Erika NJ Allen


Is Not a Coup








Ceramic, glaze, and golden varnish

Credits: Courtesy of the artista

Erika NJ Allen, an artist of Guatemalan origin, was inspired by the cookbooks published by the United Fruit Company for her work Is Not a Coup. Published in the first decades of the 20th century, the purpose of these recipe books was to promote the consumption of bananas among the American population, which was not yet familiar with the fruit. They were therefore aimed at women (who were then primarily responsible for doing the shopping and cooking). The UFC’s efforts promoted the banana as a nutritious (to make it suitable for the whole family, especially the younger ones) and sophisticated fruit (because of the “exotic” origin of bananas grown in Latin America and its phallic shape, the idea was to convince society that eating it was elegant). Most of these recipe books included recipes for extravagant desserts presented on fancy plates, trays, and platters shaped like bananas. This UFC’s emphasis on luxury concealed, of course, the brutality behind its agricultural and business practices in the countries where the company grew its bananas. Allen replicates glazed ceramic bananas over the aforementioned platters: the yellow ones, placed vertically, represent the dignity of the plantation workers, while the coiled green ones are a reference to the greed and corruption of the multinational banana companies. The title of the work, which is part of a larger project of the same name, alludes to the coup d’état of 1954 in Guatemala plotted by the CIA and the United Fruit Company against Jacobo Árbenz.