Exhibitions of 2021: Shared Habitats
By Chloe Chu
In his remarkable book The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis (2021), Amitav Ghosh roots anthropogenic climate change in colonial conceptions of nature, wherein the organic world is sterilized as an inanimate resource, to be taken and controlled. This view extends into imperial formulations of history, which often overlook the agency of animals, insects, plants, and landscapes as creators of fates. As an example, Ghosh cites Dutch “Golden Age” still lifes, which depict the spoils of the empire’s trade while seldom acknowledging what made this booming economy possible: nutmeg extracted from the Banda Islands, as well as other spices from the East Indies. In contrast, fokorndan, the word for history used on the Banda Islands, is etymologically tied with fokor (mountain), and reflects how the islands’ Gunung Api volcano is enfolded as a protagonist in local narratives.