Exhibitions challenge Pacific myths

CARLY THOMAS
Last updated 12:00 17/07/2014

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Te Manawa's main gallery has had a transformation of sorts, with various exhibitions opening later this week.

The Palmerston North facility is a hive of activity as pieces from Shigeyuki Kihara's exhibition Undressing the Pacific are settled into their temporary home.

Kihara is a prominent New Zealand artist who had a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Her exhibition is being toured by the University of Otago's Hocken Library, and Te Manawa senior curator Jeff Fox described it as a mid-career survey of an artist who was being increasingly recognised, especially overseas.

"The exhibition is in part evocative, undressing the European stereotypical ideology on the Pacific and the noble savage," he said. "It is also about mourning the impact of colonialism."

Te Manawa has three new exhibitions opening this weekend and with another opening next month, the gallery is presenting a fresh face to the public.

Fox said the gallery decided to compress everything a bit more this time and all of the exhibitions tied together well.

"Greg Semu's Noble Savage is a great match and then, with the Pasifika community in the Manawatu exhibition that's opening soon, it all comes together."

Photographic work since 2002 is displayed and includes a photo series produced last year.

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? explores the myth of the Pacific depicted as paradise by early photographers such as Alfred Burton of Dunedin.

Fox said a Victorian mourning dress was featured in the photos alongside local architectural forms and monuments such as the Old Courthouse in Apia.

"The tension is less on the body in these photographs, more on the landscape.

"They speak of the impact of colonisation and show the importance of dress in Kihara's work."

An award-winning video work, Galu Afi: Waves of Fire, showing three filmed dance performances, will feature in the exhibition alongside a selection of historical images by European photographers, highlighting the way Pacific Islanders were presented historically.

Of Japanese and Samoan heritage, Kihara emigrated from Samoa to New Zealand in 1989.

She will undertake a three-month artist residency at the National University of Samoa from August in partnership with Creative New Zealand.

Kihara will present a series of lectures, collaborating with selected artists and researching future projects to be held in Samoa.

Undressing the Pacific opens this Saturday at Te Manawa with a talk by Kihara at 2pm.

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- Manawatu Standard

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