The Spice Route Exhibit at History Museum, Colorado

Glued whole spice on watercolor paper painted with ground spices

The Color of spices

Powdered spices painted on watercolor paper. From left to right: Garam masala, Red chili, Ginger, Asafoetida, Fenugreek, Cardamom, Fennel seed, Cumin, Black pepper, Cinnamon, Curry leaf, Turmeric, Coriander

The maritime trade between Arabia and China goes back to the 8th century CE. Vibrant cosmopolitan ports exist in Zanzibar, Alexandria, Muscat, and Goa in India. Fast forward to the 15th century, the Turkish empire extended its trade from Morocco to the Indonesian Archipelago.

For almost eight centuries, nutmeg and mace were supplied to Europe at outrageous prices by Arab merchants who dominated the cartel on spice trade and, indeed, by concealing their source, irritating to the crowns of Europe.

The reign over the spice trade appeared to ensure riches in that era. Spices were the universal currency and world commodity, even to have rivalled gold. All this wealth and dominance enticed the Portuguese, Dutch, and English to spring into the race, to control the spices trade.

Malacca - my birthplace

In the 15th century, the sheltered port of Malacca (Melaka) on the Malay Peninsula appeared as an ideal staging post for trade between the Indian Ocean, Java Sea, and the South China Sea. Malacca eventually became the world's leading harbor in the 15th century.

Alfonso de Albuquerque - the Portuguese General, Admiral, and Statesman.

Between 1507 and 1515, de Albuquerque gained control of sea routes by capturing a few trading ports. He grabbed the port of Goa on the Indian west coast in 1510.

In 1511, Malacca, a free-trade spice port, fell into the Portuguese hands. At that time, it was a key port for trade between the Indian Ocean, China, and Southeast Asia and the wealthiest port in the East. Malacca was captured and secured with fortifications and became a trading post in the region.

By 1515 Portugal controlled the sea trade passing from the Moluccas to Malacca, trade to India and Sri Lanka, and the route to Lisbon. Asian and Arab traders not holding a Portuguese license would have their cargoes confiscated.

Cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, pepper, and sandalwood were exchanged for gold, silver, other metals, Chinese porcelain, silk, and Indian textiles. Spices of the East made their way to Europe and then expanded around the globe.

The Dutch sojourn for spices happened in 1640 in Southeast Asia and took the next reign. The Battle of Malacca took place from August 1640 to January 1641 by the Dutch to capture Malacca from the Portuguese. In the early 17th century, the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, VOC) began the campaign to destroy Portuguese power in the East.

Today, these spices from regions in and near my hometown and various areas in Asia have made their way worldwide. Spices go everywhere, and people who use and love spices will always seek spices.

Art at History Colorado ‘Rice & Resilience’ Exhibit


👇🏾 click each link for the full story 👇🏾

👉🏾 The Spice Route | 👉🏾 Spice Dabba | 👉🏾 Art of Spice Tempering | 👉🏾 Science of Spices | 👉🏾Briyani is Bliss | 👉🏾 Spices and Colorado Cultural Connection


STATE OF THE SPICES is a body of work by fine arts photographer Raj Manickam. The collection of photographs and mixed media artwork investigates the diaspora of spices from their indigenous grounds to worldwide spaces. The Portuguese, Dutch, and Spanish original intentions were to dominate the spice trade. Manickam outlines the early spice routes and colonial conquest of the South Asian and Indian subcontinent. Manickam has a distinct grasp of being an observer in his photography. He has an extensive array of Indian spices and has a passion for cooking authentic South Indian food. Manickam's photographic subjects and mixed media works identify some of the most used and flavorful spices in this collection. Here, he connects aspects of these spices in their present-day use, especially in Colorado's South Asian Indian community.

Some source: Wikipedia | Wikipedia 2 | Britannica |

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