In early 2019, during our stay in eastern Suriname, Suzanne Bernhardt and I noticed that the berry podosiri (better known as the açaí berry outside of Suriname) plays a huge part in daily life in the interior of Suriname. Eating the berry is extremely common, and whenever we mentioned anything at all about our health, we were told to eat more podosiri. In this part of Suriname, the berry is harvested in the wild of the jungle, on a small and local scale.
We were fascinated by this ‘alternative economy’, as it’s self-sufficient. There is no overproduction or export, and each link in the chain has a clear purpose (harvest, preperation, sales), with little competition or hierarchy. Additionally, we noticed that to these people, eating podosiri is part of their cultural identity.
Together, Suzanne and I researched podosiri thoroughy. Back in the Netherlands, during a research residency at Amsterdam’s AGA LAB, I transferred the photographs that I had taken in Suriname of the podosiri harvest and its complex preperation process, to photo etchings. In this process, I experimented with making ink from podosiri, in collaboration with artist collective Painting Plants.
Suzanne created ceramic bowls, using clay from Suriname and The Netherlands. This work reflects on the Dutch trend of mixing a small amount of açaí in a bowl with dairy and selling it as a health booster.
This research resulted in two exhibitions. In Amsterdam, at Corridor Project Space (2019), and in Paramaribo, at Maisonadia (2020).
The exhibitions tried to show the social, economic, and sociological aspects of eating podosiri, through photo etchings, ceramics, videos, collages, and an installation. During the openings in Amsterdam and Paramaribo, the audience received a thorough tour, as well as a four course dinner consisting of dishes that featured podosiri, specially curated by, respectively, creative chefs ‘Axe & Porridge’ and chef Paul Lisse. Additionally, in Paramaribo, the opening included a performance by Surinamese artist Kenny van Genderen.