ISHIKAWA, Mao, Red Flower: The Women of Okinawa
For over 40 years, photographer Mao Ishikawa has documented daily life in her home of Okinawa. Ishikawa came of age during the island’s ‘Reversion’ to Japanese sovereignty in 1972 after a prolonged postwar occupation by US forces. The Reversion provoked deep questions about the nature of Okinawan identity as a culture distinct from that of mainland Japan, while the ongoing presence of American military bases on a substantial portion of the island remains controversial. In the mid-1970s, Ishikawa worked in bars near the Kadena Air Base and Marine Corps base Camp Hansen, which catered to African American personnel at a time of unofficial segregation. She began photographing the men who frequented the bars and, more prominently, she photographed the Okinawan women who challenged social taboos by dating them. Ishikawa became familiar with these sexually confident women, documenting them over a period of two years in images of remarkable boldness and intimacy.