Past Exhibitions

Yuki Kihara

Fa'afafine - In the Manner of a Woman

31 Jul - 21 Sept 2021

Exhibition Works

Fa'afafine - In the Manner of a Woman (Box Set)
Fa'afafine - In the Manner of a Woman (Box Set) (2005/20)
Fa'afafine - In the Manner of a Woman
Fa'afafine - In the Manner of a Woman (2005/20)
Ulugali'i Samoa - Samoan Couple
Ulugali'i Samoa - Samoan Couple (2005/20)
My Samoan Girl
My Samoan Girl (2005/20)

artist interview

 Yuki Kihara speaks to Stephen Higginson about her iconic Fa'afafine series. Video production: Ross Wilson

exhibition text

Accompanying the Quarantine Island lenticulars is the re-editioned Fa’afafine Series (2020). Acknowledged worldwide as a work of seminal importance, the subject of countless essays and feature publications, represented in collections of such significance as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, University of Cambridge Museum, Te Papa Tongarewa and Dame Jenny Gibbs, the Fa’afafine series is not simply a work of profound artistic importance delivered with significant political and social intent and complex, intersectional narratives but one that asserts the legitimacy of indigenous culture and diverse gender identities.

Visually literate and layered, explicitly referencing Manet’s Olympia (universally acknowledged as one of if not the most scandalous painting of the nineteenth century) in which Manet depicts a nude prostitute attended by a black servant, Kihara turns the work inside out by altering all the hierarchies and preconceptions of it.

Kihara who identifies herself as a Fa’afafine (Samoan ‘third gender’) uses her body as an artistic material and device of the triptych form as a sequence of subtle reveals, where Kihara through another guise unapologetically returns the gaze to the viewer. In that manner, Kihara flips attention back onto the assumptions and precepts of European art, cultural attitudes and binary thinking.

In this manner, Kihara subverts the racial and cultural hierarchies together with gender and sexual stereotypes inherent in European culture, and directly questions the role European art has played in legitimising and codifying such attitudes. In doing this while using the tropes of early studio photography Kihara undertakes plural conversations about time and place, the histories of colonialism and the role early photography itself performed in furthering particular perceptions and attitudes, such as the sexually alluring noble savage.

Fa’afafine - In the Manner of a Woman is also a narrative about the identity of the subject. Not male not female but revealed as both, and therefore different, multiple levels of complexity and cultural nuance arise.

My Samoan Girl and Ulugali’i Samoa; Samoan Couple reprise the tropes of the early images of Polynesia. Paralleling the advent of photography as a commercial medium and the postcard as a device to engage in salacious tourism, Kihara again courageously uses herself as the subject.

These re-editioned works are issued in an edition of 25 and available as an exclusive collector’s set in a custom-built engraved wooden box or individually (1 triptych and two singles). Each work is supplied CV matted and ready to frame.

yuki kihara overview

 A brief overview of the career of Yuki Kihara, New Zealand's representative at the 59th Venice Biennale 2022