Fa'afafine: In the Manner of a Woman, Triptych 1

Shigeyuki Kihara Samoan
Person in Photograph Shigeyuki Kihara Samoan
Photographer Sean Coyle

Not on view

Shigeyuki Kihara is a multimedia and performance artist who uses photography to explore themes of Pacific culture and gender identity, indigenous spirituality and colonialism. Kihara is of Japanese and Samoan descent and inspiration for her work comes from a variety of sources, including nineteenth- and early twentieth-century colonial photographs of Pacific islanders taken in the studios of European photographers. In the series Fa'a fafine: In the Manner of a Woman, Kihara makes powerful statements about the depiction of Samoan people, societal roles, and sexuality. The Samoan word fa'a fafine is best described in Western terms as a third gender. The artist, herself a fa'a fafine, re-creates studio tableaux in line with those staged by nineteenth-century photographers working in Samoa such as Thomas Andrew and Alfred John Tattersall, in which women and men were posed partially clothed among props and a backdrop of tropical foliage. In this triptych, Kihara reclines on a couch in a pose evocative of the ‘dusky maiden’ trope — each photo revealing her in various stages of undress. Presented as both male and female, Kihara boldly engages the gaze of the viewer while challenging common assumptions about gender identity. The series is a powerful commentary directed at Western perceptions of Pacific Islanders and the sexual stereotypes that were generated by early images and which, in many ways, remain intact to this day.

Published references

Hill, Greg A., Candice Hopkins and Christine Lalonde (eds.), Sakahan: International Indigenous Art. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2013, pp. 210-11.

Raymond, Rosanna, and Amiria Salmond (eds.), Pasifika Styles: Artists inside the museum. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology in association with Otago University Press, Dunedin, 2008, pp. 26, 59, 138.


“Pasifika Styles,” curated by Rosanna Raymond and Amiria Salmond, Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, 2006-2007.

Fa'afafine: In the Manner of a Woman, Triptych 1, Shigeyuki Kihara (Samoan, born 1975), Chromogenic print on "Fujicolor Professional Paper", Samoan

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