Shigeyuki Kihara is a contemporary artist and the first New Zealander to hold a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Titled Shigeyuki Kihara: Living Photographs, the exhibition opened from 7 October 2008 to 1 February 2009. Kihara's self-portrait photographs in the exhibitions included nudes in provocative poses that portrayed colonial images of Polynesian women as sexual objects. Kihara is also a fa'afafine, the 3rd gender of Samoa. Born in Samoa, Kihara's mother is Samoan and her father Japanese. Kihara immigrated to New Zealand at the age of sixteen to further her studies. She trained in fashion design at Wellington Polytech (now Massey University). In 1995, while still a student, Kihara's Graffiti Dress - Bombacific was purchased by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa).
Kihara has exhibited her work extensively in New Zealand and internationally with solo exhibitions including: Fa'a fafine: In a manner of a woman, Sherman Galleries, Sydney, 2005; Vavau: Tales of Ancient Samoa, The Gus Fisher Gallery, University of Auckland, 2006; and Undressing the Pacific, Hocken Library Gallery, University of Otago, 2013.
Kihara's work can be found in the public collections of ; Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand; Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand; The University of Auckland Art Collection, New Zealand; Massey University, New Zealand; Waikato Museum of Art and History, New Zealand; Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney Australia; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney Australia; Tjibaou Cultural Centre, New Caledonia; University of Cambridge Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, U.K. and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
In 2007, Kihara curated a group exhibition about Samoan Fa'afafine titled Measina Fa'afafine: treasures from a liminal space at Artstation gallery in Auckland. In 2008, Kihara's curatorial project Hand in Hand, co-curated by Jenny Fraser was held in Australia. The exhibition presented various art forms and mediums to challenge dominant ideas about gender and sexuality in an intercultural exhibition of 17 Indigenous artists from the Pacific and Australia. The exhibition was staged at Performance Space and Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative in Sydney and toured to the University of Tasmania Plimsoll Gallery.
Kihara's solo performance entitled Taualuga; the last dance has been performed at the 4th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Brisbane, Australia; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Musée du Quai Branly, Paris; and Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand.
In 2001, Kihara's T-shirt series Teuanoa‛i - Adorn to Excess which parodied well-known corporate logos were exhibited at Te Papa and later added to the national museum's collection. The T-shirts featured Kihara's quirky take on well-known brands, turning logos such as The Warehouse to The Whorehouse and KFC to KKK. The exhibition created controversy in the media and raised legal questions about copyright versus artistic expression. Following legal advice, Te Papa removed three of the 28 T-shirts from its exhibition, but purchased the entire series.
Pacific & Gender Identity
Combining her affinity for fashion design with performance and imagery, Kihara stages provocative scenes that question the authenticity of art works by non-indigenous artists in the Pacific in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For Fa'afafine: In the Manner of a Woman (2005) exhibited at Sherman Galleries in Sydney, Kihara used her own body to reconstruct the colonial gaze preserved as ‘ethnographic' imagery. She undermines the scheme of Western classifications including gender by portraying both a male and female subject. These works speak of Kihara's own identity and status as a Samoan and as a Fa'afafine. Fa‛afafine, understood as the ‘third gender' in Western interpretation, are an accepted part of the Samoan social fabric. By taking ownership of the image, Kihara challenges orientalist clichés composed in colonial photographs of Samoans.
Shigeyuki Kihara was the recipient of the Creative New Zealand Emerging Pacific Artist Award in 2003. In 2007, she was also the first artist-in-residence at The Physics Rooms Art Residency in Christchurch. In 2012 she was awarded the Wallace Art Awards Paramount Award.
- "Shigeyuki Kihara: Undressing the Pacific", University of Otago. Retrieved 28 May 2013.