Chips Mackinolty, La ricchizza di la terra / La ricchezza della terra / The wealth of the land — 14 May to 18 June 2016

La ricchizza di la terra / La ricchezza della terra / The wealth of the land > Download as pdf

The exhibition, La ricchizza di la terra / La ricchezza della terra / The wealth of the land is based on a year in Palermo, and looks at the produce, and the people and language, of the old markets here. It is very much about things so important in Italian cooking: local produce, seasonally available.

In developing this body of work, I have become acutely aware of the ways in which language has both shaped and reflected changes in food availability over thousands of years. “New” foods have become available over those millennia: carried on the back of trade and conquest from other parts of Italy and Europe; from the middle and far east; and from Africa and south America. These foods have slowly become part of local cultures and language. It is part of the human story but one which today, in this age of globalisation, may threaten our existence.

Working with Palermitano dialect—as well as Italian—has made sense from the beginning. But translator Francesco Pusateri, through his many commentaries to me, has heightened the tragedy of loss that sees the existence of local food varieties withering alongside the cultural loss of local language: they are inexorably linked.

And we are the poorer for it. All of us.

Chips Mackinolty: Artist, graphic designer and writer based, with the occasional piece of radio and music thrown in, from Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory of Australia. Media: digital drawing and print.

Darwin/Palermo, February 2016


Cacocciuliddi - Baby artichokes

These are, of course, baby artichokes. More delicate and beautifully coloured than the big carciofi, they are lateral buds and used for other recipes. Sharp yellow spikes and rich greens and purples on the leaves. Small pale green hearts. Artichokes were brought to Sicily from Greece 3000 years ago, and its name in dialect derives from the Greek word for cactus; northern Italy did not get this vegetable until the 1500s, and derives its name (al-hursufa and hence carciofo) from the Arabic traders who first brought artichokes to Spain and Italy.

(Left to right) Cirasa - Cherries, Pipareddi verdi - Green chilies, Ciuru di cucuzza - Pumpkin flower, Ficu rinnia - Prickly pear, Cipuda scalognu - Spring onions

La cirasa / La ciliegia / Cherries: The sweet cherry has been cultivated since prehistoric times across western Asia, north Africa and Europe, and would seem to have come to Sicily via Anatolia in what is now northern Turkey, and then Greece: indeed the word for cherry derives from the Greek place name Cerasus, from which the cherry was first exported to Europe.

Pipareddi verdi / Green chilies: Like the red chilies, these green ones dazzle in both colour and taste.

Ciuru di cucuzza / Pumpkin flower: The appearance of the flowers of pumkins and zucchini signals the arrival of the vegetables themselves in mid to late summer. The flowers are used in cooking: raw in salads, or lightly fried with or without stuffing. Zucca is from a Late Latin word, cucutia.

Ficu rinnia / Prickly pear: Australians have a horror of prickly pear, which as an invasive species threated to wipe out much agricultural land. Imported from Mexico to Sicily by the Spanish, the prickly pear was not such a threat, and in pre-Christmas months is sought after for its fruit harvested from the wild or prickly pear farms. The image of the prickly pear in fruit is seen as a symbol of Sicily. In Italian and Palermitano the fruit is rendered as “Indian fig” reflecting uncertainty as to where India was in relation to what we know now as South America. And like the fig, the prickly pear has hundreds of seeds.

Cipuda scalognu / Spring onions: These were given to me by Ignazio d’Alessandro from the stall in Vucciria he has operated for many decades: he is both an intrinsic part of the markets today, as well as its history. And the shallots looked and tasted beautiful! The name in palermitano is drawn from Vulgar Latin escalonia, the Italian from a late Latin source: cepulla.

(Left to right) Giri - Beet, Rrapi rrussi - Beetroot, Cicuoria - Chicory, Granatu - Pomegranate, Pipareddi - Red chilies, Persica - Peach

Giri / Beet: Hitting the markets in late winter, the deep dark greens of giri are the first sign of spring to come. Without looking properly, I thought it was spinach—i spinaci in Italian—until I was firmly told otherwise by Francesca Ribuffo, another Vucciria stall holder: “No! Cé giri!” Spinach, as it turned out, didn’t arrive in Sicily until after the war, so there is no dialect word in any case.

Rrapi rrussi / Beetroot: Harvested in late winter, early spring, the beetroot has always appealed to me. The Italian: “a beet with whiskers” is pretty fabulous, I don’t know what the palermitanan translates as.

Cicuoria / Chicory: This beautiful plant is prized for use in salads, or sautéed with garlic and other additives and added to pasta sauces. The palermitanan word seems much closer to the original Greek kikhoreia than the French origin that English draws from.

Granatu / Pomegranate: One of the most beautiful fruits, inside and out. Revered in Jewish tradition as one of the seven fruits enumerated in the Torah and the Christian Old Testament, as well as the Qur’an which says they grow in the gardens of paradise. Said by some to be the original “forbidden fruit” of the Bible, rather than the apple.

Pipareddi / Red chilies: The contribution to world food from South America is immense: tomatoes, potatoes among them, but perhaps no more than the pepper, from the Solanaceae family. It was these pipareddi, wrapped in gold ribbon, given to me by Pasquale Sampino that first captured my imagination in the Vucciria market of Palermo.

Persica / Peach: A curious flat-shaped peach from Cammarata in Agrigento province south of Palermo. The province is renowned for its apricots, peaches, cherries and nuts such as almond and hazel … springtime conversation in the cafes of Palermo are as likely to concern how well the trees are blossoming as they are about politics

(Left to right) Taroccu - Blood orange, Pumadoru - Tomato, Prunu - Plum, Pere - Pears, Milinciana di tunisina - Eggplant

Taroccu / Blood orange: Taroccu is said to be derived from an exclamation of wonder expressed by a farmer when was shown this fruit for the first time. It is one of a number of varieties of sweet, red-juiced blood oranges which have sprung from mutations from perhaps the beginning of the 19th century around Lentini in the province of Siracusa. They are harvested from March through to May.  Within Europe, the Arancia rossa di sicilia (Red Orange of Sicily) has Protected Geographical Status.

Pumadoru / Tomato: It is difficult to imagine Italian cooking without the tomato, from pasta sauces to pizza toppings. Brought back from Mexico by the Spanish, the first varieties—small, yellow—were used in northern Italy as an ornamental plant—not as a food. Over the centuries since then a large number of varieties have been cultivated across the world. The English word tomato comes from the Spanish version of the Nuahatl word tomatl. In Italian, from the 1550s, the words pomi d’oro came to describe the new fruit: golden apples. The earliest discovered cookbook with tomato recipes was published in 1692 in Naples, the city which would later become the progenitor of the pizza. But there are other versions of the meaning of the word. According to Francesco Pusateri, in the Trapani region of western Sicily the trapanese dialect renders the fruit as pumadamuri: apples of love.

Prunu / Plum: Plums are often harvested twice in Sicily, so successive waves of different cultivars come into the markets from April through to September, and variously sweet or tart depending on variety. Linguistically confusing, as ever! The Sicilian prunu comes from the writing of Pliny the Elder, a first century Roman historian and scholar; the Italian draws susino/susina from much later Vulgar Latin. And in Australia the word prune usually applies to the dried fruit, or juice.

Pere / Pears: According to the Pomological catalogue of the ancient fruits of Sicily* there are 65 different cultivars of pear in Sicily—far to many to document here so this is a sample from a single visit to Ballarò market not so far from my neighbourhood. At certain times you can get tiny pears that can be eaten in a single mouthful … some farmers still dip the stems in sealing wax … memories of keeping fruit fresh before the days of refrigeration. * Catalogo pomologico degli antichi fruttiferi di Sicilia, University of Palermo (2008)

Milinciana di tunisina / Eggplant: Another east and south Asian import, and in Palermo best known in its purple, white and black livery: tunisina. Though not exclusively: there’s a huge variety in size, shape and colouration. The linguistic origins of the name suggest both Persian and Arabic origins as they were brought from south and central Asia. In Italian, it is thought the name came from medieval Latin as melongena, from the older Latin mela nsane—mad apple—perhaps linked to the effects of uncooked seeds. From the Arabic (al)-bāḏinjān, the Catalan albergínia, English ended up with aubergine via the French. Or “eggplant” for God’s sake!

(Left to right) Sparaci - Asparagus, Piricoccu - Apricot, Fragulina e ceuse - Red berries, Nespulu - Loquat, Pumaruricchiu - Cherry tomatoes, Furmintuni - Corn

Sparaci / Asparagus: Asparagus has been around as food and medicine for at least 5000 years in the Mediterranean region, with the vegetable depicted on an Egyptian frieze from 3000BC, and was commonly eaten in ancient Greek and Roman times. A recipe for cooking asparagus is in the oldest surviving book of recipes, Apicius’ third-century AD De re coquinaria. The spring asparagus in the Vucciria is a welcome sign of warmer weather on its way.

Piricoccu / Apricot: Cultivated in China from 4000 years ago, but the Greeks and Romans referred to them as “armeniaca” as they were thought to have been introduced to Europe from Armenia. They were first grown in Sicily in the Vesuvius region. The Albicocco di Scillata (Scillatu), from a town in the east of Palermo province is officially designated on the “list of traditional Sicilian products”.

Fragulina e ceuse - Red berries: In English we call both of these “berries”: but the strawberry isn’t even a “berry”. But they are here together because they hit the markets at the same time, and look so beautiful together. The baby strawberries from Messina are long waited for; a long way from France’s Brittany where wild strawberries were first cultivated for market in the late 18th century.

Nespulu / Loquat: I hadn’t seen these since I was a kid, and beautiful seeing tray after tray of this sweet fruit in the markets of Palermo. Originally from China, they have spread to much of the rest of the world over the last 3000 years. The word loquat is of Chinese original, nespula from the Ancient Greek.
Nespolino is an Italian liqueur made from the seeds of the loquat fruit. It has bitter taste similar to other Italian seed-based bitter liqueurs such as amaretto and nocino, prepared from nuts and apricot kernels.

Pumaruricchiu / Cherry tomatoes: Strictly speaking, these cherry tomatoes do not have a palermitanan word, as they are a hybrid introduced in the 1980s. Indeed any “new” fruit or vegetable introduced to Sicily after Word War II is unlikely to have acquired a dialect word. According to Francesco Pusateri, very small fruit varieties were grown in Sicily: u pumaroru a pruniddu and pumaroru a carrubbedda, respectively plum-shaped and carob-shaped tomatoes. Typically, varieties of small tomatoes were indicated generically by the term "pumaruricchiu".

Furmintuni / Corn: A favourite street food as corn on the cob during the period of the festival for Palermo’s patron saint, Santa Rosalia, maize was domesticated in Mexico 9000 years ago from which it spread throughout the Americas. The Spanish and Portuguese brought it to Europe and east Asia in the 15th and 16th centuries.

(Left to right) SPipittuni - Citron, Piseddi - Peas, Ficu - Fig, Pumu - Apple, Agghia - Garlic

SPipittuni / Citron: A large misshapen lemon-looking fruit, but sweet here in Sicily—and certainly not a lemon! Brought into the middle east and Greece from India in the days of Alexander the Great, then to Calabria and Sicily around 70 AD by Jews fleeing Jerusalem. The skin is harvested for oils used in making liqueurs and then candied for sweets, especially around Easter. The very thick pith is used in salads, or by itself, sometimes seasoned with sugar or salt.

Piseddi / Peas: A late autumn/early winter crop, wild peas have been evident from the Mediterranean basin and middle east for thousands of years. More often than not as a dried fruit, the arrival of fresh peas is always welcome and used in salads, soups and sauces. By different routes, both the Palermitanan/Italian and English languages draw from the Ancient Greek pison.

Ficu / Fig: At each corner of the Benedictine cloister attached to the cathedral of Monreale, a town that sits above the conca d’oro of Palermo, sit four plantings of the most important Biblical fruits: pomegranate, dates, olives and figs. When in season, the markets are full of figs, one of the most ancient fruits to be cultivated in the middle east and brought to Sicily from the from ancient times. The fig is possibly the first example of deliberate agriculture, with evidence of plantings dating back to 9400-9200 BC in the Jordan Valley. The word in English and Italian comes from the Latin.

Pumu / Apple: The apple’s origins are—like so many other fruits—from central and western Asia, and have certainly been in Europe since not so long after the last Ice Age. Pliny the Elder describes 30 varieties from pre-Roman Etruscan times. It has always been seen as having magical—and even dangerous—powers across many different cultures. In Sicily there are a dozen local cultivars in the regions, though much of those sold these days come from other areas of Italy and Europe.

Agghia / Garlic: Garlic has a long history as a food stuff and an even longer one as a natural medicine and tonic—not least in Sicily. First cultivated in central Asia 7,000 years ago, and extensively used in Ancient Egypt, garlic in Sicily is sown in winter and harvested in May and June. The Aglio Rosso di Nubia (Red Garlic of Nubia), grown in the Trapani province just west of Palermo, has EU-recognised Protected Geographical Status.


About Chips Mackinolty

Chips Mackinolty was a key figure in Australia’s radical poster movement in the 1970s and 1980s when posters conceptualised as a political tool, became an art form.

The Earthworks Poster Collective, established in 1971, was the most active and well-known of these groups, creating imagery that defined a distinct period in Australian social, art and design history. Earthworks operated from Sydney University Art Workshop, commonly known as the Tin Sheds. Mackinolty used sharp, flat colours and increasingly professional techniques to produce posters that combined vibrant design with acerbic wit and pithy social comments. The Earthworks collective had a profound influence on contemporary graphic design and art disciplines. 

In 2010 curator Anita Angel organised Not Dead Yet, a landmark national retrospective exhibition and catalogue by two printmaking pioneers, Darwin-based Therese Ritchie and Chips Mackinolty. Opening at Charles Darwin University Gallery, the show featured screenprints, posters, drawings, photographs, digital collage works and limited edition fine art prints and paintings, dating from 1969 (Mackinolty) and 1988 (Ritchie) to 2010.

Chips’ work traces developments and techniques in traditional printmaking, collage and photographic media – from hand-drawn images, photographic or hand-cut stencils and rubyliths, to photographic prints and computer-generated digital prints on paper and canvas. These new works he calls photographic drawings.

In Darwin he co-founded Green Ant Publishing (1990) and continued to work with political and community arts organisations and Land Councils for a decade. Chips continues his artistic practice today from Darwin and Palermo.

Chips Mackinolty’s work is held in National Gallery of Australia; National Museum of Australia; Artbank; Art Gallery of NSW; National Gallery of Victoria; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory; Charles Darwin University, Northern Territory; Australian War Memorial; Launceston Art Gallery; Art Gallery of South Australia; Mitchell collection, NSW State Library; National Library of Australia; University of Adelaide; Monash University, Melbourne; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Queensland Art Gallery; Griffith University, Queensland; Powerhouse Museum, Sydney; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne; Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.



Chips Mackinolty by Anita Angel, Imprint, vol. 51, no. 2, 2016.  > Download as pdf