The COLOR CODEX series — to which SEMIOVOX has invited our semiotician colleagues from around the world to contribute — explores the unexpected associations evoked for each of us by specific colors found in the material world.
It was 1978, hovering around 41 degrees Celsius, and the nice man had offered us tea after a not-entirely-without-incident three-week drive from drizzly suburban Hertfordshire to the medinas of North Africa. Desperate for a reassuring taste of home (my sister and I were raised on milky PG Tips with one sugar from the bottle), we awaited the sweet cups of beige. Horror of horrors, a viridian green scalding liquid — with leaves in it — arrived in two jewel-like glasses.
We were not an adventurous family, this road trip to to Morocco excepted, so my sister and I had never seen leaves in tea before. The first sip confirmed our suspicions — not the familiar, warm, biscuity malt we craved, but a shock of freshness: like liquid toothpaste. As with everything we saw, smelt, touched, and heard on that trip, this was a sensory assault — a vivid filter of mintiness. But the sugar won us over. Despite the leaves, my sister and I drained the glasses, grimly chalking it up to experience: another micro-trauma to add to the list, one which included the sight of a young girl casually wringing the neck of a chicken as she crossed the road in front of our VW earlier that morning.
Despite its unimpressive introduction, the minty green I first saw and tasted in Marrakech as a 7-year-old has followed me around ever since, insistently calling me with its youthful zing and zip. It was in my favourite cheesecloth dress worn to my 10th birthday party, and in my (ill-advised) Toyah-tribute eyeshadow circa 1984. Marrakech Mint’s greenness is not the quiet softness of sage, nor the mellow zen of olive. It is the archetypal spring green: verdant, full of the youthful vigour of optimistic early shoots. Nothing is not lifted by this green: your mood, your new potatoes, your living-room sofa.
Some call mint a thuggish plant, one with invasive tendencies; like a boisterous child on the naughty step, it must often be separated in its own pot. It does not respect boundaries and is always seeking out the new. It is a livener, an energiser — cutting through companion colours and ingredients with a party vibe. Here it is in my much-longed-for encaustic kitchen backsplash. And again in my tabbouleh salad, getting juicy with the pomegranate seeds.
My gardening obsession began when my sister — now living a mere 10 miles from the continent where we shared those fateful glasses of tea — sent me a Moroccan mint plant and two jewelled glasses. It was the first plant I put into the soil of my first garden. It has rooted and shooted ever since. It’s a happy herb — rubbing along with pretty much anyone, and bulletproof in its will to grow, to lift its head to the sun, year after year. I grow the Marrakech mint, and just as it did that first time 45 years ago, it grows me too.
COLOR CODEX: Martha Arango (Sweden) on FALUKORV RED | Audrey Bartis (France) on KYOTO MOSS | Maciej Biedziński (Poland) on SKIN-DEEP ORANGE | Natasha Delliston (England) on MARRAKECH MINT | Whitney Dunlap-Fowler (USA) on RESURRECTION CANARY BLUE | Josh Glenn (USA) on TOLKIEN GREEN | Aiyana Gunjan (India) on LETTERBOX RED | Sarah Johnson (Canada) on ARMY GREEN | Lucia Laurent-Neva (England) on TEAL BLUE VOYAGER | Rachel Lawes (England) on DEVIL GREEN | Charles Leech (Canada) on STORMTROOPER WHITE | William Liu (China) on PINING GREEN | Ramona Lyons (USA) on GOTH PURPLE | Sónia Marques (Portugal) on RUNAWAY BURRO | Max Matus (Mexico) on CALIFORNIAN BLUE | Chirag Mediratta (Canada / India) on AUROVILLE ORANGE | Clio Meurer (France) on PARIS LUMINOUS GREY | Serdar Patkin (Turkey / England) on AMBIENT AMBER | Maria Papanthymou (Russia / Greece) on AGALMATOLITE WHITE | Vijay Parthasarathy (USA) on ALPHONSO YELLOW | Greg Rowland (England) on LAUNDROMAT FUTURA | Tim Spencer (England) on ELECTRO-EROTIC COBALT | Ximena Tobi (Argentina) on VILLA MISERIA BRICK | Alfredo Troncoso (Mexico) on BORGES GLAUQUE.