Recently I heard a radio programme about the cult of the mango during China’s Cultural Revolution. In 1968, student Red Guards had brought the country to the verge of chaos. The BBC website explains what happened next:
Mao Zedong sent thousands of workers to occupy [Beijing’s Quinhua] campus and quell the violence, declaring that the working class, rather than the students, would direct the next stage of the revolution. A week later, the Pakistani foreign minister visited Beijing and presented Chairman Mao with a basket of mangoes.
For some reason, Mao didn’t eat the mangoes himself but sent them on to the workers at Qinghua, sparking a nationwide passion for the fruit. The gift was interpreted as an act of selflessness and mangoes became synonymous with the Chairman and a symbol of his love for the People. The BBC site continues:
The Communist Party’s propaganda department quickly set to work creating thousands of mango-themed cotton fabrics and domestic goods. Floats with giant papier-mâché mangoes dominated the National Day Parade in 1968. Armed peasants even fought over a black and white copy of a photograph of a mango.
I can’t claim that my pastel drawing of this wonderful fruit has any totemic value. Its colours made it a natural subject. As with these figs:
Unfortunately there’s no evidence that Fidel Castro did anything with figs other than, perhaps, eat them (I confess, it just made a good title for this post). It’s an intriguing thought, however, that regimes of all political persuasions might find a fruit that everyone could rally round, one that could quell violence and restore harmony. The noble quince springs to mind, for example.
I fear it’ll take more than fruit to stop the madness that surrounds us in some parts of the world at the moment, however.