Chocolat Pupier Asian cultures album, France, 1936

This album of collect-them-all images of Asian cultural heritage and national leaders was produced by the chocolate maker Pupier in 1936 and there is a tremendous amount of politics embedded in what might otherwise be considered a children’s entertainment.  The year of production is inauspicious: the Nazis were in power in Germany and the Japanese had established their puppet state of Manchukuo in northern China, so a survey of Asia at that time was necessarily a record of militarism and conquest.  And chocolate itself, an innocent confection, is intimately entwined with the imperial project, given the vast cocoa farms under French ownership in Asia and West Africa.  But from the vantage point of the current day, it is the politics to come that is most intriguing: the Afghanistan page, which shows the great Buddhist statues at Bamiyan that the Taliban blew up in 2001; or the Palestine section, showing an undivided land under British Mandate that was not long removed from Ottoman rule.

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