The Spice Route
The spice merchants of old travelled thousands of miles from the earthly paradise of the Molluccan islands, from the coasts of China and India, from Ceylon, Sumatra and Java to carry pepper and allspice, cinnamon, cassia, vanilla, cloves and nutmeg, turmeric and cardamom to Europe where they unfolded their tastes, aromas and beneficial effects in kitchens and apothecary shops.
The discovery of the sea route to India by Vasco da Gama in 1499 marked the beginning of the world-wide Portuguese trade empire, but soon after that Portugal, Spain, England and the Netherlands competed with each other for dominance over the lucrative spice trade with 'East India'. Today the old fortresses and iron guns along the spice route still bear witness to violent invasions and to the recklessness with which 'the colonies' were conquered and exploited. The churches, temples and mosques in
port cities of Africa and Arabia, India and South East Asia, however, symbolise the meeting of cultures and religions, of Orient and Occident.
At the beginning of the modern age, the spice trade produced enormous profits while today's low-cost growing, harvesting and processing in countries with low-wage economies make spices into cheap everyday commodities. The new popularity of exotic cooking and the revival of natural remedies contribute further to the spices - once the object of far-reaching political and economic developments - regaining their original value as the substances that give flavour to our lives.
The exhibition presents an outline of the history and significance of the spice route and the spice trade, but also offers the experience of the enticing colours and consistencies, flavours and fragrances that make our food savoury. Artists from South Africa and Egypt, from Indonesia and Malaysia have contributed works on the questions and problems that are the result of colonialism and post-colonialism and still are of the utmost relevance, even urgency, in the 21st century: the consequences of land conquests and destruction, of exploitation and slavery, the results of a clash of cultures between Europe and Asia on
its peoples and people as well as on the land - on both the individual and society.
November 9 - December 29, 2002
Opening: Thursday, November 8, 2002, 6 p.m.