Apple's Souls

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Date of event: 
Thursday, 20. November 2014

I recently visited Polish city of Lodz, and attended the exhibition opening, the only subject of which was an apple. In Polish it is "jablko". In German it is "apfel". In English it is “apple”. In Frenchit is “pomme”. In Italian it is "melo". in Kazakh it is "alma".

By the way, did you know that "alma" in Spanish means "soul"? So, during the last two decades, the former Alma-Ata has been losing in Spanish not just an apple. It has been losing its soul. And, becoming the city of Almaty, it received a dozen stone monuments of apples-souls at once.

It is a grey day again. The rain is thin and nasty. A typical Berlin November weather. Everyone sneeze and are ill. But I enjoy excellent health. I have my usual breakfast - three apples. Yesterday, my father again brought two baskets full of this wonderful fruit.

And they are not bought in a supermarket. They are small, a bit spotty and very ‘variegated’. He collects them in abandoned gardens with old trees. He climbs the trees in his 76. Wide variety of apples. And tastes are different. That kind of them is not yet sold, unfortunately. Though..., they probably could be returned!

But I'm digressing from the point. I wanted to tell about the exhibition. So, the three-month exhibition in the centre of Poland was dedicated to apples. And not because Poland due to the sanctions lost an importer of  the lion's share of its apples in the face of Russia. But because an apple is in danger, and clever, concerned people around the world are sounding the alarm. Agrarian industry is ruining the apple variety. Supermarkets all over the world sell only 5-6 varieties, promoted, looking beautiful, but really weak, deprived of their natural apples immunity. As long as 50 years ago, in the world you could find 8,000 to 12,000 different varieties of apples!!!

Over many centuries skilled gardeners and breeders have created from a wild apple tree such an amazing variety of flavours! And this diversity was a key to force of cultural apples. Different varieties were adapted to the conditions in which they grew, and the genetic proximity to its natural progenitor gave them a pretty good immunity from apple diseases and even a sort of protection from natural enemies.

No one used chemicals, and that is why birds were good to live next to gardens; they are the best bio-weapon against worms and other pests. Moreover, for example, titmouses like to nest in cracks on old apple trees. Over a season a family of such birds can kill hundreds of kilograms of pests!

Unfortunately, a modern fruit plantation is not a good place for birds. Trees are allowed to live for no more than 15-20 years, and there are no cracks for nests there. And chemicals applied to pest control poison the bird food. Among other things, they poison bees as well, which are so necessary not only for apple trees. ...And don’t they poison us?

My mom already for 20 years can not eat apples. Immediately after apples and other fruits from large industrial plantations appeared in supermarkets of the former GDR, it became clear that something is wrong with them. The number of allergic person has increased significantly. That is why my father started to gather apples from abandoned gardens...

I knew all this a long time ago. But in Poland, at the opening of the apple exhibition of the German artist Antje Majewski and Polish artist Pawel Freisler, all this information was presented in overcoloured form. Paintings, installations, apple products, forums, apple trees planting around the city and a magnificent film about an apple created so complex, rich picture about this fruit, that the basic message of artists became quite clear: the further chemicals use in apple-growing is over.


And the only way to save it is a wild apple tree! And now finally it becomes clear what is the connection between the Polish exhibition with "Unique Kazakhstan". This is a wild Malus sieversii, native to the Tien-Shan mountains, Dzungarian Alatau and Tarbagatai!

In her 140-minute film, which so strongly affected viewers, Antje Majewski emphasized: crossing of apple trees with a wild apple tree could have a much more sustainable and beneficial effect on the health of the cultural apple trees than any chemical cocktail. And it will be better for the health of all apple consumers: humans, bees, birds, hedgehogs and others.

Each Malus sieversii tree is a treasure. Do not cut them, - nowhere! Over the past two decades, areal of these trees  have already declined substantially, or rather, was reduced by specific people, above all for the sake of building houses and tourist sites in the foothills. This should be put an end.

Antje Majewski purposely went to Kazakhstan to visit and shoot these places, talk to the wild apple tree experts, to show the world that a wild apple tree is in danger, and that we can't be having its further destruction. The beginning of the film is very intense, when Antje is standing at Kok Zhailyau, and there is an apple next to her on the table, she found it under the famous apple tree in the middle of the path to the favourite place of Almaty residents. Camera describes a large circle around the apple, showing the mountains, forest plantations, the city in smog, and an apple again... And the artist in simple phrases says that for the present we still can do something.

Introductory course on the role of Malus sieversii is required everywhere. People should realize that these trees not only decorate the foothills, and are not only feature of the unique Kazakhstan, but also are extremely useful for mankind. This is not an over-the-top enthusiasm, this is true. Long live an Apple!

To paraphrase a very nice Soviet children's song, we can say without exaggeration: Let there always be an Apple, Let there always be myself. My breakfast is finished. Bless you!

The photographic material is provided by the author

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