Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup
Search
MENU

13 / The Body

Fa’a fafine: In a Manner of a Woman, Triptych 1
Fa’a fafine: In a Manner of a Woman, Triptych 1
Artist / Origin Shigeyuki Kihara (Japanese-Samoan, b. 1975)
Region: Oceania
Date 2004–2005
Material Chromogenic print on “Fujicolor Professional Paper”
Dimensions H: 23 5/8 in. (60 cm.), W: 31 1/2 in. (80 cm)
Location The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Credit Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Stephanie H. Bernheim Gifts, and the artist/Photo by Sean Coyle

expert perspective

Anne D’AllevaAssociate Professor of Art History, University of Connecticut
Shigeyuki KiharaArtist

Fa’a fafine: In a Manner of a Woman, Triptych 1

» Shigeyuki Kihara (Japanese-Samoan, b. 1975)

expert perspective

Anne D’Alleva Anne D’Alleva Associate Professor of Art History, University of Connecticut

Yuki is a very interesting artist because she is working from the position and the experience, the identity of the fa’a fafine, who is a person, a man, who dresses and lives as a woman. This is a long-standing role in Samoan culture and other Polynesian cultures as well. And it’s hard for us to understand, again, coming from a Western perspective, where people who are what we might call transgendered, who are living outside their assigned genders, are really marginalized in society and often are the targets of so much hate and violence, it’s hard to understand a culture or cultures in which these people are honored and accepted and fully integrated into society. One of the things that I think is so interesting about fa’a fafine is that you can understand from just the word itself some of the performative dimensions and artistic dimensions of the role. Because fa, the first part of the word means ‘to do’ and fafine is ‘woman.’ So ‘to do as a woman’ is the literal translation. So it is about the performance. It is about taking on women’s dress, performing women’s dance, making cloth, for example, which is typically a woman’s art form in Samoa. So it is very much about the performance of gender and about the kind of art traditions that are implicated in gender as well. And of course Yuki picks up on that in terms of her performances, draws very much on Samoan dance traditions and Samoan costuming traditions. And so, she, in ways that are very forward looking, she is also very much drawing on these traditions.” 

back