Looking Back at Samoa: History, Memory, and the Figure of Mourning in Yuki Kihara’s Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

In: Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas
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  • 1 University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia
  • 2 University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

Samoan Japanese artist Yuki Kihara’s photographic series Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (2013) focuses on sites of current and historical significance in Samoa. In taking on the title of French artist Paul Gauguin’s 1897 work, Kihara signals her desire to engage with the history of representation of the Pacific in Western art through dialogue with Gauguin and the history of colonial photography. Casting herself as a version of Thomas Andrew’s Samoan Half Caste (1886), a figure in Victorian mourning dress, she directs the viewer’s gaze and invites all to share her acts of mourning at these sites. The literal meaning of the title also indicates how the series engages with history via the Samoan concept of , collapsing time in space, to produce an understanding of both the country’s present and the potential future such history invites.

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  • 4

    Adam Gifford, “Shigeyuki Kihara: A Lament for the Lost,” New Zealand Herald, 8 September 2012, accessed 15 October 2015.

  • 7

    Pamela Rosi, “Shigeyuki Kihara: Subverting Dusky Maidens and Exotic Tropes of Pacific Paradise,” ArtAsiaPacific 51 (2007): 72.

  • 8

    Linda Tyler, “From the Collection,” The University of Auckland News for Staff, April 2014.

  • 10

    Yuki Kihara, “Artist Statement,” Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Milford Gallery, 2013.

  • 13

    Caroline Vercoe, “I Am My Other, I Am My Self: Encounters With Gauguin in Polynesia,” The Australasian and New Zealand Journal of Art 13, no. 1 (2013): 113.

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  • 15

    Whitney Tassie, “Shigeyuki Kihara,” Salt 8 (2013), accessed 8 January 2016.

  • 16

    Lisa Taouma, “Gauguin Is Dead … There Is No Paradise,” Journal of Intercultural Studies 25, no. 1 (2004).

  • 17

    Sia Figiel, Where We Once Belonged (Auckland: Pasifika Press, 1996), 187.

  • 18

     Quoted in Deborah A. Elliston, “Geographies of Gender and Politics: The Place of Difference in Polynesian Nationalism,” Cultural Anthropology 15, no. 2 (2000): 171–2.

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  • 19

    Albert Boime, Revelation of Modernism: Responses to Cultural Crises in Fin-de-Siècle Painting (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2008), 135.

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    • Export Citation
  • 20

    Vercoe, “I Am My Other, I Am My Self,” 120.

  • 25

    Alexander Spoehr, Majuro: A Village in the Marshall Islands (Chicago: Chicago Natural History Museum, 1949), 59. In slight contradiction to this, Spennemann claims that only finger tattoos were signs of high status in women, and hand tattoos were more common. Samoan Half Caste appears only to wear hand (not finger) tattoos, but her bearing marks her status, if nothing else. Dirk H. R. Spennemann, Tattooing in the Marshall Islands (Honolulu: Bess, 2009), 68–69.

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    • Export Citation
  • 26

    Gerd Hardach, “Defining Separate Spheres: German Rule and Colonial Law in Micronesia,” in European Impact and Pacific Influence: British and German Colonial Policy in the Pacific Islands and the Indigenous Response, ed. H. J. Hiery and J. M. MacKenzie (London: ib Taurus, 1997), 231–32.

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    • Export Citation
  • 27

    Francis X. Hezel, Strangers in Their Own Land (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1995), 45.

  • 29

    Maia Nuku, “Standing on the Edge of the Abyss: Shigeyuki Kihara, Catalyst for Change,” Broadsheet 44, no. 3 (2016): 10.

  • 30

    Nina Seja, “The Past Is a Foreign Climate: Shigeyuki Kihara Meets the Anthropocene,” Art Monthly 285 (2015): 32.

  • 31

    Paul J. Crutzen, “The ‘Anthropocene,’” in Earth System Science in the Anthropocene: Emerging Issues and Problems, ed. Eckart Ehlers and Thomas Krafft (Berlin: Springer, 2006), 13–18.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 32

    P. J. Webster et al., “Changes in Tropical Cyclone Number, Duration, and Intensity in a Warming Environment,” Science 309, no. 5742 (2005): 1846.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 33

    Lucy Thackray, “Death Toll in Fiji Rises to 44 With a 10-Month-Old Baby Among Those Presumed Dead After Catastrophic Cyclone Winston Tore Through the Country Wiping Out Whole Village,” Daily Mail Australia, 25 February, 2016, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3463347/Death-toll-Fiji-rises-44-10-month-old-baby-presumed-dead-catastrophic-Cyclone-Winston-tore-country-wiping-village.html.

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  • 34

    Seja, “The Past Is a Foreign Climate,” 32.

  • 35

    Sonia Altizer et al., “Climate Change and Infectious Diseases: From Evidence to a Predictive Framework,” Science 341, no. 6145 (2013): 514–519.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 36

    Natalie Poland, “Undressing the Pacific,” Shigeyuki Kihara: Undressing the Pacific. A Mid-Career Survey Exhibition (Dunedin: Hocken Collections, 2013), 5.

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  • 37

    George Herbert Ryden, The Foreign Policy of the United States in Relation to Samoa (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1933), 551.

  • 38

    Malama Meleisea, Making of Modern Samoa: Traditional Authority and Colonial Administration in the History of Western Samoa (Fiji: Institute of Pacific Studies of the University of the South Pacific, 1987), 40.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 41

    Alison Nordström, “Paradise Recycled: Photographs of Samoa in Changing Contexts,” Exposure 28, no. 3 (1991–92): 6–15.

  • 42

    Max Quanchi, “The Imaging of Samoa in Illustrated Magazines and Serial Encyclopaedias in the Early 20th-Century,” The Journal of Pacific History 41, no. 2 (2006): 207–217.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 43

    Poland, “Undressing the Pacific,” 5.

  • 45

    Nuku, “Standing on the Edge of the Abyss,” 10.

  • 46

    Albert L. Refiti, “How the Tā-Vā Theory of Reality Constructs a Spatial Exposition of ­Samoan Architecture,” Heretic Papers in Pacific Thought, alrx01-2013, http://www.academia.edu/3570169/How_the_Ta_-Va_theory_of_reality_constructs_a_spatial_­exposition_of_Samoan_architecture.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 48

    Vercoe, “I Am My Other, I Am Myself,” 113.

  • 50

    Poland, “Undressing the Pacific,” 6.

  • 52

    Nuku, “Standing on the Edge of the Abyss,” 10.

  • 53

    Lanuola Tufufia and Jason Brown, “Lalomanu Residents in Samoa Remember 2009 Tsunami,” Pacific Islands Report. From Samoa Observer, 30 September 2013, accessed 14 September 2015, http://www.pidp.org/pireport/2013/October/10-01-05.htm.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 54

    Mandy Treagus, “Crossing the Beach: Samoa, Stevenson and ‘The Beach at Falesa’,” ­Literature Compass 11, no. 5 (2014): 312–320.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 55

    Serge Tcherkézoff, “A Reconsideration of the Role of Polynesian Women in Early ­Encounters with Europeans: Supplement to Marshall Sahlins’ Voyage around the Islands of History,” in Oceanic Encounters: Exchange, Desire, Violence ed. Margaret Jolly et al. ­(Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2009), 114.

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  • 56

     See Anne Salmond, Aphrodite’s Island: The European Discovery of Tahiti (Berkeley: ­University of California Press, 2009); Tcherkézoff, “A Reconsideration,” 113–159.

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  • 57

    Tracey Banivanua Mar, Violence and Colonial Dialogue: The Australia-Pacific Labor Trade (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2007); Jennifer M. Y. Carter, Painting the Islands Vermillion: Archibald Watson and the Brig Carl (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1999).

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  • 58

    Graham Balfour, Diary, 1894, Entry: Wednesday 10 August 1892. Item 4, Papers of Graham Balfour, ms 9700, Manuscripts (National Library of Scotland).

  • 59

    Treagus, “Crossing the Beach,” 312–320.

  • 61

    Daniel Michael Satele, “Shigeyuki Kihara: Dark Angel of History,” Tautai June (2013), accessed 14 September 2015, https://issuu.com/tautaipacificartstrust/docs/tautai_june_2013_web_pdf?workerAddress=ec2-54-227-15-98.compute-1.amazonaws.com, 1.

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  • 64

    Nuku, “Standing on the Edge of the Abyss,” 10.

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