My wife recently returned from a visit to Chicago where she went to the Museum of Contemporary Art. One of the exhibitions was an installation that recreated an informal outdoor meeting place used by African Americans. These types of places apparently are common on Chicago’s south side and in the deep South, and they certainly are common here in Detroit. They are typically on an empty lot (and so are communal, as opposed to someone’s front porch)with a row of cast-off chairs, make shift benches and the like where people will hang out. There may also be, say, an old grill or horseshoe pit.
The exhibition at the MCA was entitled “Under the Baobob Tree” which implies a connection with African tradition. My question is, where did this practice originate? Does it indeed have African roots? Is it more from the Southern US? Someplace else? How old a tradition is this? And is there a name for this meeting place (or the practice of utilizing one)?