Afro Mingei


The 2018 Nasher Prize Laureate’s project merges Japanese and African American culture with food, drink, ceramics, and music.

Afro Mingei at the Nasher Sculpture Center is a convivial gathering space exploring the intersection of Japanese and African American philosophy, aesthetic modes and cultural classifications. Staged in the center’s front, corner gallery, the project invites people to experience this cultural binary through food, drink, music, ceramic wares, and other works of art by Theaster Gates.

The innovative menu combines the culinary traditions of Japan and the African American South. Accompanying offerings include tea service, Japanese whiskeys, craft cocktails, beer and wine, honoring libations that aid the gathering. Other elements include a communal table and bar fabricated by Gates and his design team using salvaged wood from Chicago, as well as neon sculptures, prints, and a vase for ikebana. In a nod to the sonic experimentations and underpinnings of Gates’ practice, Afro Mingei features a DJ booth and a selection of 1,000 vinyl records from Gates’ personal collection of soul and R & B music.

Gates has created an environment of intimacy and cultural pluralism. Through this work, he continues to refuse traditional binaries of black and white and instead leans into the truth of his story, and his ongoing dialogue with Japanese philosophy and creative craft. The term Afro Mingei, coined by Gates, connects the word for the iconic Black hairstyle that served as a symbol of Black identity and empowerment in the 1960s and 1970s and the Japanese term mingei that was conceived by philosopher Soetsu Yanagi and ceramists Shoji Hamada and Kanjiro Kawai to describe and honor the realm of humble objects of daily use made by unknown craftspeople.

Afro Mingei opens on Wednesday, November 16. Admission is free. Food and beverages are avalaible for purchase.