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Let's go fly a kite

Ahmadzia Bakhtyari has been hard at work over the last few months, making kites which will go into our World Gallery in Spring 2018.

Watch this video below to see how he has made these kites.

You can meet Ahmadzia at our Refugee Week event on Saturday 24 June, and take part in his free kite-making workshops. Once you have made your kite, come and fly it with us in the Gardens at the end of the day.

Find out more about Refugee Week 2017 at the Horniman or the World Gallery.

Celebrating LGBTQI refugees in the UK

It is Refugee Week from 19 - 25 June. The week takes place every year across the world and we spoke to Rainbow Pilgrims about their work with LGBTQI immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

  • Rainbow Pilgrims, Rainbow Pilgrims at the Horniman, Mary Humphrey
    Rainbow Pilgrims at the Horniman, Mary Humphrey

Many wonderful and talented people have had to flee their country of origin because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Research shows that 76 countries still prosecute people on the grounds of their sexual orientation – seven of which punish same-sex acts with death.  Still, even in countries that have supportive legislation, many LGBT people feel unsafe. DJ Scotch, now based in Manchester, found it too risky to come out as lesbian in his Zulu community and was only able to transition from female-to-male safely here in the UK. He reflects on how his life would look like these days back in South Africa,

Walking in the street, what would I be inviting? I would be so insecure about why people are looking at me and what they’d be thinking. I would be uncomfortable, basically. Let alone to transition, it would be dangerous… Already people there are confused about lesbians, and how then would I even start explaining myself as being transgender?

We believe there’s generally still a lack of awareness how amazingly diverse the UK’s immigrant population actually is, and that some refugees and asylum seekers are lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer/questioning or intersex.

  • Rainbow Pilgrims, Rainbow Pilgrims at the Horniman, Mary Humphrey
    Rainbow Pilgrims at the Horniman, Mary Humphrey

The project Rainbow Pilgrims: The Rites and Passages of LGBTQI migrants in the UK aims to fill this gap and give LGBTQI immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers a platform to tell their stories and celebrate their diverse identities and backgrounds.It is supported by The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and hosted by the charity Liberal Judaism.

Learn more about DJ Scotch’s experience, listen to other LGBTQI migrant stories and watch our new trailer #shareyourRPstory on Rainbow Pilgrims.

We are extremely excited to be working alongside the Horniman on various events around the heritage of LGBTQI migrants in the UK. In fact, our great collaboration already started earlier this year at the annual Crossing Borders Day in March. We invited our friends from Micro Rainbow International to explore the concept of storytelling using museum objects. Micro Rainbow International UK works with LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees to heal through the arts and combats isolation.

  • Rainbow Pilgrims, Rainbow Pilgrims at the Horniman, Mary Humphrey
    Rainbow Pilgrims at the Horniman, Mary Humphrey

Together we can create better understanding between different communities and to encourage successful integration, enabling LGBTQI and indeed all refugees to live in safety and continue making a valuable contribution.

For more information and to get involved please contact project manager Shaan Knan via rainbowpilgrims@liberaljudaism.org or contact the organisation via their website

About the Art: Valerie Stack

The Friends’ Art Exhibition is held every year in our Conservatory and showcases paintings, prints, textile art and sculptures from South London’s artist community. 

The exhibition is a platform for new and established local artists and all proceeds contribute to Horniman Museum and Gardens projects.

This year, we are talking to some of the artists involved in the exhibition to find out more about their work. Here, we speak Valerie Stack about her work.

What is the story behind your artwork?

My current pieces are based around music and nature. I was walking by my local river one day when I spotted some reeds just rustling in the breeze and thought how much the leaves looked like birds hiding amongst the greenery. I am also fascinated by how music is presented in nature, from a group of geese sounding like a horn section, to the chirps of song thrushes and blackbirds.

  • Floragramma, Valerie Stack
    , Valerie Stack

What inspires you in day-to-day life?

I look for inspiration in everything around me; it could be a view from a cafe window, an overheard conversation on the train or reading an interesting article.

Why do you think it is important to support local artists?

Art, if it is allowed to thrive can be very inclusive as there is something about it that seems to lift, enrich and inspire. 

  • Bird Sanctuary, Valerie Stack
    , Valerie Stack

About the Art: Linda Litchfield

The Friends’ Art Exhibition is held every year in our Conservatory and showcases paintings, prints, textile art and sculptures from South London’s artist community. 

The exhibition is a platform for new and established local artists and all proceeds contribute to Horniman Museum and Gardens projects.

This year, we are talking to some of the artists involved in the exhibition to find out more about their work. Here, we speak to textiles artist Linda Litchfield.

What is the story behind your artwork?

I like to work with slow processes, dyeing fabric and threads with plants and stitching by hand. I often incorporate found textiles which carry their own narrative of past use. The work grows and develops slowly in my own hands as I add to it.

What inspires you in day-to-day life?

Plants and the colour that can be extracted from and then used to dye fabric and thread. The feel of used and worn textiles. The slow accretion of texture that can be achieved with stitch. The organic, the ramshackle, the dilapidated, the incomplete.

  • Linda Litchfield, Linda Litchfield
    , Linda Litchfield

Why do you think it is important to support local artists?

Art enhances the quality and enjoyment of life of everyone. Artists devote their time to creating art. Local artists are part of your community and by living and working where they do, they improve your area. By supporting local artists, you are encouraging and assisting them to continue in practice and thus benefitting them, your community and yourself.

  • Linda Litchfield, Linda Litchfield
    , Linda Litchfield

The bees are back

Engage Volunteer Shelagh is celebrating the return of the bees to the Nature Base.

If you go down to the bees today, you're sure of a big surprise.

We are so pleased to see the new colony of bees in the Nature Base, and the great thing about a young colony is that, because there are fewer bees, you can really see what's going on. We have been able to watch lots of key moments in the bees' world.

We've seen young workers actually hatching out. First, you notice a tiny hole in the top of some of the wax caps in the brood frame. Then, as the wax is chewed away from the inside, a young bee starts to emerge head first.

  • Young workers actually hatching out, A young worker bee hatching out, Barbara Hornik
    A young worker bee hatching out, Barbara Hornik

Sometimes, an older worker comes to communicate with the emerging young bee - seeming to 'wipe' its face with antennae. One hatchling seemed to be 'stuck' for ages, with a 'collar' of wax round its neck. We were waiting for an older bee to come and help!

We also noticed two or three 'premature' white hatchlings that seemed to have been pulled out of their cells, and were being carried around by older bees. Had they decided that perhaps these young were not viable? How could they tell? Presumably, these would be consumed by other hive-members, so as not to waste any of that precious protein. Yet more bee questions for us to ponder.

  • Bees in the Nature Base, Bees in the Nature Base, Connie Churcher
    Bees in the Nature Base, Connie Churcher

As it was windy and raining outside, it was not surprising that there weren't any bees coming back into the hive with full pollen baskets on their legs. But there was plenty of activity inside the hive - evidenced by what seemed to be a warmer than usual feel to the surface of the glass when you put the back of your hand against it. Bees in the upper frame were working hard on building new wax cells.

All this was very exciting for visitors and volunteers to witness. A Polish visitor with her daughter said her dad was a beekeeper, so she grew up with bees. She told us about a project in Poland called Pszczelarium which helps people living in cities to set up and look after their own beehives.

Before they go, a great question we ask visitors is:

If bees were paid the minimum wage, how much do you think a jar of honey would cost?

The answer is...

.

.

.

£143,000, which works out as roughly $182,000 or €166,330!

This great bee-fact comes from a brilliant little book called Sad Animal Facts by Brooke Barker. It makes you think about all the bee-hours takes for one jar of honey, and how we take for granted their "free" labour. Respect!

About the Art: Zsuzsanna Pataki

The Friends’ Art Exhibition is held every year in our Conservatory and showcases paintings, prints, textile art and sculptures from South London’s artist community. 

The exhibition is a platform for new and established local artists and all proceeds contribute to Horniman Museum and Gardens projects.

This year, we are talking to some of the artists involved in the exhibition to find out more about their work. Here, we speak Zsuzsanna Pataki, a cityscape artist.

  • Zsuzsanna Pataki artwork, Zsuzsanna Pataki
    , Zsuzsanna Pataki

What is the story behind your artwork?

I seek to present the history of a city, the space as it is being developed and reused over time.

I love history and the beauty of society.

  • Zsuzsanna Pataki artwork, Zsuzsanna Pataki
    , Zsuzsanna Pataki

What inspires you in day-to-day life?

If I can make someone smile, it makes my day. I want to lift up your spirits with my colours. Put you in a good mood, bring back your memories of when you travelled to the city I painted.

Why do you think it is important to support local artists?

It’s a busy marketplace online and off with lots of run-of-a-mill reproductions at retail giants, so selling art is not an easy walk. There is more to art than just a price tag. It helps us put food on the table, but it helps the local community find its voice, its tone, its colour. It connects people. It cheers them up or calms them down, comforts or brings an element of wonder.

Visual artists are the equivalent of beautiful music to your ears. You can live without it, but how much better to pick the style you like and enjoy!

  • Zsuzsanna Pataki artwork, Zsuzsanna Pataki
    , Zsuzsanna Pataki

The 2017 Artquest research residency

Artquest, in partnership with the Horniman, are offering a research residency for one London based artist to focus on our music collection.

  • Music Gallery, Peter Cook
    , Peter Cook

The award includes:

  • £3000 to engage with the work and collections of the Horniman
  • £850 towards a public facing event showcasing the thinking and research undertaken during the residency
  • Privileged access to museum objects and curators

We are particularly interested in developing relationships with artists who want to engage with people as well as collections. Applicants should consider in particular how their work might engage visitors with the Horniman's music collection and encourage participation with these displays. 

Please note, that this is not a studio residency and applicants are expected to have their own studio / workspace to complete any work.

Find out if you are eligible for the residency and apply on Artquest by 10am on Monday 24 July 2017.

Specimen of the Month: The Giraffe

This month, Deputy Keeper of Natural History, Emma-Louise Nicholls, looks at the world’s tallest animal - the Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis).

Microphones; All the better for hearing you with my dear

Giraffe’s are a well-known and well represented animal; most zoos, natural history museums, and Duplo animal sets come with a Giraffe or two. Yet no other place I know of has a Giraffe quite like the one we are currently housing. Reaching over five metres high, the Giraffe is the world’s tallest animal, which is perhaps why we only have half of one. A half-Giraffe.

Our half-Giraffe is 2m and 70cm high from the base of the neck to the tip of the metal horns (or ossicones to be precise). Metal horns aren’t the latest giraffid fashion fad, as far as I know they are only utilised by robot Giraffes, such as ours. It has microphones in its ears which act as ‘moveable acoustic receptors’ and allow the Giraffe to hear the sweetie packet you are rustling, plus moveable optical receptors to give you side-eye as you shouldn’t be eating in the gallery.

The huge flexible tube running the length of its neck lights up to show visitors how food is squeezed down the oesophagus (food pipe) and a parallel, smaller tube shows how valves in the blood vessels help the blood reach the top of that very long neck despite the best efforts of the world’s gravitational field trying to yank it back down again.

  • Giraffe from The Robot Zoo, This friendly chap is waiting for you in The Robot Zoo, open until October.
    This friendly chap is waiting for you in The Robot Zoo, open until October.

My my!

Giraffes are very well-endowed… in the tongue department. No less than 45cm in length, the tongue is prehensile, meaning it can be wrapped around a twig on a tree and used to strip the leaves away. This immense tongue is a dramatic purple-black colour which adds a bit of elegant glamour to the already impressive organ.

Giraffes are also horny. The horns aren’t huge and obvious like a rhino’s, but short with a rounded tip. If you visit our mechanical Giraffe in The Robot Zoo exhibition take a close look at the horns. The normal manner of sexing the Giraffe can’t be used as the half of the Giraffe we have is the wrong half for such obvious assets. The horns however, will give it away. Although both sexes have horns in Giraffes, they are fluffy on top in females and bald on top in males. I’m not making any remarks about human men here as that would be rude.

Giraffes use infrasonic sound, which means we can’t hear them chatting because our hearing range is set too high. The same sound is used by elephants, though I’m unsure whether they can understand each other. I speak on the same frequency as my dear Glaswegian friend, but I can’t understand her most of the time. Giraffes also have a repertoire of bellows, snorts, hisses and a noise that sounds like a flute being played.

  • Giraffe bone fragment, The only non-robotic Giraffe specimen we have is this bone fragment, part of the original Horniman Collection, acquired by Frederick Horniman before 1906.
    The only non-robotic Giraffe specimen we have is this bone fragment, part of the original Horniman Collection, acquired by Frederick Horniman before 1906.

Strange family

The closest living relative to the Giraffe wasn’t known to science until 1901. It is called the Okapi and looks like a cross between a Giraffe and a Deer, with Zebra stripes on its bottom and the upper part of all four legs. Given that Okapis are large animals, it feels like scientists at the turn of the last century weren’t doing a very thorough job of looking for new animals. However, they live in dense jungles in Africa and their populations are naturally low, the combination of these two elements means they are seldom seen. Of course now there are more humans than atoms in the world*, their habitat is shrinking and their populations are even lower.

Another claim to fame for the Okapi is it has a strong connection to the infamous journalist Sir Henry Morton Stanley. If you’re a natural history buff/fan or general know-it-all, you’ll know that Stanley was the chap sent to Africa in the early 1870s to locate David Livingstone, which he did, and (is rumoured) to have subsequently uttered the immortal phrase, 'Dr Livingstone, I presume?' Before the Okapi had been ‘discovered’**, Stanley was told by indigenous people of a horse, that lived in the forest, which had a long neck and striped legs. It turned out not to be a horse, but the closest living relative of the Giraffe, and an animal completely new to science, now known as the Okapi.

  • Okapi , The Okapi is the closest living relative of the Giraffe.
    The Okapi is the closest living relative of the Giraffe.

* Slight exaggeration

** By the academic world/Western science

References

About the Art: Peter Forder

The Friends’ Art Exhibition is held in our Conservatory and showcases paintings, prints, textile art and sculptures from South London’s artist community. 

The exhibition is a platform for new and established local artists, with all proceeds contribute to Horniman Museum and Gardens projects.

This year, we are talking to some of the artists involved in the exhibition to find out more about their work. Here, we speak to Peter Forder about his work in oil on canvas.

What is the story behind your artwork?

Bitterns: I was very excited to see bitterns at Minsmere in Suffolk. They are big birds (there is a stuffed one in the Horniman) and look rather odd, like primeval killing machines; they seem slow and heavy in flight. I’ve tried to suggest these things in the picture.

  • Peter Forder artwork, Peter Forder
    , Peter Forder

The fox and the moon: I wanted this to be quite an elemental picture: a wild animal out hunting, alone with the moon up in Space. I also like the way a gibbous moon seems to hang in the sky like an egg.

  • Peter Forder artwork, Peter Forder
    , Peter Forder

Allotment in June: I hope this picture, done at Grove Park, suggests the heavy lushness of a June afternoon on an allotment. Some people say not to use black in painting, but I use it like anything.

  • Peter Forder artwork, Peter Forder
    , Peter Forder

Spring flowers with quinces: I am inspired by the flower pieces of British painter Sir Cedric Morris (1889-1981), and I think this picture has something of a period feel. It contains tulips, narcissi, bluebells, cornflowers and woad.

  • Peter Forder artwork, Peter Forder
    , Peter Forder

Tulips with quinces and broccoli: I like the rich colours of tulips and the crazy shapes of the parrot ones. I grow them on the allotment - an easy early crop.

  • Peter Forder artwork, Peter Forder
    , Peter Forder

What inspires you in day-to-day life?

Gardens and allotments, wildlife and nature, paintings and ceramics.

Why do you think it is important to support local artists?

Arts are about people expressing themselves and hopefully touching a chord with others. This doesn’t have to be done in a grand gallery (though I like grand galleries too!).

I would like to see more people have original works of art on their walls - with the textures and brush strokes made by the artist - rather than mass reproductions. So they need to be able to see local work, and afford to buy it.

Finally, like most people, I live in the suburbs, and I suppose my pictures concern suburban things, which I think are neglected in favour of the urban, the rural and the maritime. So let’s fly the flag for art in the suburbs!

About the Art: Eleonor Rollen

The Friends’ Art Exhibition is held every year in our beautiful Conservatory. It showcases paintings, prints, textile art and sculptures from South London’s artist community.

The exhibition is a platform for new and established local artists. All proceeds contribute to Horniman Museum and Gardens projects.

This year, we are talking to some of the artists involved in the exhibition to find out more about their work. Here, we speak to textile artist Eleonor Rollen.

  • Eleonor Rollen, Eleonor Rollen
    , Eleonor Rollen

What's the story behind your work?

I enjoy creating artwork using hand embroidery. I am especially inspired by domestic architecture.

I paint the background fabric and use applique, added stitchery and foliage forms to give texture and an extra dimension to my work.

My work developed when I combined stitchery with handmade felt. Now I also experiment adding stitched to paper lamination.

  • Eleonor Rollen, Eleonor Rollen
    , Eleonor Rollen

What inspires you in day to day life?

I love to attend good art and textiles exhibitions and share ideas and knowledge with other textiles artists. I am also inspired by seeing flowers and trees blooming in parks and gardens. I enjoy travelling and my home country, Sweden, gives me inspiration.

  • Eleonor Rollen, Eleonor Rollen
    , Eleonor Rollen

Why do you think it is important to support local artists?

It is vital to support local artists to help them to develop their work. Recognition is important for their development. It is important to give them a platform to display and sell their art in the community.

  • Eleonor Rollen, Eleonor Rollen
    , Eleonor Rollen

You can see Eleonor's work in the Friends' Art Exhibition on 17-18 June.

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