The chocolate expedition
11 December 2008 to May 2009 in the Gallery
The exhibition features photographic and film material from the Chocolate Expedition to Ghana in 1951. The expedition was organised when chocolate manufacturer Van Houten decided to make a company film which would include footage of the harvesting of the cacao beans in Ghana (still called the Gold Coast at that time). Photographer Frits Lemaire (1921-2005) and filmmaker Louis van Gasteren were both members of the expedition. Lemaire went along as cameraman but he also took photos along the way.
The Chocolate Expedition comprises a selection of photographic and film material from the trip from Amsterdam to Accra. Enhanced by excerpts from Van Gasteren’s diary and an array of souvenirs, these images reconstruct the story of the trip. Lemaire’s photos blend exquisitely with the excepts from the diary. The entire exhibition radiates a sense of wonderment at the grandeur of the Sahara. The frozen images of oases, undulating plains, saltpans, boulders and desert people show that the Sahara is much more than a vast, never-ending expanse of sand.
The expedition team members were Louis van Gasteren, Theo van Haren Noman, Frits Lemaire, Joeske Odufré, Peter Gons, and Mimi van Gasteren-Jaffé. They drove to Marseilles, crossed the Mediterranean, braved the Sahara, and arrived in Ghana via Nigeria. They returned by the same route.
Reaction at the time
The expedition received extensive press coverage. There was a big send-off on the Dam square, attended by A.J. d’Ailly (then Mayor of Amsterdam) and the Mayor of Weesp. The team took Mayor d’Ailly’s speech with them (recorded on a gramophone record) and presented it to the Governor of Accra.
Frits Lemaire (1921-2005)
Frits Lemaire began his career in the film industry as a cameraman before World War II. Pretty soon, he had also developed an interest in photography. At first he specialised in stage photography and later in portrait photography as well. In 2003 the Frits Lemaire Archive was entrusted to the care of the Maria Austria Instituut in Amsterdam. One of his photos of the expedition to Ghana won the Silver Cup of the A.A.F.V. photography association.