This response was written and posted in 2015 in direct response to the situation that occurred a the M.F.A Boston regarding “Kimono Wednesdays.”
At Tangerine Mountain, we are proud to serve ALL customers, regardless of ethnicity or race, ability or disability, religion or creed, sexual identity or orientation. We believe wholeheartedly that kimono are for everyone. So do a lot of Japanese folks.
When Claude Monet’s “La Japonaise” originally toured Japan, in an event similar to Kimono Wednesdays at M.F.A. Boston, the kimono in questio accompanied it. There were no protests when this occurred, because everyone understood that the point of the exhibit was to provide those who had not yet experienced kimono a small but beautiful glimpse into Japanese culture. The point of the exhibit was not to narrowly categorize or exoticize, but rather, to open dialogue and create an opportunity for cultural exchange.
The same goals were true for the M.F.A. Boston exhibit. However, instead of taking the opportunity to engage the community regarding a unique aspect of Japanese culture, a small group of ignorant bullies caused the museum to suspend the exhibition, causing unnecessary racial tension. Those who protested the M.F.A. Boston not only hurt the museum and community, but their actions are actively harming the kimono industry, and thus, Japan, by implying that it’s racist for non-Japanese to touch, wear, or otherwise appreciate kimono. Even the Deputy Consul General of Japan in Boston said that they did not understand the point of the Kimono Wednesdays protest.
We at Tangerine Mountain understand why the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston took the steps they did to quell the Kimono Wednesdays controversy, but we wish they had chosen a different response than to suspend the exhibit. We believe that the mission of a museum should be to serve as ground zero to education, cultural exchange, and to serve as an entry point to new ideas. We believe the best way to understand a culture is to engage that culture and be courageous enough to experience it firsthand, rather than policing it as something accessible and understandable to only select few. We believe that culture is not an experience that should be restricted to ethnicity or those of a specific genetic make-up. We believe that the beauty of cultural practices can only be seen and comprehended when it is shared.
These beliefs led us to create the following photo response while at a recent convention. We want to especially thank our friends Katie and Katrina, who have both studied kimono in Japan, and who helped to create this short photo response to the M.F.A Boston kimono scandal.