The Dark Circle is a modern interpretation of the traditional uses of spices in rituals to promote health and well-being.The experience is a guided mindfulness group ritual where visitors utilize all their senses and get hands on with black pepper to have a moment with themselves through common items. The experience starts with learning about the history and culture of black pepper in an art gallery setting utilizing black pepper themed artworks from the Kew Garden collection.
Then the visitors enter a dark room with a circle of internally lit wooden plinths in which they take their stations and begin to know their black pepper beyond pictures and words. The ritual starts with the reminder of how ordinary pepper is in the kitchen before a mixture of historical facts, traditional healing and current plants and research at Kew Gardens informs one about the “king of spices”. This is laced throughout a session on using this ritual to set intentions for the day and how every day items can help us create rituals of mindfulness.
Deep breaths bring in the smell as the feeling and sounds drifted in with more pepper than one usually sees. Visitors smudged the coarse black pepper creating a fragrant air that followed them past the event as the oils of the peppers coated their hands. A gentle pouring of water is offered on the way out, an optional cleansing connection between the guide and the visitors.
This ritual was done in a circle of plinths inspired by the brick growing towers used in Kampot, Cambodia to grow black pepper. The internal warm lighting is reminiscent of brick as the apron and wood surface hint at the kitchen and dining setting one normally uses pepper in.
The Dark Circle was designed for the Kew Gardens summer spice festival in collaboration with Maya Merhi, Hannah Rogers, Kew Gardens and Central Saint Martins Narrative Environments.