Long before it became a temple to the gods of conspicuous consumption, Orchard Road in Singapore was named after the orchards and nutmeg plantations that were developed there in the early 1800’s. Nutmegs only grew in the Spice Islands of Eastern Indonesia and were highly valued. For centuries the location of these islands was a closely guarded secret until their discovery by Portuguese, Dutch and then English traders.
After the capture of the Banda Islands by the British from the Dutch in 1810, nutmeg seedlings were brought to Singapore and Penang for commercial development on these islands.
This two ton bronze sculpture outside the Ion Centre is by Singapore artist Kumari Nahhapan. It represents an opened nutmeg fruit revealing its distinctive crimson membrane known as mace wrapped around the seed which contains the actual nutmeg. Both have the characteristic nutmeg flavour but the mace is considered better and thus more valuable.
Further down Orchard Road near Orchard Central the mace and seed are displayed in another sculpture, this time in hand welded stainless steel with car paint, by the Italian born artist Michele Righetti . The spice-man has been inserted for scale.
Nutmeg was so valuable that in 1667 the Dutch exchanged their claim to the island of Manhattan for the English claim to the nutmeg growing island of Rhun, which is part of the remote Banda Islands in the Moluccas (Maluku) of Eastern Indonesia.
Which was of course the real estate deal of not just the century, but of the millenium.