Fa`a fafine: in the manner of a woman
Shigeyuki Kihara, 2005
Purchased with the aid of the Art Fund. MAA 2007.465.
Kihara’s compelling triptych challenges stereotypic representations of Polynesian women as sensuous ‘dusky maidens’ and raises questions regarding the attribution of gender and racial identity. The artist positions herself centrally within the series of images, which both mimic and critique the techniques of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century studio photography.
'What people see with me is the surface of what’s being presented to them, but not necessarily what you would call a reality. I am Polynesian, I am Asian, I appear publicly and live as a woman within my male anatomical body; this is known as fa`a fafine in Samoa – ‘third gender’ is the closest western interpretation.
'The Fa`a fafine work questions the western classification of races, gender and sexuality. I can never fit into them, but at the same time I ask myself – are they worth fitting into?'
Shigeyuki Kihara, 2006