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Art Through Time: A Global View

The Body Compare: What Becomes of the “colonial” Body in Post-colonial Art?

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
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Chromogenic print on “Fujicolor Professional Paper”
Medium: Prints, Drawings, and Photography
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

Te Arii Vahine (The King’s Wife)

Te Arii Vahine (The King’s Wife)
Artist / Origin: Paul Gauguin (French, 1848–1903)
Region: Europe
Date: 1896
Period: 1800 CE – 1900 CE
Material: Oil on canvas
Medium: Painting
Dimensions: H: 38.1 in. (97 cm.), W: 51.1 in. (130 cm.)
Location: The Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow, Russia
Credit: © The Gallery Collection/CORBIS

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 Vahineis a productive one? What do you think she might be trying to accomplish?

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Art Through Time: A Global View


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