Experience a Mexican Food Journey – De la Milpa a la Mesa exhibition at Tūranga: 9 September to 13 November

Keen to be immersed in the colours and flavours of Latin America? The Latin America Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence (LatAm CAPE) in partnership with Tūranga presents a unique opportunity to satisfy New Zealanders’ wanderlust with “De la Milpa a la Mesa: a Mexican food journey”, an exhibition about Mexico’s agricultural and culinary heritage.

The cutting-edge, research-based exhibition will take place at Tūranga, 60 Cathedral Square, from 9 September to 13 November 2022. De la Milpa a la Mesa celebrates the richness of Mexican cuisine, from farms and markets to restaurants and home kitchens. Farmers, scientists, vendors, and cooks from across Mexico share their unique perspectives on agriculture, climate change, food sovereignty, and how their diverse communities are confronting global concerns in their everyday lives – concerns similar to those found in Aotearoa New Zealand.


There’s a fun and festive public programme to accompany the exhibition:

Loteria Saturday 24 September 2pm to 3pm, Tūranga

Loteria is a traditional game of chance, similar to bingo but using images on a deck of cards instead of numbers. Come with your family or a group of friends (6 per team maximum), enjoy a traditional Mexican game while you learn Spanish words. Will have prizes for the winning team.
Book online for this free event

El maíz en tiempos de guerra - Maize in Time of War Documentary Sunday 25 September 2.30pm to 4pm and Sunday 30 October 2.30pm to 4pm
Auaha Hihī / Spark Place, He Hononga | Connection, Ground Floor, Tūranga

Join us for a screening of the documentary El maíz en tiempos de guerra - Maize in Time of War. Maize in Time of War traces the yearly cycle of four indigenous maize plots (called milpas) in different regions of Mexico. This film draws the exceptional process of growing maize, the delicacy of selecting seeds and preparing the land that will receive them, the tenacity and the nuances involved in taking care of the whole process, until the harvest arrives after working for months and the family enjoys the vital product. English subtitles. Free, no bookings required.

Crafting for wellbeing - Ojo de Dios (God’s Eye) Craft Saturday 15 October 1.30pm to 3pm
Tūhuratanga | Discovery, Level 3, Tūranga

This month we are making Ojo de Dios (a God’s eye) in our Crafting for Wellbeing session ahead of Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead).

Eye of God/Ojo de Dios is a Huichol (one of Mexico’s first nation peoples) spiritual and votive object made by weaving a design out of yarn on a wooden cross. The Huichol or Wixaritari call their God's Eyes Tsikuri, which means "the power to see and understand things unknown”. When a child is born, the father weaves the central eye, then one colour is added for every year of the child's life until the child reaches the age of five. Sometimes people do them for other spiritual reasons and they can have many colours and be quite big. Or children do them as crafts at school in Mexico.

Mexican Fiesta - Friday 4 November 6pm to 8.30pm, Foundation Café, He Hononga | Connection, Ground Floor, Tūranga

In conjunction with De la Milpa a la Mesa exhibition please join us for an evening of traditional Mexican food, dancers and a mariachi band!

$45 per person (includes dinner and entertainment), bookings essential. Book at Foundation Café, Tūranga. Ph: 03 365 0308

Cash bar available.

Installation: view photos on Flickr

De La Milpa a La Mesa: A Mexican Food Journey exhibition at Tūranga

More about De la Milpa a la Mesa: A Mexican Food Journey

Tūranga is the first stop on the exhibition’s national tour, after it was first exhibited at Te Auaha Gallery in Wellington 3 March to 14 April 2021. The exhibition was developed through a partnership between Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington’s Museum and Heritage Studies programme (VUW) and the Posgrado en Estudios y Prácticas Museales programme of the Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografía of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (ENCRyM) in Mexico City. Its development was led by seven post-graduate students in New Zealand and two in Mexico City who were undertaking a supervised internship as part of the LatAm CAPE’s Cultural Sector Partnership programme.

The exhibition is the result of years of collaborative efforts between Dr Lee Davidson from VUW and Dr Leticia Pérez Castellanos from ENCRyM. On the exhibition’s relevance to New Zealand, Dr Davidson says, “Many New Zealanders know little about Mexico beyond the stereotypes found in films and news media. In creating this exhibition, we wanted to share with people the richness and diversity of Mexican culture through something New Zealanders can easily relate to — food and agriculture. Visitors will be surprised and inspired by the fascinating stories and people they will meet in the exhibition.” Dr Pérez agrees: “as a Mexican who has been to New Zealand, I am amazed by the similarities and differences between our two countries and I always hope that more New Zealanders would learn more about Mexico and vice versa. I am proud to participate in “De la Milpa a la Mesa” and to be able to communicate amazing aspects of my culture, so that more and diverse people can engage with it and be curious to learn and experience more.”

The first section of the exhibition, the “milpa”, highlights the importance of biodiversity and the essential roles small-scale farmers and scientists play in adapting to old and new threats to their ecosystems. The “mercado” then offers an immersive experience with the sights, sounds, and smells of Mexico’s many, diverse, and famous neighbourhood markets. The “mesa” showcases the spectrum of culinary options, from home cooks preserving generations of recipes to the owners of high-end restaurants attracting global attention to cutting-edge Mexican cuisine. For a lasting taste of the exhibition, visitors will be invited to take home recipes from New Zealand’s Mexican communities to their own kitchens.

“The exhibition was informed by the latest thinking around intercultural museum practice and visitor engagement.” commented Matthew O’Meagher, Director of the Latin America CAPE, which has supported the project. “In order to do business with Latin America New Zealanders must first be aware of this region. We are therefore excited to help New Zealanders engage with the richness of Mexican culture and see the social and environmental similarities between us. The exhibition fosters intercultural dialogue about issues such as climate change, sustainability and the future of agriculture and consumption.”

The Latin America CAPE was established in July 2017 to bring New Zealand closer to Latin America. By drawing university experience together with nimble delivery systems, the CAPE helps New Zealanders deepen sustainable, future-focused commercial growth and relationships, and builds knowledgeable, schools and universities. It does this through the delivery of evidence-based programmes, events and tools that are available to the broader New Zealand public.

For more information please contact:

Nicole Freeman
LatAm CAPE Programme Manager
+64 022 563 6554