Namsa Leuba’s challenging images of Tahiti’s ‘Third sex’


Namsa Leuba third sex
Image: Namsa Leuba/Instagram

Namsa Leuba’s latest photo series illustrates the diversity of gender identity in French Polynesia. Namsa photographed both ‘mahu’ (effeminate men) and “rae rae” (transgender) subjects of Tahiti’s famous ‘third sex’ for Illusions: The Myth of the ‘Vahine’ through Gender Dysphoria.

Inspired by the paintings of Paul Gauguin, Namsa’s work challenges gender norms. Gauguin depicted Tahitian women as exotic, beautiful, desirable but ultimately subservient. However, Namsa aims to reverse that limited view of femininity.

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Namsa spoke to CNN about Illusions.

“For me, it was very important to see (the subject’s) beauty and the power — in my pictures, it’s a very strong look, a strong posture — and to (allow them to) make themselves beautiful.”

She also spent hours talking with her subjects before each shoot.

“Sometimes I would hear some really (tough) stuff that has happened to them, and it was totally not sexy or glamorous. It was difficult. And others were well-accepted by their family and their community.”

Namsa Leuba and Tahiti’s third sex

 

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Namsa Leuba

Born to a Guinean mother and Swiss father, Namsa studied in both Europe and the US.

Much of her work focuses on African identity through Western eyes. She avoids professional models and casts most of her models from the street.

Her work appears in exhibitions worldwide including in Australia. Examples of her work appeared in FASHIONING BLACK IDENTITY Africa and the African Diaspora at the Cairns Art Gallery earlier in 2019. Her work is also published in several magazines.

Check out more of Namsa Leuba’s work at her website.

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