Odor adventures with Kamagurka and the musk rat

Does have Kamagurka have a fascination for odor? Last week I visited the exhibition 'Kamagurkistan' in the Noord Brabants museum in s' Hertogenbosch of the Belgian Kamagurka. A cartoonist and artist who’s bizarre absurdist jokes I first encounterd in the 1980s. And even then I already had a favorite album: "It smells like nonsense". The nose and the phenomenon of smell often occur in his jokes: fake noses, bizarre olfactory organs and a lot of smell jokes. It was a chucking and grinning walk past the many cartoons and artworks in the museum.

An interesting statement about 'real' art is where Bert and Bobje (two figures from KMG) visit an exhibition by Marcel Duchamp. Bert sees 'the' urinal standing and sniffs it, whereupon he concludes: 'Shame, it's fake'. Bobje solves the problem. (He leaves a pee). Universal? Do not we all want to know if something is ‘real’? And if so, do not we all want to leave our 'brand'? So on; we are best placed primarily in the end. It is therefore understandable why, for example, we would like to smell this kind of territorial scent in our perfume. Like Musk. Musk is often associated with a sultry, sexy scent: aphrodisiac, so to speak.

Musk (with a musk rat) was to smell during one of my 
"scented museum tours"
the Nature Historical Museum Rotterdam
But what is Musk? Most people think it has something to do with a musk rat, others think of a kind of beaver. Neither is correct. Musk comes from a gland next to the anus of an adult, male musk deer from the Moschidae family. The musk deer is a shy animal that uses its scent to mark a territory. In order to obtain the smell, the animal must be killed and the gland removed. The fragrance has been known since the year 500 A.D. and praised for its aphrodisiac effect. Because of this the gland represents a great value. So you can imagine that the animal has now been threatened with extinction and has been on the list of protected wild animals since 1979. The musk, which is now used in perfumes, is synthetic counterfeit.

Fortunately, there is also a vegetable variant (more expensive than the synthetic), of the musk: musk seed, also called Ambretta, Abelmoschus moschatus. In Indian Ayurvedic medicine mainly used for its purifying effect. The essential oils of the seeds have similar 'aphrodisiac' effect to the original animal musk. Moreover, the nectar and pollen of the plant, which is related to mallow, is also very attractive to bees.

'Kamagurkistan' can still be seen in the Noord Brabants museum in s' Hertogenbosch
until 28 October 2018

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DUTCH version of this blog: Geurambassadeur


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