A Song About Sāmoa brings together two culturally distinctive artforms; Sāmoan siapo and Japanese kimono. Siapo, a hand-made barkcloth made from the lau u’a (bark of the paper mulberry tree), is a labour-intensive practice and one of the oldest traditional artforms in Sāmoa. The form of the kimono is based on furisode, the style worn by an unmarried young woman. For this series, five kimono have been fashioned from siapo. These works are presented as sculptural objects as well as a surface for illustration and design. Featuring distinctly Japanese wave forms, siapo patterns and the semi-circular seigaiha, these designs explore the cultural, social and political connections between Japan and the Pacific Islands and specifically Sāmoa.
The exhibition title - サ-モアのうた (Sāmoa no uta) A Song About Sāmoa - is drawn from a popular Japanese song. Yuki notes that the text of the song propagates enduring tropes of an untouched Pacific paradise. By combining the visual metaphors, material traditions and histories of Japan and Sāmoa, Yuki creates a new starting point from which transnational connections might be explored and re-framed.
Yuki Kihara is an interdisciplinary artist and curator/producer based in Sāmoa. Of Japanese and Sāmoan descent, her work challenges singular, historical narratives and the false divides they have perpetuated. Yuki’s deep knowledge of the intersectionality between art, postcolonialism, race, gender, sexuality and climate change has seen her work presented and acquired by museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, British Museum and Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand to name a few. Yuki is currently a research fellow at the National Museum of World Cultures in The Netherlands, a position she has held since 2017. Yuki will represent Aotearoa New Zealand at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022, curated by Natalie King.
Images courtesy of Yuki Kihara and Milford Galleries Dunedin. Photography: Glenn Frei.