Yuki Kihara: Te Taenga Mai O Salome

Until 5 June 2018, MTG

I stood in space between
Water and Land.
My footsteps
Across the wide berth.
And accord was offered

To all
Who had greeted warmly
My hands.


At least this much
Can be said.

Yuki Kihara’s O Le Taunu’u Mai O, Te Taenga Mai O, The Arrival of Salome, has a profoundly visible presence of acknowledgement and arrival.  This deeply expressive series of photographs and films overwhelmingly submerges us to a place of vā fealoa’i, ‘…to nurture the space between things.’ The exhibition is a convergence of five new works alongside two performance films and four previous works. Kihara’s own stated position of historical revisionism holds foundation, which contextualises central Samoan concepts of Tā and Vā, notions of time and space.  Articulately spoken, Kihara gave a superb floor-talk, conveying the remarkable depth of research and knowledge she gives to her artistic practice.

Essential to Yuki Kihara’s residency-based arts practice in Hawke’s Bay is the power of relationship, conveyed through Salome. Salome is more than a woman with her own historical references, she carries embodiment – of Kihara, of Samoan people – their experiences and memory.

The life of Salome is stilled through a series of currents, starting from the origins of the Takitimu waka in Samoa, representative of successive changes over time and travel.  Salome is then potently gestured through a lineage of meeting points, like the landing place of the Takitimu at Waimarama for Kahungunu, all the way to present day exchanges such as Samoan Pacifica immigration into local orchards through RSE schemes.  Whilst the locations have their realism, there is a bounding of spirit and emotion to each work. Many of us have stood in these places meeting our own belonging, our own journeys, and what they have afforded and cost us and families. In silence, each work challenges what has arrived, what is left behind and what will, with hope and faith, be.

Salome is located carefully with a precision and structured grace, bringing only elegance to places that are too frequently slips of death though fractured and intentional cultural exchanges, shocking breaches of governance and careless decisions costing Samoan lives. Here is where we also start, with four works based in Samoa (Old Courthouse, Apia 2013; Mass Grave, Valmoso 2013; Plantation, Lalomanu 2013 and Departure, Faleolo International Airport 2013), all conveying the unavoidable issues of colonialism, politics, independence and being indigenous, economics and globalisation, and diaspora.

Salome stands central on the Waimarama foreshore, always her back to us, she steps before us, we imagine the manner of her gaze, we sense wind on our faces and water ripples. All these sensory embellishments are retained by the considered lenticular photographic medium brushing our visual perceptions, as we too, arrive.

There is karanga to each work; Houngarea Marae, Pakipaki; Apple Orchard, Heretaunga; Whakatu Freezing Works, Heretaunga; Takitimu Landing Site, Waimarama; and EFKS Church, Maraenui. Unfailingly thorough, no matter where I turn, my being breathes further to the whenua with each photograph. They are beautiful. There is no mistaking the connections. Salome wears a Victorian mourning dress – like so many photographs of tīpuna in similar attire.

There are two single channel digital videos; Galu Afi: Waves of Fire, 2002 and Taualunga: The Last Dance 2006, a video based from Kihara’s performance artwork in 2002. Galu Afi: Waves of Fire is a transfixing and compassionate performance work regarding the 2002 tsunami in Samoa and Tonga where at least 189 people died. The approaching tsunami waves appeared like flickering flames due to sun light upon the water.  Kihara’s hands gesture intentionally. They are contained and fluid, definite and a give way. It’s a story told in patterns and indications; up, down, out and across the midline of a still body until quiet hands are held to prayer briefly, then folding. How could there be a more beautiful gesture of such a sorrow?

There’s a long suspension of time to the exhibition, and I was reluctant to retreat away. On the echo of my footsteps and my voice uttering, ’e noho rā… til we meet again’, departures like arrivals are ever occurring.  Leaving from this cool, air-conditioned room into the open Marine Parade, it was like a birth in of itself, back to the light of day, with senses greeted in a rush of sea salted air filling my lungs, the taste lingering, the ocean before me. Hmm, I highly recommend.

(Image credit: Yuki Kihara, ‘Old Courthouse, Apia’ 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Milford Galleries Dunedin.)























[1] 2017: MTG Catalogue, Yuki Kihara, p.3


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