Exploring the fine art photography collection that features indigenous seeds
Updated: Aug 27
Seeds and Tales is a fine-art print photography project by Riccardo Riccio in collaboration with the Brazilian agro-ecological company Trovão Tropical. Together, they embarked in an extraordinary journey in Brazil and immersed themselves in native communities, accomplishing the mission to collect seeds that hold enchanting stories within.
Macrophotography offers a captivating world of extreme close-ups, allowing us to delve into the intricate details of small objects. By utilizing specialized lenses designed for ultra close-up photography, they have magnified small seeds beyond life-size proportions. This technique unveils astonishing details, revealing the hidden marvels of even microscopic seeds.
Using the ultramacro technique, Ricardo Riccio skillfully captured the essence and beauty of these remarkable seeds. Each photograph showcases the intricate details, textures, and colors that make every seed unique and captivating.
The resulting collection of photographs has been transformed into fine art prints, whose sale proceeds go in part to supporting urban gardens and Indigenous communities in Brazil.
The images are carefully crafted to preserve ancient tales and to magnify the universe of potential in these miniscule jewels. Each image tells a story, evoking a sense of wonder and appreciation for the natural world.
This week's features of the fine art photography project of prints of Indigenous Brazilian seeds, photographed using ultramacro technology:
Bicolored Paraguayan peanut
The peanut is a seed native to South America, its center of origin probably being the Chaco region of Paraguay. In the Tupi language, Mãdu’bi means ‘buried’, and several popular names for this plant are derived from this indigenous concept – Minduim, Minduí, Mindubi. That's because this legume grows underground in pods of one to three edible seeds.
Due to its high content of proteins and fats, peanuts are a food with the humanitarian potential to combat hunger and child malnutrition. That's why peanut butter forms the basis of therapeutic foods used in actions with this purpose.
A creole seed variety such as this bicolored Paraguayan peanut is native, free from genetic manipulations, and unknown to modern agro-industrial technologies.
This seed is too distinctive to be precisely identified. As a gliding winged seed, it disperses with the wind, and it embodies a spiritual symbolism widely used in meditation techniques.
Their potential for movement is largely ignored as a field of study, especially regarding what's denominated as secondary dispersion – the distance between its origin and its germination. Even so, this family of seeds has inspired several innovations in aviation.
Cooking Uni (Banisteriopsis caapi) with Chacrona (Psychotria viridis) generates the famous ritualistic potion called Ayahuasca.
The vine Banisteriopsis caapi is native to the forests of South America, abundant in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia. It is known as caapi or cipó-mariri, but by the Yawanawá people, this robust plant was baptized as Uni.
Uni contains an inhibitor called monoamine oxidase, which promotes the absorption of DMT in the human body. Chacrona is a shrub that contains DMT, or Dimethyltryptamine, and therefore the marriage between these two plants provides the essential elements for the creation of an ancient and ancestral indigenous medicine that was essential for the spiritual development of several cultures.
This alchemical marriage is particular and delicate. It enables the expansion of human consciousness through visions, sensations, memories, and profound thoughts. Ayahuasca is a drink consumed for millennia inducing such altered states of mind in Amerindian shamanic rituals.
As a drink, it is a classified entheogen, that is, a psychoactive substance that enables an experience of transcendence and contact with the divine. One of the most reported effects of Ayahuasca is the dissolution of the ego. The dismantling of the “I” as a concept is accompanied by the phenomenon coined in analytical psychology as 'psychic death'. This meta/euphoric death assists in the achievement of communion with a universal entirety and generates an awareness of holistic union.
The consecration of Ayahuasca is central to the spiritual manifestation of forest peoples. The ritual allows for a visit to the realm of the deities, and from the tales and histories lived during these states of transcendence, a mythology is conceived that assures social cohesion through shared rites.
Humanity has been in a relationship with coffee for over a millennium. This relationship began in the region that is now known as Ethiopia, in the 9th century, when a shepherd named Kaldi noticed that after eating the red fruits of a wild bush, his goats became more active and did not sleep at night. Kaldi then picked and took these fruits to a religious leader, and it was in this kind of monastery that coffee became the most consumed drink in the world.
The transformation of this magnificent plant into a drink was initiated by monks and was consumed ritualistically. In a way, it still is today. Coffee was the drink of devotees in rituals of Sufi Islamic mysticism in Yemen. Kave, or "Arabian wine", was popularized throughout the Arab world in a cultural context that prohibited the consumption of alcohol but embraced the stimulation of caffeine.
With the expansion of the Arab trade and the Ottoman Empire, coffee consumption followed these routes of propagation around the world. This era of expansion was called the Islamic Renaissance or Golden Age, and it lasted more than half a millennium, between the 8th and 15th centuries. During this period, there was a civilizational and agricultural boom, where literature, navigations and technologies saw unprecedented development – stimulated by the avid consumption of coffee.
To ensure the monopoly of this highly demanded product by the West, Arab merchants sold roasted coffee beans, thus avoiding their planting outside Arab domains. It was not until 1616, almost a millennium after Kaldi noticed the change in behaviour of his goats, that the first coffee plant was smuggled out of the port of Mokha, in Yemen. Dutch navigators took a seedling to one of their colonies on the island of Java, now part of Indonesia, where they successfully cultivated it and created the coffee variety called Mocca or Mocha Java.
About a hundred years after this smuggling by the Dutch, the French court finds a coffee seedling at the botanical garden in Amsterdam. A seedling of this plant is then taken to the island of Martinique in 1730, where the first French coffee plantations are cultivated, and coffee begins to be exported to Europe.
The beginning of the relationship between the Arab civilization and coffee corresponds with the beginning of the golden age of the Islamic world. And that era comes to an end as the seed of this plant is used by other peoples in building their own empires.
Written by Mirna Wabi-Sabi
Photographed by Riccardo Riccio
Conceptualized by Trovão Tropical