Often referencing Pacific history, her work explores the varying relationships between gender, race, culture and politics. Of Samoan and Japanese heritage, Kihara immigrated to Aotearoa New Zealand from Samoa at the age of sixteen. She trained in Fashion Design and Technology at Wellington Polytechnic (now Massey University) and found early success in her second year of study when Graffiti Dress, 1995 was purchased by Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Since then, Kihara has worked across a wide range
Combining her affinity for performance and staged photography, Kihara’s 2005 series, Fa‛a fafine: In the Manner of a Woman, featured Kihara using her body as part of the artistic material to reconstruct, and simultaneously deconstruct, colonial representations of gender in Samoa. Kihara undermined binary (Western) definitions of gender by portraying a Samoan man, a Samoan woman and Fa‛a fafine - loosely described in English as being a third gender. In 2008 this series was displayed as part of a solo exhibition of Kihara’s work entitled Shigeyuki Kihara; Living Photographs with works presented across a 54 meter wall of the Lila Achenson Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York where Kihara became the first artist of Samoan descent to have a solo exhibition there.
In 2012, Kihara presented a live performance and interactive video installation entitled Culture for Sale commissioned by the Campbelltown Arts Centre in the context of Sydney Festival. Culture for Sale is informed by 19th century history of Samoans demonstrating a variety of ‘exotic’ cultural activities within the confines of a ‘human zoo’. These ‘zoos’ were a form of entertainment and colonial theatre which toured across Germany and wider Europe. In the live performance, Samoan cultural dancers were instructed to dance briefly only when money was placed in the bowl in front of them. A video installation also featured brief footage of Samoan cultural dancers performing, but the footage could only be watched when the audience placed a 20 cent coin into the coin slot machine that triggered the monitor. Culture for Sale raises questions about the commercialisation of Samoan culture in the postcolonial era.
Kihara has taken part in numerous international exhibitions, among others, includes the Asia Pacific Triennial, 2002; Auckland Triennial, 2009; Sakahàn Quinquennial, 2013; Utah Museum of Fine Arts, USA (Solo exhibition) 2013; and the Daegu Photo Biennial, 2014. Her works can be found in a number of public collections, among others, including Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Australia; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Allan Memorial Art Museum, Ohio and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Her works can be found in a number of Private collections, among others, including James Wallace Arts Trust, Auckland; Sherman Contemporary Arts Foundation, Sydney and Giorgio Armani.