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Africarnival: last chance to Experience African Summer.

This Sunday we are hosting our exhilarating Africarnival which marks the end of our African Summer.

Performers at our African Dance event earlier in the summer


Our season so far has featured artists, musicians, dancers and objects from across Africa and its diaspora. On Sunday, our Africarnival will be a colourful celebration with circus performers, workshops, dancing and an exuberant carnival parade.

The carnival parade features Mandinga Arts who have been working with a number of community partners and artists to create extraordinary costumes, masks and puppets inspired by the African collections, here at the Horniman.

Yabba Funk, who will be performing at Africarnival

Led by British and Colombian artists Charles Beauchamp and Julieta Rubio, Mandinga Arts creates extraordinary outdoor performance costumes, floats and processions drawing on European, Latin American and African traditions.

The parade on Sunday has come about through collaborations with six community groups. Mandinga Arts selected six artists who worked alongside the company’s Artistic Directors to collaboratively realise and create a large-scale articulated puppet drawing inspiration from the Horniman Museum.

Some of the communtiy-made masks

We are sad to see the end of African Summer, but excited for Africarnival so come along on Sunday 30 August 12pm – 6pm.

Give a Dog a Bone

As we continue to improve the storage of our natural history collections, we have been able to reunite yet another specimen with its missing elements. Today we are working on a dog skeleton.

A perfect fit! This portion of cranium and mandible belong together.

In this case we were able to unite this skeleton with its cranium.

Working through the disarticulated skeleton.

Volunter Lizzy lining up the dog's vertebrae.

All together, the specimen is now housed together in one box.

Knowing the specimen’s journey to the Horniman Museum was via Kings’ and Chelsea College, curator Paolo and volunteer Lizzy were able to reunite this dog with its cranium. Excellent detective work!

This dog is one of many happily reunited specimens. We previously featured a porpoise whose flipper was reunited on our in-the-horniman tumblr page. Be sure to follow the tumblr blog to find out more about our activities behind the scenes.

#MuseumInstaSwap

This week, on Instagram, we're taking part in #MuseumInstaSwap.

#MuseumInstaSwap is an Instagram project, championed by the Wellcome Collection, where Londonist's Best Museums To Follow on Instagram are paired together to celebrate each other's collections and spaces.

Every day this week, each of the museums in the pair will post photos from the other's venue showing what they find interesting and resonated with their own collections and themes.

We've been paired up with our South London neighbours Royal Museums Greenwich, who are the National Maritime Museum, the Queen's House, Cutty Sark and Royal Observatory.

 

So follow #MuseumInstaSwap on Instagram to discover what these museums found in each other's collections. We’ll be talking about the project on twitter too.

 

Glorious Gardens on the Small Screen

Have you seen our glorious Gardens on TV recently? If you've been watching closely, you'll have seen them appear on several TV shows.

Firstly, we were a romantic location to introduce a couple on BBC One's Don't Tell The Bride. Sadly, we weren't the venue for their actual wedding - although we do love a wedding here!

Later, we were featured on The Autistic Gardener on Channel 4. Our Gardens were part of the visual, aural and sensory inspiration for the family involved in the show's garden makeover.

A few days later, we were on Channel 4 again - this time in the final episode of drama Humans. Our Bandstand was the location for a dramatic meeting between the humans and the Synths.

And finally, just last night, we were seen in More4's Selling Homes with Amanda Lamb. Our Bandstand Terrace was the perfect place for a chat and coffee between Amanda and the show's house buyer.

 

Filming here is a great way to show more people our wonderful Museum and Gardens, and proceeds from filming greatly support the Horniman's extensive learning programme and maintenance of the Museum and Gardens.

Exploring our Egyptian objects

Here at the Horniman, we host a collection of Ancient Egypt objects most probably excavated by Flinders Petrie, an eminent archaeologist who Emslie Horniman acquired the objects from.

A mummy case from our collection with the protective Eye of Horus at the top

Flinders Petrie was famous, well in archaeology circles, and a bit of an eccentric, having slept in a tomb during a dig and wearing pink pyjamas to startle people away from disturbing him whilst working. His meticulous attention to detail earned him a place in the academia hall of fame.

William Matthew Flinders Petrie, UCL

Whilst still a teenager he surveyed Stonehenge, noting that he measured the stones to within 1/10th of an inch. He then applied this same forensic mind to Egypt, creating ‘Sequence Dating’, a theory that categorised Ancient Egyptian pottery into types and from these types into a chronological sequence.

 Egyptian Naqada ware that Flinders Petrie Sorted

Our Egyptian material is really beautiful, and many of the pieces are on display in our African Worlds Gallery. One of my favourites is currently not on display but is this fragmentary mummy mask:

 The moulded face is made of cartonnage, a sort of ancient papier mâché that could be shaped to make fine features of a head including, ears, eyes and lips. The mask dates from the Ptolemaic era (silent P, like Pterodactyl). The Ptolemies were a Macedonian family instated in Egypt by Alexander the Great (small chap who built a huge empire).

The Ptolemaic era is a fascinating period for Egypt, Africa and the Mediterranean. North African objects start to adopt Grecian styles and vice versa, as the movement of people around Greece, Italy, North Africa and the Levant led to a movement of ideas, art and culture.

Our African Worlds Gallery is open every day from 10:30am, and don't forget to experience African Summer at our events running until Sunday 30 August.

About the Art: Edward Chell

This work is very like taxonomies, the grids of butterflies, beetles and shells; it’s like a museum in itself”

Two of Edward's pressed specimen pieces 

What inspired you to create these pieces? 

I have always been interested in habitats, there’s always something going on in the vegetative world; I started by looking at your herb and functional gardens and documenting the specimens.

All the plants on white backgrounds are living specimens I found, while all the  ones on the dark are pressed specimens, but all come from the Horniman Museum and Gardens.

The striking blue and white display

How did you decide on this style and colour scheme?

I was inspired by the 18th century decorative arts, playing with psyche and style and there was a strong appeal of the aesthetic silhouette.

Seeing the four volumes of Anna Atkins' work that you have in the library made me land on the blue and white theme. She was a collector of specimens as well, specimens that have now become artefacts. Her volumes are an obsessive work that is extremely exquisite and very beautiful.

Would you say this is one piece of many images or a series of images?

Well, I suppose both - together and apart - a set of grouped individual pieces, like  those collections of artefacts in a display cabinet reflecting a kind of  ‘cabinet of curiosity’. The cabinet of curiosity allows you to trace loose narratives with seemingly disconnected objects getting a new meaning, creating strange stories, like a box of delights.

A Horniman cabinet of curiosities

How do you feel these pieces look, displayed in our Natural History Gallery?

They reflect upon acquisitive culture, ‘stuff’ being given value when it is collected by museums. This museum and gallery contains a lot of ‘dead stuff’ but when collected they gain a slightly different value. Collecting in this manner is tantamount to a kind of ‘contemporary commodity fetishism’.

Happy Birthday Poppy!

Happy birthday to our alpaca Poppy, who was born 1 year ago today.

We've gotten into the habit of calling Poppy our 'baby alpaca' - but at one year old, there's only about six months left before she's fully grown.

Today, Poppy has celebrated with a few extra carrots for breakfast. Some alpacas also like apples, but our two (Poppy and mum Peep) seem to prefer carrots.

Here's Poppy enjoying her day, sunbathing in the August sun.

Poppy's name was inspired by the centenary of the outbreak of World War One, which was marked last year on 4 August 2014. Her name was chosen by Horniman visitors and readers of the South London Press in a competition last year.

If you'd like to visit Poppy, our Animal Walk is open each day from 12.30pm to 4pm. Entry to the Animal Walk is free.

 

New Dance at African Late

This year, we've commissioned a series of dance companies to create new pieces inspired by our African collections for our African Summer events.

Following a public call out earlier this year, five companies were selected in April. They have worked over the past 3 months composing these pieces.

We also organised training for the artists to tell them more about our collections and how they can incorporate objects into their work.

Here is an insight into two of our new commissions which are going to be seen for the first time at our African Late event next week.

Vocab Dance Company

Performer and choreographer Alesandra Seutin has been running Vocab Dance Company since 2007. She combines African traditional dance with contemporary dance and Hip Hop to create distinctly Afro-European dance.

For her piece, Alesandra wants to explore a traditional Ghanaian ceremony called Dipo from the Krobo ethnic group. It's a rite of passage into womanhood that is celebrated with dance, challenges, ornaments/beads and music.

Alesandra will create a physical, sonic and visual response of this event celebrating young girls becoming women .

N’da Dance Company

Originally from Ugie, South Africa, Mbulelo Ndabeni is a dancer, choreographer and director of N'da Dance Company.

Along with Barcelona-born Estela Merlos, Mbulelo has created a stunning dance piece called vUka exploring identity and the need to fit within society with attachment and detachment shaping the piece.   

African Late

The two commissions by Vocab Dance Company and N’da Dance Company will be showcased at the African Late next Thursday, 6 August.

This night of contemporary performances will include atmospheric live music, stunning circus performances, films and by young African filmmakers, colourful stories in the galleries and more. Get your tickets now.

Makings Masks

Pupils from Erith Secondary school have been taking part in a project with the Horniman to design and make a mask.

African masks that provided inspiration for the students

Mrs R King, Head of Art at Erith School said:

"Each year the whole of Year 8 take part in an extended cross-curricular project which seeks to enhance and develop the students’ knowledge and understanding of African art and artefacts, in particular the masks collection."

 

The students' display

This is an exciting trip for the students who spend the whole day at the museum not only viewing the extensive collection, but the students get the chance to handle them as well. Students make sketches in the galleries and handling session and then return to the classroom to develop ideas for designing and making their own masks.

The museum gives the students a unique learning experience which is both thought provoking and informative.

Some fantastic new masks

Back at school one of their tasks is to design and create a mask using inspiration form their visit to the Horniman. Some of these are now on display in the museum’s education centre and also online as part of our schools flickr page.

The school are already planning a repeat visit for next term.

Using NFC tags in our displays

A new display of artwork by Edward Chell opened in our Natural History Gallery last week.

Along with painted plant silhouette panels, the display features objects from our collections with inspired Edward's art.

One of these is a book of cyanotypes by Anna Atkins. Only one page of the book can be displayed at a time (due to light sensitivity and also practically). There is also a large porcelain dish from China.

We wanted to show more pages from the book, as well as show our visitors more details about the dish.

Our website gives us the tools for that. We have:


Earlier this year, we blogged about putting QR codes into our new Natural History Gallery displays as a way of testing these out. So for Edward Chell's display, we thought we would try another option: NFC tags.

NFC tags are small chips with information that can be read by smartphones simply by touch (they work in the same kind of way as London's Oyster cards). Our two tags bring visitors to the two links above.

We're displaying these tags along with a short cut web address - for those devices that don't use NFC technology.

Like QR codes, there are pros and cons to using NFC tags (pros: they're cheap, easy to implement, nifty; cons: do people know what they are, they don't work on all phones).

Overall, we're intriged to see how well these will be used - we'll let you know what we find.

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