“I am Still the King…”

By Gabriel Canales

Gabriel Canales, Maiz I, 2010

Donna Millen, Pelanque, 2010

Kathleen (Bonnie) Nicholls, Why, 2010

Christine Rivers, Corn Bug, 2009

For Maiz: An exhibition of thirty four artworks by sixteen artists—Enter Gallery »

In spite of the efforts to try and modify me sowing me transgenic, this is not the natural evolution of my seed. Ever since I was teocinte, ten thousand years ago within indigenous and peasant agriculture, I was bequeathed for the good of all the peoples of the world. In antiquity I was considered a gift from the gods, due to my importance in both diet and commerce of the various cultures: the Olmeca, Teotihuacana, Maya and Mexica. These cultures saw in me the foundation of life and the root of civilization. In the sacred book of the Mayas, the Popol Vuh, I take part in the origins of the world, when the celestial gods, attempting to create man out of diverse materials, achieved their objective using my dough.

In spite of me, my seed is sown in Mexico as transgenic corn, which I feel is a crime against the peoples of corn, against biodiversity and against food sovereignty. In spite of my forced evolution I am still the foundation of Mexican culture, its diet, and its social, religious and economic life. Tell me otherwise; it is impossible to think of Mexico without me. They cook me in water with lime for the nixtamal, with loving care they grind me in the metate, or faster in the windmill to turn me into dough, to make tortillas cooked in the comal. We must not forget that a good tortilla makes the taco and not the other way around.

I am also present in many different ways in the Mexican home, in the squares and streets of our country, even beyond our borders. To the one who is writing, I appeared to him in Switzerland and Germany. They drink me warm in the atoles; fresh in the tejuino; tasty in the tamales; steaming in the pozole; cut off the cob in the esquite; you can find me thick in the mole; as corncob I am sold at the street corners, roasted or grilled you can find me even in Athens; ground into powder I am in the pinole, and as popcorn they even watch movies with me. In Mexico from all the cereals I am the king.

I have also been a source of inspiration to adorn granaries and kitchens, where my leafless cobs are hung. Ears of corn are threshed by cobs grouped in the shape of a drum. I have been painted, sculpted, and now I am woven. Long live the marvelous fabrics of this exhibition “MAIZ”, that give homage to the cobs and elotes; to whole corncobs or threshed kernels that the weft caught in the warp of a loom.

Gabriel Canales, Guadalajara 8/5/2010
(Translated by Yadin and Jean Pierre Larochette)

Teocinte: A grass believed to be corn’s antecedent.
Nixtamal: Corn treated in an alkaline solution (such as hominy)
Metate: Mealing stone, or mortar
Comal: Flat cooking stone or cast iron griddle
Atole: Hot corn based drink
Tejuino: Cold beverage made with fermented corn
Tamales: Dish made with starchy corn dough filled with various
ingredients and wrapped in corn husk.
Pozole: Soup or stew made with hominy
Esquite: Dish made with cooked kernels cut off the corncob
Pinole: Ground corn flour mixed with herbs and spices
Elote: Corn on the cob