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The current prime minister of New Zealand, John Philip Key, has been big in the news lately owing to his 20-year-old daughter, Stephie Key. Stephie is currently studying in France at the highly acclaimed art school, Paris College of Art, and is causing quite a stir with her newest string of risqué self portraits. Controversial as the work might be, it’s also quite cutting-edge, as one of her pieces was chosen to promote Paris Design Week on the second week of September.

But, it’s neither the nudity nor the artistry that caught the attention of Japanese news outlets. You see, many of the pictures contain words and themes that are obviously intended to be Japanese, but leave actual Japanese people scratching their heads.

Caution: some pictures contained in this article are not safe for work.

France and New Zealand have been hot news items this week, thanks to the risqué nature of a self-portrait collection created by the daughter of New Zealand Prime Minister, Stephie Key. However, what really concerns Japanese people is the young woman’s confusing attempt and portraying pieces of Japanese culture. They wonder if she understands her own imagery and what exactly she is trying to imply by using Japanese themes.

For example, take a look at the picture on the bottom left. Here, Ms. Key stands with a choppy black wig and long, fake lashes, an octopus on her head, a tentacle hanging out of her mouth and a strip of cloth that would normally be used as a headband for a cheering squad tied around her chest. The cloth reads “kamikaze,” literally translated to “divine wind” but understood in English as a reference to suicidal crash pilots of World War II. So what exactly is the young artist trying to imply? Utilizing their own cultural perspective, the Japanese people have absolutely no idea.

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Another of the portraits follows the theme of nyotaimori, the act of eating sushi off of a naked woman, a practice which, it should be noted, is not actually prevalent in Japan, if present at all! In the picture, Ms. Key flashes a peace sign like a Japanese school girl as she lies covered in raw fish and Western-style sushi rolls, with a dirty octopus staking its claim across her cooch. On the board beneath her are kanji characters that read as little more than gibberish. The inside area reads “san Nippon” or “three Japan,” while the outer edge says “shinji” in the hiragana phonetic writing script. Shinji has a large number of potential meanings, though none of them are particularly common and all would be better understood written in kanji, though perhaps she’s lying on top of the rest of the word. “Shinjirarenai,” for example, feels like an appropriate phrase, as “I can’t quite believe” what I’m seeing here.

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After looking at these pieces, native Japanese question just how much Ms. Key really knows about their culture. It plays such a heavy role in a number of her self-portraits but at the same time feels so uninformed. Could it be that she chose those themes for an exotic feel and nothing more?

Regardless of her reasoning the girl shows great talent in the world of fashion photography. Her sushi picture was one of only six images chosen to promote the Paris College of Art for Paris Design Week starting on September 9, and she’s sure to go far.

And what does her middle-right conservative Prime Minister of a father have to say about all this? In short, he’s proud of her artistic accomplishments.

Source: Entabe (Japanese)
Images: Paris Design Week, Daily Mail

▼ Here are a couple more images from Stephie Key’s self-portrait series.

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▼ Although my initial instincts scream “America,” this could very well be a response to Japan’s Burger King bun flopper!

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