New Zealandâ€™s leading performance artist Shigeyuki Kihara has been commissioned by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa to stage her iconic solo dance performance entitled â€˜Taualuga: The Last Danceâ€™ which draws on the classical Samoan taualuga dance to retell the cultural legacy of colonialism in SÄmoa from an indigenous perspective. A dancer in a restrictive Victorian mourning dress moves gracefully to a chant sung by village elders, unleashing the aitu (ancestor spirit).
Kihara created the piece in response to a series of historical photographs taken by Alfred John Tattersall, Thomas Andrew, and the Burton Brothers during the colonial administration of SÄmoa by New Zealand (1914â€“62). Many of these photographs are in Te Papaâ€™s collections.
â€˜Taualuga: The Last Danceâ€™ has so far been performed at the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; MusÃ©e du Quai Branly, Paris; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Kihara states: â€œIn the wake of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of SÄmoa this year in June, it is an honour and a privilege for me to perform â€˜Taualuga: The Last Danceâ€™ at a leading institution for New Zealand history, heritage and culture â€“ a rich legacy which partly derives from its close relationship with SÄmoa together with the diaspora community in New Zealand. I hope that the commission of my performance from Te Papa contributes to the growing awareness of performance art as a serious discipline of contemporary art practice in New Zealand.â€
The video documentation of â€˜Taualuga: The Last Danceâ€™ (2006) is included in Te Papaâ€™s current exhibition entitled â€˜Collecting Contemporaryâ€™. This video work is also part of a permanent exhibition at Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre in New Caledonia.
Shigeyuki Kihara is a Samoan-born artist and curator. Her work has featured in several international contemporary art surveys and is held in a number of private and public collections, including at Te Papa and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
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