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'Yuki Kihara's Exquisite Samoan Kimono at Pataka this Summer'

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Samoan-Japanese artist explores Asia-Pacific connections

Yuki Kihara, the first Pacific artist to represent New Zealand at the Venice Biennale, brings her exquisitely-crafted siapo kimono to Pātaka, 6 December 2020 to 28 February 2021. Taking her Japanese grandmother’s ‘unassuming brown’ kimono as a starting point, Kihara melds two culturally distinctive artforms-Sāmoan siapo and Japanese kimono-in the exhibition, A Song About Samoa.

Yuki views the merging of these two traditional textile practices as an expression of her literal embodiment of the Japanese- Sāmoan experience. The project is the first instalment in an ongoing series that’s expected to roll out over five years and will eventually comprise 20 siapo kimono. It’s seen as Yuki’s most overt engagement with her Japanese heritage so far.

"The kimono in A Song About Samoa are presented as sculptural objects as well as a surface for illustration," says curator Ioana Gordon-Smith, "An oceanscape spreads across all five, the distinctly Japanese wave forms, siapo patterns and the semi-circular seigaiha explore the cultural, social and political connections between Japan and the Pacific Islands, specifically Sāmoa".

Siapo is a hand-made barkcloth created from the lau u’a (bark of the paper mulberry tree), cuttings of which were brought to the Pacific from Southeast Asia thousands of years ago. It’s one of the oldest art forms in Samoa.

"A Song for Sāmoa underscores the urgency of re-thinking regionalism in a time of climate change," Gordon-Smith says.

The exhibition, which has the full title, サ-モアのうた (Sāmoa no uta) A Song About Sāmoa, will have quad-lingual wall labels and supporting materials: Japanese, Samoan, English and Te Reo. The exhibition title is drawn from the lyrics of a popular Japanese song used in primary schools, which Yuki says, "Propagates enduring Orientalist and Romantic tropes of ‘noble savages’ living in an untouched Pacific paradise". Yuki spent over two years researching the project, examining kimono and textile collections in Sāmoa, New Zealand and Japan. One of her grandmother’s kimono will also feature in the exhibition.

Yuki is the first Pacific artist to represent New Zealand at the Venice Biennale, she’ll be attending the 59th Biennale in 2022.

A Song About Sāmoa was first exhibited at Milford Galleries, Dunedin, Nov 2019 - Jan 2020.

Yuki Kihara: サ-モアのうた (Sāmoa no uta) A Song About Sāmoa

6 December 2020 - 28 February 2021. Pātaka: Art + Museum. FREE entry, www.pataka.org.nz

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