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  • About the Artist:Shigeyuki Kihara
  • Pamela Rosi

Shigeyuki Kihara is a visual and performance artist based in Auckland, New Zea­land. The recipient in 2003 of Creative New Zea­land Art Council's Emerging Pacific Island Artist Award, her cutting-edge work challenges cultural stereo­types and dominant norms of sexuality and gender. Crossing borders is integral to Kihara's life. She grew up with a Japanese father and Samoan mother, and in adolescence began occupying the Samoan space (vä) of a Fa'afafine—a liminal gender category best translated as a male who identifies as a woman.

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Figure 1.

Photo by Ken Mayer

Kihara's first acclaim came in 2000 when her exhibition Teuanoa'i: Adorn to Excess (twenty-six t-shirts satirizing corporate logos) created a sensation and was purchased by New Zealand's National Museum Te Papa Tongarewa. Her next work re-appropriated ethnographic images of Polynesians with modern consumer items through the medium of paper collage (Black Sunday, 2002) and later focused on photographic self-portraits where she posed as Samoan Goddesses (Fale Aitu: House of Spirits, 2003) and deities from Samoan folklore (Vavau: Tales from Ancient Samoa, 2004). Emulating the genre of velvet paintings, these photographs express a double entendre as they are intended to honor traditional Samoan culture while subverting a Western gaze that exoticizes images of Pacific Islanders. Parody is integral to her performance work, as well. For example, as pictured opposite, she wears a corseted eighteenth-century gown while richly bejeweled and displaying the fingernails of a high fashion model. Her 2005 exhibition Fa'afafine: In the Manner of a Woman intended a similar critique with personal implications. Drawing on archival nineteenth-century South Seas postcards, Kihara poses as both a Samoan man and woman, and in three panels of a dusky Polynesian maiden reveals her dual sexuality to challenge the binary model of Western sexuality that labels third sex/gender categories deviant. Kihara exhibits and performs internationally. Her Fa'afafine works are carried by Sherman Galleries in Sydney, Australia.

Pamela Rosi
Bridgewater State College


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