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High Tea

Block print on leather, textile, kettle, tea, wood, iron construction. Painting on kettles by Anex, Jatiwangi


This work is related to the work ‘A blinkered view – High tea low tea’, from 2013.
For this particular work I looked into the development of tea cultures over the centuries. Tea was first introduced in Europe around the same year that the VOC (Dutch East Indies Company) was established at the beginning of the 17th century.
Historically, tea plants lived on for generations however since the colonial era tea plants were supplanted every fifteen years and replaced with a small sapling of the the old plant. The old tea trees are brought to the tea factory, to burn as heath and dry the leaves for the tea process.
I worked with the painter Anex from Jatiwangi in West Java, a region known for its tea plantations. Anex has painted romantic ‘Mooi Indie’ style landscapes on aluminium kettles illustrating the surrounds of Jatiwangi. The romantic imagery references landscape traditions of the Colonial era whilst also alluding to the unromantic cruelties of daily life that took place during this period.
The highest quality tea produced in Indonesia is not available to Indonesian people but is instead directly exported. Indonesia’s premium tealeaves are exported and served to the upper class around the world. Tea found in Indonesian supermarket however is a rougher, larger leafed, less ‘refined’ tea.