Above is how the exhibit looked. An artist, and friend, called Gillian Campden
worked the images from Mayan texts.
The Book of the Community praises the
filled with deliciousness,
crowded with cacao.
To the forest, the community
renders back its gift –
chocolate, coloured with achiote,
as acceptable as voluntary blood.
Other gods come
greedy for the divine drink,
which builds up resistance and fights fatigue.
Their altars are made of gold and silver and bone.
I buy presents in Santillana del Mar,
chocolate, heavy like ingots,
wrapped rustically to suit modern pleasure,
tied with brown string, sealed with red wax.
Later one delicious drop falls from a spoon
efforts to remove the stain fail
it stays –
the colour of old blood.
Theobroma Cacao* is a reflection on the history that lies behind our chocolate confections of the 21st century. This history shows chocolate was a delicious and valuable food as early as two thousand years ago. It was a sacred and communal drink among the Mayan people who first discovered the cacao tree in the tropical rain forests of Central America. Later, its value was recognised by their Aztec rulers and then by the Spanish colonists who brought chocolate as a luxury item to Europe. Its history is shadowed by the destruction of the Mayan civilisation and the decimation of its people. I was struck by how the story of chocolate raises issues for us today in how we source and use food.
* Theobroma Cacao is the formal botanical name given to the cacao plant by Carl Linnaeus, the great 18th century botanist. Theobroma is from two Greek words meaning ‘Food of the Gods’.