Maggic Cube


The stock cube, the most commonly found dehydrated broth (or bouillon, as the French would have it), is a small conglomerate of about half an inch in size and made from dehydrated vegetables, meat stock, fat, and seasonings. Debatably invented in 18th century England as a dry alternative to meat stock, or in 19th century France by a group of patent-obsessed cooks, it made its way to West African markets and has since become ubiquitous in local recipes, be it Cameroonian ndolè, Ivorian sauce graine, or Senegalese thiéboudiène. This tiny cube’s history however condenses issues emanating from a much larger, geometrical construct: the Scramble for Africa. There were 14 powers who, in 1884-85, during what history now calls the Berlin Conference, agreed on how to split an entire continent into arbitrary morsels. The conversations would lead to an economic, global treaty, which dictated trade norms and defined the manner in which their products would be sold throughout the African continent.

Fast-forward into the 21st century, and its evermore global, visual culture. The practice of colonialism has undergone a number of face lifts, mutating from an imperialistic vision into a more digestible, effective alternate that media strategists have coined ‘soft power.’ And today, promoting its culture, language or culinary tradition abroad is but one of the many faces it puts on. It therefore comes as no surprise that Adji Dieye, an Italian-Senegalese artist, chose the Swiss brand Maggi as her vehicle to explore the power exerted by former colonial powers through the import of goods into West Africa.

Her series Maggic Cube brings the notion of cultural imposition to the forefront, problematising it in distinctive ways. In this group of portraits, Dieye uses the stock cube as a metaphor from which to pull several threads, the most obvious being a very direct critique of capitalism. Her images reveal the impact of global, imperialistic trade on African nations’ identities. Slowly abandoning its local products, Senegal, where the images are shot, has been made dependent on foreign manufactured goods. Nestlé, the current owner of Maggi, and its Spanish equivalent, Jumbo, are striking examples of a much larger trend. Denouncing this logic in image after image, Dieye aptly exposes an economy, which creates demand where it never previously existed.

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Making culture digestible in 750 words  by Valentine Umansky















Installation view Kunsthalle Vienna, “. . . of bread, wine, cars, security and peace” curated by WHW, What, How & for Whom, Vienna, Austria 2020.                                                      




Installation view Kunsthalle Vienna, “. . . of bread, wine, cars, security and peace” curated by WHW, What, How & for Whom, Vienna, Austria 2020.