1. Propoganda poster
The Chinese government made propaganda, a sort of advertising, saying how fantastic Mao was. His gift of mangoes was a perfect story to show how good he was to his people. On this propaganda poster you can see a procession on the left, with lots of people looking happy. If you look very closely, you will see a dish of mangoes that Mao had given to them.
Shanghai, China; April 1969; printed paper; on loan from Museum Rietberg Zürich, donation of Alfreda Murck, 2011.486
2. Fake mangoes
Mangoes rot and there were not enough for everybody. So fake mangoes were made to give to some people. Everyone wanted to have a mango in their home to show they loved Mao. If you didn’t get a fake mango from work, you could buy one in a shop.
China; 1968; glass, wood, textile, wax, papier-maché; on loan from Museum Rietberg Zürich, donation of Alfreda Murck, 2011.460, 2011.462
3. Mangoes, hurray!
In the photos you can see different groups of Chinese people – from universities and factories, for example – getting mangoes from Mao. They wanted to show how grateful they were for their special gift. So they put the mangoes in glass cases and carried them in huge processions. Others tried to keep the mangoes forever in a special liquid that stopped them from rotting.
China; 1968; printed paper; on loan from Museum Rietberg Zürich, donation of Alfreda Murck, 2011.452; 2011.459 and 2011.516b (reproductions)
4. Mug and badge
This mug and badge were made specially to give to soldiers in the Chinese army. Mao wanted to show them that he supported them. There are pictures of mangoes on them and messages like ‘with every mango, [he gives] profound kindness’.
China; 1968; enamelled metal; on loan from Museum Rietberg Zürich, donation of Alfreda Murck, 2011.492, 2011.463
5. Everyday mangoes
Mangoes became so popular that they were on all kinds of things that you use at home. The dish was a perfect wedding gift. The Chinese writing wishes the couple ‘double happiness’. The mangoes would remind people of Mao’s kindness. In the 1960s between six and ten workers would have to put their money together to pay for a gift like this.
China; 1969; metal, glass, enamelled metal; on loan from Museum Rietberg Zürich, donation of Alfreda Murck, 2011.500, 2011.466
6. How do you draw a mango?
This schoolbook explains how to paint a picture of a mango. Teachers used it in primary schools. They could teach kids to draw the famous mangoes, even though they had never seen one in real life.
China; 1970; printed paper; on loan from Museum Rietberg Zürich, donation of Alfreda Murck, 2011.508
7. Mango cigarettes
Because everyone said that mangoes were very special and good for your health, a brand of cigarettes called Mango soon appeared in the shops. The name was very good advertising! A year after Mao’s gift, this was the most popular brand of cigarettes in China. There is still a brand called ‘Golden Mango’ today.
China; 1968-2020; printed paper, tobacco; on loan from Museum Rietberg Zürich, donation of Alfreda Murck, 2011.510 and recent packs
Look at the mangoes here. How many do you count in this display case?