDF document named “First Name_Last Name”. If you are also applying for one, or both internships, you must submit your resume and cover letter(s) with your LAB application. Please refer to the “Internships” tab for more information.

Personal informationthis information will be kept confidential, and will only be used if you are selected for the LAB.

  • Name (as on passport)
  • Class (e.g. 2020, 2021, or 2022)
  • Yale-NUS College Email
  • Date of Birth (DD/MM/YYYY)
  • Passport issued by (country)
  • Passport number
  • Whatsapp number

Statement of interest: Why do you want to participate in this LAB and how will you use this experience to further your personal, academic, and/or professional goals? If you have prior experience in arts/creative writing, please feel free to include this in your statement of interest. (500 words maximum)