“Exploring ‘Afro-Mingei’: A Dialogue with Theaster Gates and Ambassador Rahm Emanuel at the US Ambassador’s Residence”

On April, 24th, the US Embassy hosted a select group of press for an intimate conversation between U.S. Ambassador Rahm Emanuel and acclaimed artist Theaster Gates at the US Ambassador’s residence. The topic: ‘Afro-Mingei’

Set within the refined ambiance of the residence, complete with a crackling fireplace and antique wooden chairs evoking the timeless traditions of American values in Japan, Ambassador Rahm Emanuel and Theaster Gates engaged in a thought-provoking discussion centered around Gates’ latest endeavor in Japan.

Hailing from Chicago, IL, Theaster Gates is internationally renowned for his multifaceted artistic practice spanning sculpture, ceramics, architecture, music, and more. Influenced by Japanese craft and culture since his inaugural visit in 2004, Gates seamlessly melds his experiences as an African-American with deep roots in Mississippi and Chicago to forge a distinctive artistic approach he terms “Afro-Mingei.” 

This innovative fusion intertwines the philosophies of the Japanese Mingei movement with the aesthetics of the American civil rights movement, culminating in his inaugural solo exhibition at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, titled “Theaster Gates: Afro-Mingei.”  

Hailing from Chicago, IL, Theaster Gate,
Hailing from Chicago, IL, Theaster Gate, father of ‘Afro-Mingei’

Within this exhibition, Gates showcases both existing and previously unseen works across sections such as Shrine and Black Library & Black Space, highlighting the profound impact of Japanese culture on his artistic expression.

As long standing friends from Chicago, Rahm Emanuel and Theaster Gates interwove personal reminiscences with discussions on the imperative of cultural and artistic amalgamation in fostering fresh perspectives, worlds, and art forms.

In his discussions with the Ambassador, Theaster Gates stressed the relatively unexplored facets of Black histories in Japan. With “Afro-Mingei” the artist beckons viewers to contemplate themes of race, politics, and cultural synthesis, underscoring the imperative of honoring craftsmanship and embracing the richness of diverse artistic experiences.

For Hersey Shiga Media, it was a privilege to partake in this intellectually stimulating dialogue among kindred spirits, delving into the realms of art, friendship, and creative inspiration.

We thank the US Embassy for extending this special invitation, facilitating an enriching exchange of ideas and insights.

For more information on the exhibition visit: Mori Art Museum

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