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Looking Back at Samoa: History, Memory, and the Figure of Mourning in Yuki Kihara’s Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

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image of Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas

Samoan Japanese artist Yuki Kihara’s photographic series Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (2013) focuses on sites of current and historical significance in Samoa. In taking on the title of French artist Paul Gauguin’s 1897 work, Kihara signals her desire to engage with the history of representation of the Pacific in Western art through dialogue with Gauguin and the history of colonial photography. Casting herself as a version of Thomas Andrew’s Samoan Half Caste (1886), a figure in Victorian mourning dress, she directs the viewer’s gaze and invites all to share her acts of mourning at these sites. The literal meaning of the title also indicates how the series engages with history via the Samoan concept of , collapsing time in space, to produce an understanding of both the country’s present and the potential future such history invites.

Affiliations: 1: University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia, ; 2: University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia,


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