The idea to use chocolate for the sculptures was not just for its symbolic strength, but also as a logistical solution. “Clay sculptures were too difficult to export from the plantation,” Jolly explains, “however, IHA rapidly found out that the material exported from the plantations, in particular cocoa, was already in Europe, especially in Amsterdam which is the biggest cocoa port of the world. So we figured out that it was better to use existing value chains.” The group developed a process whereby CATPC members create sculptures in Lusanga from clay that is sourced locally. They then create 3D scans of their works, and send the image files to Amsterdam; these sculptures are then 3D printed as molds, which are used by a chocolatier to realize the final sculptures.
In terms of subject matter, the sculptures are primarily human figures, inspired by the personal and family histories of group members. “They are self-representations,” Hellio explains, “some of them are self-portraits, but sometimes they represent ancestors; they gather the multigenerational knowledge of the people making them.” The SculptureCenter exhibition brings together existing chocolate sculptures (each work is part of an edition) and fresh ones specifically produced for the occasion. Despite what one may assume, the chocolate is relatively stable, though the sculptures need to be kept in temperatures below 70 degrees.
Hellio emphasizes that the works are remarkable for their artistic merit, but also for their conceptual significance. “Some of the artists that work with us harvest this cacao, which is sold to these companies,” Hellio says, and adds that with these sculptures, “the cacao, for the first time has the vision, the thoughts, the emotions of some of the workers who harvest the cacao.”