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Graffiti Dress 'Bombacific', 1995

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Copyright Reproduced courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Purchased from A Hannah, 1915
Creator Shigeyuki (Naomi) Kihara, artist, 1995
Identifiers Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa number FE010561 TLF resource R3716
Source Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

This is a long tight-fitting dress made from Dupont Lycra by artist and designer Shigeyuki (Naomi) Kihara (1975-). It has a green yoke, long red sleeves and a high black rolled collar. The rest of the bodice is black with a grill-like effect, created by joining geometric shapes with silver overlocked seams. At the waist is a broad silver band with black horizontal lines. The skirt has three horizontal bands of white, covered in black graffiti, which are separated by two sloping black bands, wider on the right side than the left. The graffiti bands - the work of artist Vito Malo - include words and images. The skirt measures 145.0 cm in length, 71 cm around the waist and 88 cm around the hips.

Educational value:
  • This asset shows Kihara's entry in a competition organised by Dupont Lycra called 'Action Pasifika - nothing moves like Lycra' - the brief was to base the design on buildings; in this case the former police building in Taranaki Street, Wellington.
  • It reflects how the artist saw a younger generation of Pacific Islanders negotiating two worlds, Aotearoa's urban Pacific subculture and the life and customs of their home islands - the dress combines American influences, such as graffiti, with Pacific fashion (it is based on the mu'umu'u design).
  • It is the work of an artist who has many influences - Kihara arrived in New Zealand at age 16 and has a Samoan mother and a Japanese father - she is also a fa'a'fafine, a uniquely Samoan form of transgender and cross-dressing that is an accepted part of Samoan society.
  • It illustrates a reinterpretation of the mu'umu'u design - mu'umu'u are long dresses that cover the whole body and were introduced into the islands by Europeans; Kihara's design specifically uses some transparent material to show that women's sexuality cannot be suppressed.
  • It reflects aspects of Pacific youth culture - the graffiti signifies teenage rebelliousness and rage, while at the same time reflecting the defacing of a public building.
  • It illustrates some influences on Pacific youth - the artist has indicated that the overlocking on the outside of the dress represents modern technology and urban influence while the colours represent a Rastafarian influence.

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