White Gold Under the Ackee Tree in Jamaica

FlowersI came to Jamaica in the middle of January 2015, and as the rickety car drove past the sea and up the pot-hole filled road up to Bogue, I wondered about what I would find.

I decided to come to Jamaica because it’s a Commonwealth country, one for which I don’t need a visa even though it has nothing in common with Bangladesh except for mangoes and naseberries (chikus), and the fact that the British ruled over all of us.

The British used trading merchants from India to help facilitate the trade on sugarcane, which became one of Jamaica’s national exports.

To this day, the word for Indians in Creole remains “coolie.”

In order to maintain the plantations, the British brought over slaves, who apparently carried the ackee plant in one of their slave ships.

Today known as the island’s main fruit, the ackee is usually served as breakfast fare, with either saltfish or callalloo, which is like spinach.

Under the Ackee Tree

Under the Ackee Tree

Ackee and saltfish

Ackee and saltfish

My encounter with ackee began with the tree that hangs over my host’s house, which greeted me as soon as the cab come to a stop in a little off-shoot road on a hill that overlooks Montego Bay.

The ackee is Jamaica’s national fruit. Ackee has the consistency of scrambled eggs, if cooked well, and it is usually served with saltfish, which is dried fish- what the Bengalis would call shutki, and is also common in some form of balichao variety in Myanmar.

As a novice to ackee though, I have been mesmerized by trying it out in different contexts. I may prefer sausages with my ackee however, as the fish is a little bit too salty for my personal taste.

Close up of Ackee Fruit on Tree

Close up of Ackee Fruit on Tree

A token of randomness is that ackee is actually considered poisonous until it bursts, showing all its teeth.

I collected a few of the seeds for an ensemble that I found myself inspired to make. I was reminded of the frenzied performances that Ana Mendieta would have perhaps established. I have been thinking about the Cuban artist a lot, particularly as my plane from Florida into Jamaica flew directly over Cuba.

It was glorious, the journey- beautiful in all respects.

The whole performance of collecting these leaves was conducted in about an hour. It involved the enchanting company of one of the loveliest ladies I could have ever chanced upon. As randomness would have it, a conversation revealed we have two friends in common, and that too, from different periods in our lives, from when I was living in New York and in Budapest, and when she was in Bosnia and in Chicago, respectively.

The world is so small, and so large, at the same time.

I thought a token of appreciation needed to occur for finding something new in 2015, and a fruit that, when cooked well, is one of the most delicious meals you could possibly try out.

This last photograph is part of a series of leaves that I arranged under the ackee tree.



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