Standing Against Yellowface @ The MFA: “Kimono Wednesdays” Cancelled

9 07 2015

AAPI Activism shuts down “Kimono Wednesdays” at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Protesters display signs on June 23 in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. The museum eventually canceled the 'Kimono Wednesday' event, which invited visitors to try on a replica kimono in front of Claude Monet's 'La Japonaise.' | AP / JOHN BLANDING / BOSTON GLOBE

Protesters display signs on June 23 in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. The museum eventually canceled the ‘Kimono Wednesday’ event, which invited visitors to try on a replica kimono in front of Claude Monet’s ‘La Japonaise.’ | AP / JOHN BLANDING / BOSTON GLOBE (via Japan Times)

Stand Against Yellowface @ the MFA:

Follow Amber Ying on Twitter


HuffPost:  Museum’s ‘Kimono Wednesdays’ Cancelled After Claims Of Racism

LA Times:  Boston art museum cancels kimono event after claims of racism

Japan Times:  Cries of racism prompt Boston art museum to cancel ‘Kimono Wednesdays’


MFA Kimono

Image and comment thread from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston Facebook page, post dated June 19, 2015. (via

BigRedAndShiny:  Demonstrators Protest Cultural Appropriation in MFA Galleries

Yellowface at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, February 19, 2015.

Yellowface at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, February 19, 2015.

Our Post on Yellowface at AAMSF (02/24/15):  Yellowface is Such a Drag

Of course, what would an AAPI protest be without a counterprotest on behalf of honorary white status:

Just a reminder that Orientalism is indeed integral to white supremacist structural racism (and no need to call it “neo” Orientalism, because after centuries of investment in this system of “knowledge,” it is liberal fantasy to believe it ever went away—case in point: the genealogy of East Asian studies at major US universities, aka “American Orientalism“).

Andrea Smith’s Three Pillars of White Supremacy (2010).

Andrea Smith’s Three Pillars of White Supremacy (2010).

Politics of Cultural Appropriation


#WhitePeopleDoingYoga @ the Asian Art Museum

4 04 2014

#WhitePeopleDoingYoga 01

Last night I went to check out #WhitePeopleDoingYoga at the First Thursday event at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

#WhitePeopleDoingYoga is an installation by *Pardon My Hindi / Chiraag Bhakta.
On view from March 28th – May 25th.

#WhitePeopleDoingYoga 02

#WhitePeopleDoingYoga 03

Kudos to the museum’s education department for exhibiting Bhakta’s project, which is showing in the Education Resource Center in conjunction with the feature exhibition Yoga: The Art of Transformation.  While I couldn’t find much information about the project on the museum’s website, *Pardon My Hindi posted a video and artist statement here.

Chiraag Bhakta

Click for more on Chiraag Bhakta

Artist Statement

This piece is a reflection of my personal relationship, as an Indian American, with yoga and its migration to today’s Western context. I call this piece #WhitePeopleDoingYoga, the hashtag symbolizing the commercialization and commodification of a culture.

Not too long before moving to the Bay Area seven years ago, I began to collect grassroots-level meditation and yoga ephemera from the 1960s through the 1980s. During that era, particularly in the Bay Area, yoga started making a big impact on Western culture. I became interested in how yogic practice was being mined and commercialized; how the South Asian face of the discipline was being removed in the branding and portrayal of the practice and culture. Today, an online image search for “yoga” mainly returns images of white people in various poses, followed by images of dogs and cats doing the same.

This project is not about the individual pieces in my collection, but the overall voice that is put out in front of us, which is overwhelming and suffocating to me. After you go through the exhibition Yoga: The Art of Transformation, you will notice a sharp turn as yoga enters a new level of commercialization in the West. The $27 billion yoga industry in the U.S. has rebranded a complex and rich discipline to make it easier to sell “yoga” as a line of products. Brands like Lululemon and Nike have started appropriating and trademarking phrases, postures, and clothing—aligning and embedding themselves in our understanding of yoga. Simultaneously the South Asian face and voice are relegated to an exotic caricature—cartoons, adoption of South Asian names by Westerners, mystical creatures, Hindu gods. One archival study of the health and wellness magazine Yoga Journal found that over the course of two years “there was never a South Asian person on the cover, and less than one percent of content contributors were South Asian.”1

The act of selectively choosing what works in popular Western contexts, while ignoring aspects of yoga’s core philosophy and historic practice, is telling. It shows an ironic attachment of one’s ego to a desire for ownership over an ancient practice of material denouncement that emerged from an altogether different, South Asian, tradition.

In the end, I feel compelled to draw parallels between the current state of yoga and the industrial colonization by the same dominant voice that now adds another conquest to its collection. Meet the new founders of Yoga™.

—Chiraag Bhakta

1 Roopa Singh, Esq., Archival study for the South Asian American Perspectives on Yoga in America, SAAPYA

#WPDY totebags available at

#WPDY totebags available at

Meanwhile upstairs in Samsung Hall, mostly WhitePeopleDoingChanting


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