Exploring inner landscapes, by Mondongo
Oil and acrylic on fabric, 60 x 90 cm
Ofir Hirsh, 2004

I was walking by myself on the beach of Manzanillo, looking for adventures, when I met a man who led a cow in one hand and carried a machette in the other. I greeted him and asked what he was up to. He replied that he’s a butcher and that he was about to slaughter the cow and sell its meat in the village. I was curious enough and asked him if I can watch or even help him. He kindly replied that it would be his pleasure to show me the secrets of his trade, though he warned me that the entire process might take some time. We kept walking until we got onto a cement platform near the beach with a few columns and a water tap. The killing scene went rather quickly and he began maneuvering with his machette and another smaller knife, showing me the exact points and lines he needed to penetrate, so that the meat would cut exactly as he wanted it to. He admitted that I was quite helpful, especially because the cow was quite heavy. Soon after he began, two very old ladies arrived at the place, carrying big buckets, knives and big pots. He explained to me that they always come to work beside him, and that while he’s skinning and cutting the cow’s meat, they clean its internal organs, especially the stomach, boil these parts and sell them to restaurants for the preparation of the delicious traditional dish called Mondongo (Tripe in English). What fascinated me the most, was the appearance, structure, and complexity of that cow’s internal organs. Some looked like filters, others like tubes and ventilators. Some of those filters reminded me of a beehive or corals. I was overwhelmed. I’ve learned in school about cows’ special digestive system. I watched many cows and cows’ milking in my childhood, and I ate so many steaks in my life. However, I realized that I knew nothing about their inside. They seem simple creatures from the outside, but are they? How do we, humans, look from the inside? When I ordered Mondongo, a few days later in a small restaurant, I somehow felt that I took a part in this local tradition. Though I couldn’t ignore the smell, I learned to love the very special and typical taste of the Mondongo dish. I kept on dwelling on the subject of the outside vs. the inside, and once I was back in my studio in Las-Terrenas, I consciously became Mondongo, to extend the influence of the inside revelation I experienced. Whenever we inspect the outside of any object, we should always remember that its inside might tell a more complex story, and is more beautiful or fascinating.