We all need to eat. It’s one of mankind’s most basic needs. In the traveling exhibit, Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, photographer Peter Menzel and author-journalist Faith D’Alusio chronicle families from around the world, at home, at the market, and amid a week’s worth of groceries.
The book was published in 2005, and four years later culminated to a traveling exhibit. Hungry Planet has shown in nearly a dozen museums from Denmark to Venezuela. Now showing at The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, 10 blown-up family portraits illustrate the eating habits of families from China, Egypt, Greenland, Japan, Mali, Ecuador, Germany, India, Mexico and the United States. The thought-provoking photo essay encourages us to ask questions about what we eat, how much we eat, and where it comes from.
In 2000, Menzel and D’Alusio set out to explore the 21st-century eating habits of 30 families from more than 24 countries. At the expense of the authors, each family was asked to purchase what they would typically eat over the course of a week. The results ranged from excessive, pre-packaged consumption to meager amounts of raw ingredients strictly for subsistence.
On the banks of Mali’s Niger River, Soumana Natomo and his combined family of 15 consumed more than 65 pounds of dried corn per week. In the United States (Raleigh, North Carolina), fast food and beverages ate up close to half of the Revis family’s weekly food expenditures. But most intriguing was the photo series from Greenland, where Emil Madsen works from a dog sled to feed his family a protein-centric diet of musk ox, walrus, arctic geese and polar bear. Whether it comes from a grocery store or the great outdoors, no matter where you look, the family meal is a universal ritual.
The Seattle exhibit also pays local attention to how people eat with Salish Bounty: Traditional Native American Foods of Puget Sound. Complementing Hungry Planet, it explores 5,000 years of traditional tribal diets, as well as the revitalization of Native food traditions by tribal members in the Pacific Northwest region.
Intangible forces like conflict, poverty, and globalization are constantly causing diets to change and evolve – for better or for worse. However, when it comes to food; there a few constants. This cultural exhibit shows that what we eat will always be a connection to the earth, our culture and traditions.
Hungry Planet: What the World Eats
January 28 – June 10, 2012
The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
17th Avenue NE and NE 45th Street
Seattle – University District