© Copyright 2019 Cristal Gillette, Ryerson University.
As members of a globalized world, we have begun to take for granted the exotic wonders of imported produce. Fruits like the pomegranate have gone from a holy symbol to just another thing one walks past in the grocery store. Once seen and tasted, the fruit joins the ranks of the mundane and, from then on, tends to go underappreciated. The novelty has worn off, but in this chapter, I wish to reignite it. There are very few fruits that invoke an almost visceral reaction upon close inspection. From its almost heart-shaped exterior with a crowning valve-like structure to its gem-like interior, the pomegranate is a fruit that you not only see, but also feel. Its beauty and strangeness were the ancient world’s obsessions. In the present day, however, people seldom view the fruit as anything more than a healthy snack. The fruit itself may nourish the body, but its inspection may nourish the mind. Why should we spend time contemplating the fruit’s appearance, you ask? There is much insight to be gained from meticulous viewership. By looking closely at a pomegranate, you can look into yourself, your fears, your values, and even your mortality.
To begin this endeavour, we must start with the most basic of aspects: colour. Colour is both symbolic and evocative. The pomegranate has two primary colours: red and white. Red represents the colour of life-giving blood itself, and it also signifies themes like life, love, and death. The symbolic properties of white are also significant, such as goodness, purity, and innocence. It is no surprise that the pomegranate was historically revered all over the world. Its distinct visual quality has been treasured for over 5000 years (Chandra et al.).
The form of a pomegranate is also worthy of inspection. The fruit’s round outside is made up of a leathery skin called the exocarp, which spreads out in a crown-shaped structure called the persistent calyx. Inside the white fleshy mesocarp, a membrane holds the ruby-red seeds called arils (Chandra et al. 2). Once opened up, it takes on the appearance of a geode. Nature imitates nature, although these visual connections often go unnoticed by the casual observer. The thin membranes encasing its bright red chambers seemingly bleed when opened due to its delicate nature. The fruit’s round ovum-like seed clusters can’t help but evoke images of the human zygote with its numerous dividing cells. This is why, for centuries, pomegranates have represented life, regeneration, and fertility (Chandra et al. 4).
Looking through the historical framework of visual culture, the fruit has been a sacred symbol for numerous religions, including Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism (Chandra et al. 2) and has been the emblem for important figures such as King Tut, King Henry IV, Persephone, Bodhidharma, and the Virgin Mary (Chandra et al.1-3). Its unusual appearance gained it the role of decoration in architecture, design, fine art, robes, and regalia that extended beyond its main purpose as nourishment. Now that your eyes have been opened to new considerations of the pomegranate, I hope its unique beauty has been restored in your eyes.
Chandra, Ram, et al. “Origin, History and Domestication of Pomegranate.” Fruit, Vegetable and Cereal Science and Biotechnology, 2010, pp. 1–7.
Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.