REVIEW: ‘My Spice Box Remedies’ at Kingston Museum

Herbs and spice and all things nice, Kingston Museum has turned into a curious cave of natural remedies.

My Spice Box Remedies is a new multimedia exhibition exploring the heritage of some of the herb and spice remedies used by the many different cultures living in Kingston.   

At first glance however, there doesn’t seem to be much to it. Three glass displays stand in the middle of a vast space with information boards hung in a line on the walls. That’s it. This said, when you step into the room you’re greeted with an array of exotic aromas – most notably turmeric, ginger and cumin.

Setting the table. Photo by Samina Bhatti

Immediately your mind brims with colourful images of Middle-Eastern markets and Asian food stalls, and you’re reacquainted with the memories of your grandmother’s delicious, home-cooked meals. Suddenly, you’re absorbed.

As you follow the boards around the room, you learn all about each of the 16 spices and herbs featured in the exhibition, their history, origins and properties. Some of them may surprise you. Chilli, for example, helps relieve congestion and can help provide relief from headaches and migraine. Cinnamon helps to regulate diabetes and sage can be used for depression and memory loss.

A spotlight on spice. Photo by Samina Bhatti

In addition, you discover how to use the herbs and spices yourselves, thanks to members of Kingston’s local multicultural communities who took part in the project. It took over 21 months to put it altogether and as a result you really gain a clear picture of how spices play a pivotal role in the everyday lives of those cultures. Many of them offer tips on how to tackle certain ailments. Of course, these should be taken with a pinch of salt.    

You can see these herbs and spices in the glass displays as you wander around the room. Each one is displayed either in its natural plant form or in some kind of refined format. It’s strangely fascinating to see them in this way, to see them as a kind of art form rather than just something to sprinkle in a curry or a soup.

A spicy affair. Photo by Samina Bhatti

The exhibition makes you want to have a rummage through your kitchen cupboards and see what you can use the next time you have an upset stomach or feel a cold coming on. However, before you start swapping paracetamols for a handful of chilli, always consult your GP, as the exhibition makes clear. 

My Spice Box Remedies is open now until 16 March 2019.

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