Mao’s Golden Mangoes at the China Institute
A new exhibit at the China Institute Gallery in New York showcases how the fruit became a political symbol. MUSEUM RIETBERG ZÜRICH/CHINA INSTITUTE GALLERY, NEW YORK
When is a mango more than a mango? A new exhibit at the China Institute Gallery in New York showcases how the fruit became a political symbol. In 1968, two years into China’s brutal Cultural Revolution, the Pakistani foreign minister gave Communist Party leader Mao Zedong a basket of mangoes. Mao sent the basket along to the “Worker-Peasant Mao Zedong Thought Propaganda Teams,” the China Institute says. Many Chinese had never seen a mango before. Individual mangoes were sent out to factories over the following weeks, and they were used as a symbol of Mao’s supposed benevolence toward workers. It wasn’t long before mangoes were imprinted on objects like mirrors, candy wrappers and posters. It didn’t last long, though: By the end of 1969, mango mania had already waned.