What becomes of the “colonial” body in post-colonial art?
European colonial imagery often emphasized the exoticism and sexuality of indigenous women. Many of the stereotypes these kinds of images created and reinforced for their European audiences have persisted even until today. Gauguin’s painting exemplifies the European fantasy of the beautiful, eroticized, yet innocent, Pacific Island woman. Kihara’s photograph is similar visually to Gauguin’s image, but ultimately works to complicate and subvert its message.
Questions to Consider
- For both Kihara’s and Gauguin’s works, meaning is contingent largely on the identity of artist and audience. How does knowledge about the maker and the viewer impact the significance of each work?
- Gauguin’s image of a reclining Tahitian woman is based on a cultural fantasy of the Pacific Islands. How does Kihara’s work respond not only to images like Gauguin’s, but also to this European fantasy?
- Do you think Kihara’s dialogue with works such as Te Arii Vahine is a productive one? What do you think she might be trying to accomplish?
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