masharu – Taste of Earth (Museum of Edible Earth)
Participant of Our Living Soil
masharu collects soil and researches cultural traditions of eating soil worldwide. Geophagy is the practice of eating soil, which people have known for thousands of years. In Africa, South America and Asia, eating soil is still a cultural, spiritual or medicinal custom. In November and December 2021, masharu did a residency at the World Soil Museum Wageningen. For Our Living Soil, masharu develops a new version of The Museum of Edible Earth that maps cultural practices of peoples around the world around eating soil.
“masharu’s work takes a whole new stance on the subject of ‘soil’. While we gather soils for scientific purposes, looking closely at the soil’s composition, there are totally different ways to engage with the substance. masharu, for instance, collects soils and investigates how edible they are. This approach is inspirational, tantalising, as it presents a different perception on soil. The cultural aspects of soil are fascinating, although little is known about them.” Stephan Mantel (director World Soil Museum)
The Museum of Edible Earth invites the public to review knowledge about food and cultural traditions using creative and sensory approaches. The Museum of Edible Earth focuses on the following questions: What ideas and values are behind the practice of eating earth? Where do the histories of eating soil come from? What are the possible benefits and dangers of eating soil? How do the material properties in soil affect taste? The Museum of Edible Earth develops a comprehensive collection of soil used for oral consumption in various parts of the world from different cultural practices and histories. The workshops that are part of The Museum of Edible Earth, in which the audience gets to taste soil itself, contribute to rethinking the value of our relationship with soil.
So far, more than 400 soil types from 34 different countries have been collected via the Internet and during excursions to form the basis for The Museum of Edible Earth. The collection includes soil samples from Belarus, Cameroon, China, Congo, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Slovenia, South Africa, Suriname, Ukraine, UK, USA, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe. It links collecting, documenting, artistic presentation and storytelling practices with scientific approaches to the analysis of the collection. The museum activates dialogue around environmental issues and aims to develop greater awareness of our relationship with the earth by inviting diverse communities to share their knowledge and experience of soil and add new knowledge to the collection.
The Museum of Edible Earth – with its emphasis on landscapes and cultural traditions from all over the world – is given a special context in the Floriade park, which as an international horticultural exhibition, brought contributions from all over the world to the Amstelpark, where a great diversity of flora can still be seen. For Our Living Soil, masharu is developing a new phase. While previously, many soil classifications were used and on the Museum of Edible Earth website, it is possible to classify samples in the country of origin, shape, composition and colour. Still, the most critical component was missing: taste. So, as for the next phase, masharu will experiment with an interactive work called Taste of Earth for Our Living Soil. The work uses a standard methodology of wine tasting as a departure point for collecting experiences and impressions. This also involves developing a more nuanced language around taste. masharu will collaborate with a programmer to design an interactive soil tasting as a way to collect feelings and emotions from the audience and link these to the collection of the Museum of Edible Earth. This will be connected to a digital tasting map displayed on a touch screen in the exhibition to which visitors can add their own taste impressions. The work, therefore, asks for participation and will constantly evolve.
Around the Museum of Edible Earth, masharu is organising public events, from soil tastings to a lecture in which they invites the public to reconsider our knowledge of soil, food and cultural traditions by addressing the question of how geophagical practices can change the way we interact with the earth. For example, a connection is made to the local place, and masharu will work with the audience in the Amstelpark, where participants collect, taste and describe soil. The samples from the Amstelpark will be added to the Museum of Edible Soil, and the developed language and methods to the Taste of Earth digital archive.