Pasifika fellow shines spotlight on Samoa

Interdisciplinary artist Shigeyuki Kihara, who is presenting a public lecture at the Wellington campus on Wednesday, is the first recipient of the 2013 Pasifika Arts Fellowship at Massey’s College of Creative Arts.

A native of Samoa, Kihara uses performance art, photography and video to convey contemporary and historic impressions of her homeland.

The title of her lecture ‘Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?’ encompasses much of the philosophy and inspiration for her work.

She uses such questions to frame her examination of Samoan culture and society following the tsunami of 2009, last year’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of Samoa’s independence and most recently, the destruction caused by Cyclone Evan.

Kihara’s lecture will also include a video screening of her performance art that shows her donning a Victorian mourning dress to revisit a character first viewed in three previous performance works Tauluga: The Last Dance (2006); Siva in Motion (2012) and Galu Afi: Waves of Fire (2012). Referencing the staged photographic postcards of the ‘South Seas’ Kihara says the lone figure she presents "stands as silent witness to scenes of political, historical and cultural importance in present day Samoa."

She turns the camera to question her country’s colonial past, the impact of burgeoning globalisation, ideas of indigeneity and the role of government in an independent Samoa to "unpack the myth" of her country as an untouched pacific paradise as seen through the eyes of colonial powers and tourist photographs.

Kihara’s work has been presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Asia Pacific Triennial and will also be exhibited at the upcoming Sakahan Quinquennial to be held at the National Gallery of Canada in May. She also has a solo museum exhibition opening at the Utah Museum of Fine Art in Salt Lake City in August.

The Pasifika Arts Fellowship at Massey encourages artists to produce personal work, explore ideas and develop student projects through workshop, discussion groups and lectures. A collective exhibition is held at the completion of the last fellowship. The Pasifika Advisory committee aims to nurture and strengthen the connections between Pasifika communities and Massey and to develop creative arts research and academic leadership within the Pacific.

Shigeyuki Kihara’s public lecture is on Wednesday March 27 from 5.30pm at the theatrette of the Museum building, Entrance D, Buckle St, Wellington.

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