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The Windrush Generation: Teaching the Other Generations

2019 will be the first year that the nation celebrates Windrush day as an officially recognised anniversary, so we took this opportunity to talk with Caribbean elders and hear their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations of Caribbeans could gather and share food, stories and advice. 

Here, the group discussed what they wish they could teach the generations.

Vanes Creavalle

I think maybe the power of accepting change.

Because it’s really hard to accept change, especially when you’ve seen a lot and experienced a lot of things, and I feel like you need to be more accepting of change in that there are different people. 

We have a really multicultural society but we seem very sheltered and isolated within our communities, which in some cases is good cos its nice we can develop our cultures and traditions, but in other senses, it's limiting what we can do.

Like saying, because I’m Caribbean I’m only going to have with Caribbean people, it stops us from making a much greater impact.

I think to have the diversity in that, telling your story to Caribbean people, but telling your story to others is important because there can be a mutual understanding. And I feel like until we have that understanding we are not really going to go anywhere.

Because you can always say, 'this is my story, this is my story'. And you can tell your family that story, but apart from that, where is your story going?

I don't think there is any further conversation.

  • Windrush: Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together, Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together
    Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together

So I think there needs to be more acceptance of change, as well as more conversations with not just your family, or the people in your race, or people you talk to normally - but more open conversation with everybody so we can come together and share what we have.

And then when we share we can create something much better in the future.

Catherine Ross

My granddaughter is eight going on eighty - she knows everything.

She’ll come up to me and say - cause she thinks I know nothing, I’m only her Grandma - she’ll say, 'I bet you don't know' or 'Did you know?' And I’m like, I’ve been here sixty-odd years, I think I will know a few things!

But you have to put on these things and be like, 'Really? And what happens next...' cause I’m pushing her with follow questions to see how much she does know, so then I can give my input.

She always feels like she has to teach me when I come visit, something she feels I won’t know. And I feel like that is really, really good.

But there are things that she does know that I’m sure I didn’t know until I was fifteen! You know what I mean, so I think the younger generation know a lot more than we ever did, and I certainly knew more than my dad.

  • Catherine Ross, Catherine Ross
    Catherine Ross

But only because they came from the Caribbean to here, and you know I grew up here, so I felt I knew everything and now my granddaughter is doing it to me, she knows more than I do.

I think it’s nice each generation can help the next.

Howard Richards

That's the goal though, you raise a child, the child learns you, then they go out and learn the world - and then they come back and teach you. Simple.

So the child becomes stronger. 

  • Windrush - Howard Richards, Howard Richards
    Howard Richards

The Windrush Generation: Memories of Family

2019 will be the first year that the nation celebrates Windrush day as an officially recognised anniversary, so we took this opportunity to talk with Caribbean elders and hear their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations of Caribbeans could gather and share food, stories and advice. 

Here, the group shares some of their thoughts and memories connected to family.

  • Windrush: Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together, Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together
    Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together

Catherine Ross

Mum and Dad - Did you think when you settled your family of six in Nottingham from St Kitts all those years ago that one day you would have 210 descendants!

That through a series of marriages and romantic liaisons they would all claim and assert their familial link to you both with such fierce pride and love.

Many of these have Caribbean blood running through their veins and not just from St Kitts! In some of them, the blood of the English and the Irish have a presence and a vibrancy, but all of them have your indomitable spirit, that marvellous trait that brought you from sunny shores to a place that couldn’t be more different.

Where your courage and persistence helped you succeed in creating a home for your family, providing for your growing family needs and inspiring your family and others to reach for the stars and follow their dreams.

  • Catherine Ross, Catherine Ross
    Catherine Ross

Many a time I recalled a phrase you used when it was taking one of us a time to grasp things you were trying to teach us, “Yuh ears hard?”

That’s what I remember, Mum and Dad, the many Caribbean sayings you used in so many situations – from teaching us good manners to expressing your delight or annoyance over matters.

One thing all my siblings and I say when we get together for family reunions, is how much we are like you both in this regard. We hear ourselves chiding our children in the phrases we were regularly admonished with. We laugh and thank the Lord for you, the best parents ever.

Have we become more like you since your passing over a quarter of a century ago? We all say we hope so, and if we keep trying to be then the world will be a better place, how could it not be if we put our faith into practice and we try and help others less fortunate in whatever situation and community we find ourselves. 

We now realise, as you said, the best gift we will ever be given is family, they are a blessing and so we should treat them well and kindly because “You never miss the water till the well runs dry”.

If we had realised the importance of this saying of yours then we would have asked more questions of you: learned more life lessons from you and would have had even more of your wisdom to share with others - the world would have been an even more beautiful place.

We thank you for what you have shared with us and many others do too.

As people of the Windrush generation, you brought hope to these British shores, showed what rewards courage can bring and left a vibrant legacy, a beacon for all who inhabit the British Isles to be grateful for those who came from the Caribbean Isles.

I applaud you for your efforts, I recognise you for your achievements and I love you for showing us that it’s the people who make a difference to life. Thank you.

Vanes Creavalle

My Grandad. He was a photographer and the idea that he was capturing moments in history - I think it’s just really amazing to capture single moments. I think that's really beautiful.

As they say, pictures can tell a thousand words, so capturing moments in history, family moments and peoples smile even - I just think it’s so beautiful to take pictures.

In our house there is actually a picture of my granddad taking a picture and, as my dad always says, there are not many pictures of the people who take pictures.

I think that kind of capturing someone in their element doing something that they love, I think that's really powerful - that's always inspired me.

  • Windrush - Howard talking to Vanes, Howard talking to Vanes
    Howard talking to Vanes

Howard Richards

The best childhood memory I’ve got is my grandmother.

My mother and father came to England, leaving me in Jamaica. I was born in St Andrews in my father’s house where I was left with my Hanti.

My grandmother lived in Trewlany, which is on the north coast, St Andrews is in Kingston, in fact. My grandmother came from Trewlany and took us from my Hanti and brought us to Trewlany to live with her.

We walked with no shoes on the foot: beautiful. We walked through cane trees: beautiful.

I used to think about coming to England. I’m going to go to England one day and see my mother and father. But when I left Jamaica to come here I cry for all three, four weeks, because I missed my grandmother.

The Windrush Generation: Reflections on Food

2019 will be the first year that the nation celebrates Windrush day as an officially recognised anniversary so we took this opportunity to talk with Caribbean elders and hear their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations of Caribbeans could gather and share food, stories and advice. 

Together, the group planned a meal and shared some reflections about food.

  • A composite from the Windrush project, The group shared memories of food and drink. Clockwise from top left: Normal and Dunstan, the group eating, Catherine and Lyn, Shasti and Morella.
    The group shared memories of food and drink. Clockwise from top left: Normal and Dunstan, the group eating, Catherine and Lyn, Shasti and Morella.

Morella Forde

Mum goes to church on Sundays but as teenagers we were left to make our own choices so sometimes we too went to church.

When we came back home we had to help her in the kitchen to prepare the Sunday meals of our stewed red beans, rice, ground provisions like yams, sweet potatoes, macaroni cheese, etc, not forgetting our green bananas with fried fish and stewed chicken.

  • Windrush - Morella Forde, Morella Forde
    Morella Forde

On Saturdays mum still cooks our national dish of broth, and we have conversations of Dominica and England as mum tells us stories when she first came to England, and the problems she had with the racism in finding a place to live and work.

She believed she could come to England to get some money and go back to build and improve her lifestyle, and instead she was in a worse position.

She rented one room - sharing with other people - and money was to the minimum.

Dad would have his friends round to play dominoes and have their rum or whiskey drinks, as they played just like in Dominica. The men have not lost playing dominoes tradition after dinner.

Dinner time was always a time we made to give jokes and stories - remembering the Anansi stories which were always so funny. We played calypso and soca music, and danced.

It’s lovely that we kept these traditions because it reminded me so much of my homeland and these memories are precious to me.

Howard Richards

My grandmother’s cooking was beyond my comprehension, beyond anyone’s comprehension.

She could twiss up hot chocolate, anything she touched her hands on, it was something out of the world!

  • Windrush - Howard Richards, Howard Richards
    Howard Richards

Lynda Louise Burrell

Whenever I smell Dettol, I remember Grandma. It transports me back in time to Grandma’s house - clean, and comforting, and a range of childhood memories tumble over each other.

Caribbean spiced bun and cheese, stewed chicken, Guinness punch, and ackee and salt fish, the smells that make up the quintessential Caribbean Home.

Something that Grandma instilled in me early was that you should always have food on the stove, as you never know when someone may stop by and a good Caribbean must always be able to offer visitors something to eat.

  • Windrush - Lynda Louise Burrell, Lynda Louise Burrell
    Lynda Louise Burrell

Well, my modern busy lifestyle doesn’t always allow me to follow this social etiquette, but again who would have thought in those days that one day society would have a system for cooked food to be delivered from a restaurant to your home with just a phone call, within minutes, and some of the suppliers can deliver drink too!

So, within minutes of the arrival of guests, and some great welcome and engaging conversation, you could be wining and dining - and as the Caribbean saying goes, “telling jokes!”

That’s what I miss most - not just Grandmas' good advice, advice for all seasons and reasons, but her laughter and the jokes we shared.

  • Windrush menu, The menu for the day
    The menu for the day

The Windrush Generation: Stories, memories, food and advice

2019 will be the first year that the nation celebrates Windrush day as an officially recognised anniversary so we took this opportunity to talk with Caribbean elders and hear their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), wanted to use the World Gallery at the Horniman as a tool to better appeal to the people of Forest Hill, as 24.5% of Forest Hill population is of Caribbean descent.

Rachael, with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations could gather and share food, stories and advice. These events would allow a discussion of the Windrush generation’s impact within families.

Who are the Windrush generation?

On 22 June 1948, the HMT Empire Windrush, arrived at Tilbury Docks, Essex, having sailed from Kinston, Jamaica.

Among its passengers were 492 people from the Caribbean who arrived, as all colonials were, British subjects of the Empire, with the same rights of movement and settlement as all who lived in Britain.

  • HMT Empire Windrush, HMT Empire Windrush, at sea between 1945 and 1954. , Royal Navy Official Photographer, Imperial War Museum via wikicommons
    HMT Empire Windrush, at sea between 1945 and 1954. , Royal Navy Official Photographer, Imperial War Museum via wikicommons

This date is now regarded as the symbolic starting point of a wave of Caribbean migration, with those who migrated between 1948 and 1971 referred to as the Windrush generation.

As a part of the post-war relief effort, these people helped to build the NHS, staffed the transport systems and worked in the industrial heart of the UK.

Music, food, language, fashion and art have all been transformed by Caribbean cultural influence, and fundamental human rights were championed by this community, among others, as they fought for equality.

This generation of migrants were pioneers, changing a cultural landscape and facing challenges of ignorance and prejudice. Their legacy can be felt across the world, but it is within the intimate connections of communities, within families and between friends, that their legacy touches our hearts.

What is the Windrush scandal?

On 18 June 2018, the government announced that a National Windrush Day will take place on 22 June every year to celebrate the contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants.

However, 2018 also saw what has become known as the ‘Windrush Scandal’ where it emerged that for years this generation has faced deportation, withdrawal of care, and evictions due to failures by the Home Office to keep records of their legal status.

How did this happen?

The Immigration Act of 1971 firmly established a distinction among British subjects concerning rights to enter and stay in the UK, but it preserved certain immigration rights of Commonwealth citizens who had already settled.

A decade later, the British Nationality Act 1981 established what is now known as British citizenship. However, at this moment many Commonwealth citizens ceased to be British subjects, but did not become British citizens.

Changes to Immigration law in 2012, required people to have documentation to work, rent a property or access benefits, including healthcare. The Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016 imposed compulsory immigration checks for access to these services.

Residents were expected to hold expensive biometric residence cards introduced in 2008 with formerly accepted documents deemed invalid proof of status.

This led to a number of people from the Windrush generation being wrongful classified as illegal immigrants. They were unable to use the Home Office database to prove their right to remain, as the government had destroyed all the landing cards in their care in 2009.

  • Windrush Scandal protest â from Parliament Square to the Home Office. London, Windrush Scandal protest â from Parliament Square to the Home Office. London, Steve Eason via Flickr CC BY 2.0
    Windrush Scandal protest â from Parliament Square to the Home Office. London, Steve Eason via Flickr CC BY 2.0

What was the result?

Nationwide protests, speeches in parliament and a swell of public support saw a change in Home Secretary, an apology from Theresa May and a commitment to support and compensate those who have been affected.

Since then, the Home Office has admitted that of the 164 people who were known to be wrongly detained or removed from the country, at least 19 died before officials were able to contact them to apologise; another 27 have not been traced.


Windrush Day must not be separated from the Windrush scandal that highlights the mass injustices still faced by this generation of Caribbean migrants.

The influence of this group on Britain and British identity has been staggering and we owe them so much.

This Windrush Day we will celebrate their contribution to our country, through sharing some of their thoughts and memories as well as pictures from these gatherings, so watch this space.

Easter around the world

It’s Easter, filled with bunnies, egg-hunts and springtime treats, so we thought we would explore what Easter means to cultures around the world, through objects from the Horniman’s collections.

Polish Easter Eggs and decoration

In Poland, Easter is celebrated according to the Western Roman Catholic calendar. On the week before Easter, Palm Sunday (niedziela palmowa) takes place. Bunches of dried flowers and branches are brought to church representing palm leaves (said to have been scattered in front of Christ as he rode into Jerusalem) because palm trees are rare in Poland. The Holy week proceeds with spring-cleaning and families will decorate their homes in representations of Jesus’ tomb.

On the Saturday before Easter, the tradition of egg decorating, pisanki takes place, a tradition that’s more than a thousand years old. One technique to decorate the eggs is to apply wax, which would then be removed after dying. Another tradition is to make Easter baskets, these contain foods such as eggs, ham and cake. 

Easter Sunday consists of attending church for many to see the resurrection mass ceremony, before the meal and sharing of Easter chocolate. On the final festive day of Easter, known as Śmigus-Dyngus (Wet Monday), boys have traditionally thrown water over girls and hit them with willow branches. Girls traditionally returned the favour the following day.

  • Pisanki , Decorated egg, 'pisanki' , Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Decorated egg, 'pisanki' , Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Dough lamb with flag, Dough lamb with flag, 2016.111, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Dough lamb with flag, 2016.111, Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Paper Easter chandelier, straw spider, Paper Easter chandelier, straw spider, 13.6.56/4, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Paper Easter chandelier, straw spider, 13.6.56/4, Horniman Museum and Gardens

Paper Easter chandelier, 'straw spider', is a festival decoration made of straw and pieces of coloured paper. Decorations of this type were made during the Easter and Christmas periods and suspended under the ceiling beam. When spun by the wind, the decorations were a great attraction for children.

Easter in Russia

Did you know that Easter in Russia can fall in either April or May? This is because the dates are based on the Julian calendar, which differs from the Georgian calendar that most Western countries use.

All chores should be done the week before Easter, in the Holy Week. In Russia, Easter is called Pashka (Пасха) - one theory is that this derives from Greek for ‘I suffer’, signifying the transition Jesus made to from death to eternity.

As in Poland, Russia also has the tradition of decorating eggs, but this is done on ‘Clean Thursday’. Traditionally these are painted red using red onion skins and represent resurrection and new life. 

  • Lithograph of Easter customs, Lithograph of Easter customs, nn17390, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Lithograph of Easter customs, nn17390, Horniman Museum and Gardens

The Easter witches of Sweden

In Sweden, children dress as påskgumma, the Easter witch or hag, and as with Halloween and trick-or-treat, the children knock on doors in exchange for sweets and drawings with Easter greetings on them.

In Swedish folklore, witches would travel to Blåkulla to dance with the devil on the Thursday before Easter, Maundy Thursday, and to prevent witches from starting journey people would hide broomsticks and set fires to scare them off.

  • Easter witch 31.10.60/3, Easter witch, 31.10.60/3, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Easter witch, 31.10.60/3, Horniman Museum and Gardens

The Semana Santa and Pascua – Easter in Mexico

In Mexico, Easter is celebrated across two weeks: the Holy Week, Semana Santa, and Semana de Pascua, Easter week.

Processions and festivities take place on Semana Santa, and these activities change depending on the regions throughout Mexico.

It begins on Palm Sunday with the Blessing of the Palms, but really gets underway in earnest on Maundy Thursday, when there may be a re-enactment of the last supper, alongside services.

Church bells are usually silenced for the three days of Easter and people are called to church services by the use of a large wooden clapper also called a Matraca. Good Friday is marked in many towns and villages by the performance of a Passion Play, but it is Easter Saturday that most children look forward to.

On Easter Saturday large paper figures of Judas are stuffed with fireworks and paraded through the town, before exploding. The noise is added to by the spectators with Matracas. Easter Sunday is the highlight of the week when church attendance is high, and there are noisy celebrations in front of the church.

Semana de Pascua begins in the second week of Easter. This week has a light tone and celebrates the beginnings of Spring. Many Mexican families travel to the coast to pay tribute and enjoy the festivities.

  • Painted tin toy bird, matraca, Painted tin toy bird, known as a matraca, HC.1999.1386, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Painted tin toy bird, known as a matraca, HC.1999.1386, Horniman Museum and Gardens

This painted tin toy bird, known as a matraca, or Easter rattle, painted black and pink with fake fur neck. Makes noise when rotated. Matracas are part of Easter Sunday celebrations in Mexico when paper figures of Judas are burnt, accompanied by fireworks and the noisy whirring of the matracas.

Australia and the Easter bilby

In Australia, Easter has the same traditions as many Western countries like hot cross buns and the extravagant roast dinner but did you know that the Easter bunny is represented by the Easter Bilby?

The Bilby (Macrotis lagotis), a small rodent-type animal, is used by many to raise awareness for the endangered animal.

Rabbits are seen as unlucky as they devastated the crops for farmers and are not indigenous to Australia.

  • Bilby , Bilby, Sadaka
    Bilby, Sadaka

Why not come and celebrate Easter at the Horniman? There are lots of events and activities happening throughout spring.

Join us in the Horniman fun for the Easter Fair on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 April and identify the morning songs of birds in Dawn Chorus Walk on Saturday 4 May.

Horniman’s 5 Women Artists

When people have been asked to name five female artists (beyond perhaps Frida Kahlo) they struggle. Magnificent and talented as they are, there’s a wealth of female artists out there. At the Horniman, we have exhibited works by Lynette Nampijimpa Granites Nelson, Buffy Cordero-Suina and Olive Blackham to name a few.

So this year we have decided to take part in the challenge National Museum of Women in the Arts set again, and highlight female artists. We’re even giving you a sneak peek about who will be exhibiting later this year towards the end of this post.

Shauna Richardson

  • Photo of Shauna Richardson, Shauna Richardson
    , Shauna Richardson

Shauna Richardson developed a sewing technique called Crotchetdermy®. Crotchetdermy® creates a skin like visual by using the interlocking of looped stitches formed with a single thread and hooked needle. Her exhibition EVOLUTION of The Artist and The Exhibited Works compliments the taxidermy and narrative of evolution from the Natural History Gallery.

“Crochetdermy® is a combination of all sorts of things. I guess it’s a mash-up of me and my life. There are childhood pastimes such as museum visits and making things, and the adult interest in art theory, particularly in what constitutes art and perhaps more interestingly, what does not. Constant throughout there is rebellion, humour and pure devilment” – Shauna Richardson.

  • Bear Crochetdermy®, Bear Crochetdermy sculpture, Shauna Richardson
    Bear Crochetdermy sculpture, Shauna Richardson

Serena Korda

  • Serena Korda, Serena Korda , Chris Egon Searle
    Serena Korda , Chris Egon Searle

Have you seen or smelt the scented ceramics in our new arts space, The Studio?

English artist Serena Korda created them as part of her work with The Collective, a group of 10 people from the local community. Korda creates large-scale ensemble performances, soundscapes and sculptures that reflect communion and tradition and aspects of our lives.

This element feeds into The Lore of The Land exhibition, which asks us to think about our relationship to our natural environment. The exhibition features 100 objects from our anthropology collection, scented sculptures and a soundscape influenced by the chemical process that arises in trees and plants. You can visit The Lore of the Land until 2 June 2019.

  • The Lore of The Land , The Lore of The Land
    The Lore of The Land

Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman

  • Woyingi design piece , Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Studio Sikoki , Jatin Garg
    Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Studio Sikoki , Jatin Garg

Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman is an artist and industrial designer whose work explores the dynamics between the object, user, and the environment. 

Her piece in the World Gallery represents Woyingi. In Ljaw law, Woyingi is the goddess of all creation. Although many Ljaw people are now Christian, people still refer to God as Woyongi or Nana Owei.

Her beautiful pieces can be seen in the African encounter in the World Gallery.

Vuya Raratabu

In Fiji, Barkcloth, called tapa or masi, is a sacred material made from beaten mulberry bark. Traditionally, barkcloth is central to celebrations and milestones in family life. 

In the World Gallery, two examples of this can be seen. The dresses designed by Vuya Raratabu, were made to celebrate the 1st and 21st birthday of Shelley Marie Kaurasi. Traditionally these dresses only come in variants of brown and black, made with natural materials such as clay, dye and soot, which are representative of the land.

Across Polynesia, people share a similar understanding of mana as power, effectiveness and prestige of divine origin. In Fiji, mana is often associated with chiefs and healers. Mana also exists within objects. The chiefly regalia and barkcloth material you can see here reveal different ideas and experiences of mana.

  • 2017.85, Item 2017.85, dress by Vuya Raratabu
    Item 2017.85, dress by Vuya Raratabu

  •  2017.84, Item 2017.84, dress by Vuya Raratabu
    Item 2017.84, dress by Vuya Raratabu

Claire Morgan

  • Claire Morgan, Claire Morgan, David Holbrook
    Claire Morgan, David Holbrook

Claire Morgan is a UK artist, with a deep interest in humans and animals. Much of her work features taxidermy, creating tangible elements to something that would be lost.

“I am interested in humans as animals. What we have been, what we are, and what we could be or might be, as our way of living changes.” Claire Morgan

Morgan is in the process of creating special artworks that will connect to the Natural History Gallery. Watch this space for more news on Claire, as her pieces will be coming later next year.

Below are some of her preparatory sketches.

  • As I Live and Breathe (300 dpi-3547), As I Live and Breathe
2019
37 x 28.2cm (h x w)
Pencil and watercolour on paper

Photo: Claire Morgan Studio, Claire Morgan

Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz
    As I Live and Breathe 2019 37 x 28.2cm (h x w) Pencil and watercolour on paper Photo: Claire Morgan Studio, Claire Morgan Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz

  • By the Skin of the Teeth (c) Claire Morgan, By the Skin of the Teeth 
2019
67 x 101.8cm (h x w)
Pencil, watercolour, graphite, pastel on paper

Photo: Claire Morgan Studio

Claire Morgan

Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz
    By the Skin of the Teeth 2019 67 x 101.8cm (h x w) Pencil, watercolour, graphite, pastel on paper Photo: Claire Morgan Studio Claire Morgan Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz

 

And one more…

  • Katie Schwab, Katie Schwab, Sarah Packer
    Katie Schwab, Sarah Packer

We also recently announced a new partnership with Artist Katie Schwab who will co-produce a brand new artwork with a new Collective accompanied with a programme of events.

Share your stories of women artists using the hashtag #5WomenArtists on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Stories of Woyingi

Rachael Minott, Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice) studies the stories surrounding Woyingi by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman.

  • Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Jatin Garg
    Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Jatin Garg

In the World Gallery, there is a striking artistic representation of the Ijaw deity Woyingi by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman. 

Woyingi (Nana Owei) defined as Our mother, she who owns us, is imagined with black eggs which refer to muto the divine womb. The Ijaw creation myth places the origin of humanity at the feet of a supreme being sometimes called Woyingi/ Woyengi or Wonyinghi sometimes Temearau (she who creates).
 
The womb and its blackness are significant as it celebrates the origin of humanity from a cosmic womb that symbolically celebrates black womanhood. This symbolic celebration has real social, political and economic significance for the Ijaw women. A comparative study in 2014 for the Africa Journal of Social Science* found a correlation in the feminization of God Ijaw women occupying higher socio-cultural, political and economic roles compared to their Ibo, Hausa and Yoruba counterparts in Nigeria.
 
This study shows the importance of the stories we tell ourselves and revere and how these stories have implications for all other aspects of life. It is easy to see how Woyingi can be a symbol for empowerment, she is described as a beautiful and powerful; she is good and wise and she listens.
  • Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Jatin Garg
    Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Jatin Garg
 
The creation myth, in which she centres, sees her arrive on earth by a thunderbolt. Finding it empty she makes humans from the earth beneath a scarred tree with her feet resting on a creation stone. Before she is finished, she breathes lives into each one and asks them who they would like to be. What should their gender be, how long should they live, by what means should they die and what would they like to achieve in this life? She grants each human their wish. However the choices they make, for power or material things determine which river she leads them down, the clear still river, or the muddy and turbulent river. They live the lives they chose and return to Woyingi only in death.

*Uzobo, Endurance & Ogbanga, Mina & Jack, Jackson. (2014). THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE FEMINIZATION OF GOD AMONG THE IJAW PEOPLE OF NIGERIA. African Journal of Social Sciences. 4. 99-108. 

 

LGBTQ+ Stories and Themes of Love

Rachael Minott, Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), has been looking at the different expressions of love in the World Gallery, as part of LGBT History Month.

As February draws to a close, we wanted to participate in LGBT History Month, using the ethos of the World Gallery to celebrate cultural differences. Ultimately, we are looking for common humanity, reflecting on the themes of the Gallery used to show human connections.

  • A heart charm from the World Gallery, A heart charm from the World Gallery
    A heart charm from the World Gallery

We want to mediate on stories that reflect on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender narratives of love around the world. Love between families, friendship, love within communities, romantic love, and platonic love and, of course, self-love. We strive to be active participants in an inclusive world, of tolerance, celebration and love.

Tracing LGBT stories globally allows us to challenge heteronormativity, and binary gender roles, but it also asks us to reflect on violence and discrimination, legacies which are connected to imperial histories, and which mean that for some living their authentic lives is dangerous.

But by focusing on the themes that connect all of humanity we hope we can touch upon the breadth of emotion that we all experiences in living a full life. 

Raising Children

One of the core narratives in the World Gallery, and indeed a core themes for the Horniman in general, are stories about how we raise children in different contexts.

The theme of child rearing includes the way individual families raise children, but also how communities come together to care for children collectively. It includes education, emotional and physical support.

In the World Gallery, the introductary area greets visitors with objects that are sentimental. One such object is Salish infant carrier, from what is today Montana (North America), used by guardians to carry children.

  • Salish infant carrier, A Salish infant carrier. The Salish now celebrate those known as Two Spirit.
    A Salish infant carrier. The Salish now celebrate those known as Two Spirit.

This object was used for physically supporting young ones and is a typical object type found in many cultures. However, if we look at other aspects of how the Salish raise children, we can explore how those known as Two Spirit are raised, and in turn are often involved in raising children themselves.

Two Spirit

The people of the Flathead nation, to which the Salish belong, celebrate those known as Two Spirit. This term is understood across First Nations people of the Americas, and has a long histories of signifying the importance of individuals deemed to possess both male and female spirits.

Two Spirit people acted and continue to act, as mediators in disagreements, serving their elders, and supporting youth during puberty.

Today, Two Spirit is a term for First Nations people associated with being gender fluid, gender queer and gender non-conforming. It refers to pre-colonial understandings of gender that was normalised.

  • Two spirit pride trolley at San Francisco Pride, Two spirit pride trolley at San Francisco Pride, 2014, Sarah Stierch via wiki commons CC.BY.40
    Two spirit pride trolley at San Francisco Pride, 2014, Sarah Stierch via wiki commons CC.BY.40

While today it is celebrated, those who were Two Spirit and who lived through colonialism, were often forced into violent boarding school systems, where binary gender identities were assigned. As such, the resurgence of the term is a form of healing, and goes hand-in-hand with educational programs to challenge binary gender norms for children.

The Montana Two Spirit Society formed in 1996 through a joint effort by Pride Inc. (Montana’s LGBT advocacy organisation) and the Montana Gay Men’s Task Force, and runs an annual Two Spirit Gathering. The 2019 gathering will see the first Two Spirit Youth Gathering for those aged 10-25 years.

This approach aims to support First Nation’s LGBT+ youth as a community, through education and support: caring about physical and mental wellbeing while providing educational support and safe spaces to grow.

In the UK, people have come together to support LGBT youth, understanding that communities raise children alongside and sometime in lieu of immediate familial support. Charities like The Proud Trust, Mosaic youth and Albert Kennedy Trust  amongst others.

Celebrating life

Another core theme in the World Gallery is celebrating life. This is explored through looking at rites of passages, various masquerades and festivals.

Celebrating life is an essential activity to take note of when we (both as individuals and groups) survive and thrive. These include weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, independence days, parades and carnivals.

For the LGBTQ+ community globally, Pride has become one of the most recognised forms of celebration. It occurs in different cities on different days, and aims to be an inclusive safe space to come together, and stand together.

  • Gay Pride Johannesburg 2006, Gay Pride Johannesburg 2006, Diricia De Wet via wikicommons CC BY2.0
    Gay Pride Johannesburg 2006, Diricia De Wet via wikicommons CC BY2.0

An essential element of these celebration is the Pride flag and the parade through the city. Attendees often wear amazing outfits and make up, and there is food, drink and music. It is a moment of unity, celebrating shared elements of identity, and the freedom to express that identity publicly, loudly and safely: with pride.

This type of cultural expression is a common global activity, for various cultures to celebrate different elements of life together. These celebrations often have similar components: music, movement, special dress and/or make-up and a coming together to express elements of a shared identity, publicly and loudly.

As with Pride, these acts of celebrating life are not a-political, and are in response to, or defiance of, previous (and continuous) repression. The celebrations themselves are often policed and attract those who wish to spread hate, to appear and try to maintain repressive, violent actions.

Barriletes Gigantes

Celebrating life goes hand in hand with remembering the dead as a core element of the human experience. Acts of remembrance are not always acts of mourning, but another form of celebrating a life lived.

In Guatemala, in the Sacatepequez region, for All Saints day (1-2 November) the Barriletes Gigantes (Giant kite) festival is held. Bright colourful kites up to 36 meters are created and flown to act as a mediator for the spirits of the deceased loved ones.

  • Barriletes Gigantes in a graveyard, Barriletes Gigantes in a graveyard, Nimrod Zaphnath via Wikicommons CC BY 2.0
    Barriletes Gigantes in a graveyard, Nimrod Zaphnath via Wikicommons CC BY 2.0

The Giant Kite festival, is a tradition carried down from Mayan culture. The kites are made using bamboo, fabric and paper and have intricate designs which have been worked on for about a year, while the construction would be undertaken over 40 days. These designs are sometimes political, and call out corruption or loss of ancestral knowledge or land, and often call for respect and love.

Traditionally the details of the design were supposed to specifically communicate with the family ancestors to help them journey back to the land of the living without interruption from evil spirits.

Today the messages are less about communicating with the dead and are instead messages of peace, hope, and companionship for the living.

The kite entitled, ‘Amor, dolor y creación’ (‘Love, Pain and Creation’) hangs above the World Gallery and was made by the art collective Gorrión Chupaflor for the Festival in 2013. It depicts a Mayan origin story of humanity from the Quiché Maya Popol Vuh, and links to the galleries desire to celebrate life.

  • Our central kite from a Barriletes Gigantes , Our central kite from a Barriletes Gigantes
    Our central kite from a Barriletes Gigantes

Remembering the dead

When remembering the dead, museums are best able to reflect objects used for memorials, some of which are reflective of a tragic loss of life, such as the Japanese Ita-hi (memorial stone) in the World Gallery.

It is a stone carved with a depiction of a seated Nyoirin Kannon Cintamani cakra, a form of Avalokiteshvara – a being who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.

This form became a principle icon of worship from the 10th century, and the bodhisattva's pose, in fact, indicates that he is resting in his personal paradise on Mt. Potalaka, while in his hand he holds the cintamani, which is a wish giving stone.

The inscription indicates that the figure was erected in memory of a girl who died, aged 5, on the date Houei5, September (September 1708). It gives her holy name also, 'Kourin-shinnyo'.

Countries around the world have erected memorials to members of the LGBTQ+ community who suffered persecution during under the Nazi regime, with a memorial in San Francisco, in the United States (1978), Amsterdam, in The Netherlands (1987),  Frankfurt and Berlin, in Germany (1994 and 2008 respectively), Sydney in Australia (2001), and Tel Aviv, Israel (2014).

The Transgender memorial garden in St Louis, USA (2015) was created for those who lost their lives to transphobic violence and to provide space where their lives can be celebrated. For those who lost their lived during the AIDS epidemic there is a public memorial in Indiana, USA (2000); while last year saw a fundraising campaign for the UK to have its first AIDS memorial, to mark the thousands of lives lost, and to provide those living with HIV or who had been affected by it, a space to remember and recover.

Telling stories

Monuments to those who have passed away, are essential to telling stories.

Remembering our common narratives helps us to understand the world we live in now and how communities evolve.

Memorials to those who have passed away remind us of the trials we have survived, and ask that history does not repeat itself. However, because of homophobic legislation schools and local authorities were banned from discussing and displaying narratives about same-sex relationships under Section 28.

  • Section 28 Rainbow Plaque, Section 28 Rainbow Plaque, Chemical Engineer via Wikicommons CC BY SA4.0
    Section 28 Rainbow Plaque, Chemical Engineer via Wikicommons CC BY SA4.0

The Local Government Act, known as Section 28, was implemented across England Scotland and Wales in 1988 (and repealed between 2000 and 2003), which expressly banned ‘intentionally promoting homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality.’

While this legislation was challenged, demonstrated against and denounced, it left a gap in the public sector of stories about LGBTQ+ lives during that period, something that the country is still recovering from.   

Telling diverse stories is one way that museums can be a leading figure in and inclusive world. LGBTQ+ stories in museums are underrepresented, and this needs to change.

Key to telling authentic LGBTQ+ stories will be working with those who identify as LGBTQ+ to explore the rich, complex narratives of life.

While the Horniman does not currently have enough touch points, or research to tell this story as well as we like, we hope to improve by actively working towards serving the LGBTQ+ community better, like our work with Rainbow Pilgrims during Crossing Borders, an LGBTQ+ refugee group, who have shared their stories with our audiences.

It shows us the importance and depth of platforming these narratives, and the role in telling these stories to make the world a more tolerant, accepting and inviting place.

  • Members of rainbow Pilgrims at Crossing Borders, Members of rainbow Pilgrims at Crossing Borders, Mary Humphrey
    Members of rainbow Pilgrims at Crossing Borders, Mary Humphrey

Lost Wonders of London

Our new exhibition Brick Wonders displays marvels of our world, we decided to take a look at the lost wonders of London.

1. Crystal Palace

Our first wonder is closely tied to South London. The Crystal Palace, designed by Sir Joseph Paxton was a beautiful glass structure held together through a network of iron rods. The building played host to The Great Exhibition, which opened on 1 May 1851 in Hyde Park and was moved to South London following the exhibition. The display hosted 14,000 exhibitors from around the world. The first of its kind, it opened Britain to an experience of travelling cultures. An estimated 6 million people were said to attend the exhibition, including Queen Victoria, Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens.

This beautiful hand-held fan depicts the crowds at Crystal Palace during the Great Exhibition, the reverse is decorated with figures and crests in Gold.

  • Fan, 99.223a, Fan, 99.223a, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Fan, 99.223a, Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Fan, 99.223a, Fan, 99.223a, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Fan, 99.223a, Horniman Museum and Gardens

Illustrated London News Frontpiece with the title below, reading 'Interior of the Crystal Palace. Hyde Park 1851'. The print shows crowds viewing the exhibits, with a stand for Ceylon on the left, the upper galleries around, and the roof structure above.

  • Print, 2011.32, Print, 2011.32, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Print, 2011.32, Horniman Museum and Gardens

This page from the Illustrated London News depicts an exterior view of the Crystal Palace with crowds in the front. Above, at the centre, are the figure of Britannia, with Queen Victoria on the left greeting two female figures in Asian dress on her right, flanked by figures in western dress on the left and in Asian dress on the right.

  • Print, 2011.33, Print, 2011.33, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Print, 2011.33, Horniman Museum and Gardens

2. Euston Arch

  • Euston Arch, Euston Arch− © Tekniska museet
    Euston Arch

Our second wonder is an iconic symbol of the industrial revolution, the Euston Arch. It is said to be ‘first great monument of the railway age’ by railway enthusiasts.

The arch was built in 1838 at the same time as the opening of Euston Station, the capitals first inter-city terminal.

Demolished in the 1960’s when Euston station was rebuilt, some of its stones have been used to fill the Prescott Channel. There has been many articles discussing the aesthetics of the arch. Is this the marmite of architecture? Is it a piece that would look out of place nowadays in the city or do we need more structures like this that stand out, bold and strong?

  • Archway,4522.12, Archway,4522.12, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Archway,4522.12, Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Archway, 4522.12, Archway, 4522.12, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Archway, 4522.12, Horniman Museum and Gardens

This is part of an Indian arch that you pass through in the World Gallery, made of teak. According to Sir Somers Vine who sold it to the Horniman, it took six men seven years to carve.

3. Amphitheatre under Guildhall

  • London's Roman Amphitheatre, London's Roman Amphitheatre, Philafrenzy
    London's Roman Amphitheatre, Philafrenzy

Rediscovered by Museum of London archaeologists in 1988, the Amphitheatre under Guildhall Yard is a landmark you can see today and London’s only Roman amphitheatre.

The wooden structure was built in 70AD and could play host to up to 6,000 people. Amphitheatres would have been used for public executions and gladiator shows or fights. The surviving remains include the stone entrance tunnel, east gate and arena walls.

This rod puppet shows a Roman Centurion.

  • Rod puppet nn18424, Rod puppet, nn18424, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Rod puppet, nn18424, Horniman Museum and Gardens

4. Palace of Whitehall

  • Palace of Whitehall, Painting of the Palace of White Hall, Hendrik Danckerts
    Painting of the Palace of White Hall, Hendrik Danckerts

The Palace of Whitehall was home to English monarchs from 1530 to 1698. In 1698 a fire of destroyed the entire palace, leaving only the banqueting area intact. The palace was one of the largest in Europe with 1,500 rooms.

Originally the site was developed by the Archbishop of York. It was in the sixteenth century that the site was made into a great palace by Cardinal Wosley, which was taken over and expanded by Henry Vlll. Henry married two of his six wives at Whitehall Palace and also died there.

Whitehall was also where Charles l was executed and where William III and Mary II succeeded the throne in 1689-90.

  • Commemorative plate, 2434, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    , Horniman Museum and Gardens

5. Old London Bridge

  • Illustration of Old London Bridge, Illustration of Old London Bridge, Claude de Jongh
    Illustration of Old London Bridge, Claude de Jongh

Our final wonder is the Old London Bridge. Built between 1176 and 1209, the Old London Bridge stood as a place of commercial and residential occupancy for merchants and city dwellers.

Built by Peter, chaplain of St. Mary’s of Colechurch, the bridge was made up of 19 arches and 200 houses. The bridge had survived several catastrophes, but three years after its completion all the buildings were destroyed by a huge fire, where 3,000 people were killed.

In 1282, five of the arches fell due to the pressures of winter weather, and when the central pier was removed in 1762 the bridge became hard to maintain. The river would erode the arches which constantly needed protecting with stones. This led to the structure being redesigned further upstream by John Reggie.

You can see a replica of the Old London Bridge and the life of the towns’ people in our exhibition Brick Wonders until 19 October 2019.

  • Old London Bridge model, Model of Old London Bridge, Warren Elsemore
    Model of Old London Bridge, Warren Elsemore

Is there a building or landmark that you feel is a lost wonder in London? Do let us know by tagging us @HornimanMuseum on Twitter and Facebook.

Objects and memories of the end of empire

Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp, Deputy Keeper of Anthropology, speaks about colonialism, the end of empire and the narratives it has formed for British life today.

In April 2011, I was in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone when people celebrated 50 years of independence from British colonialism. The whole city was decked out in green, white and blue, the national colours of Sierra Leone. Women wove green white and blue into their hair, motorbike riders decorated their bikes with flags, and people were dressed ready to celebrate and party hard. Sierra Leone became independent on the 27th of April 1961. This was a largely peaceful event, although colonialism in Sierra Leone had itself been punctuated by violence.

  • Tailors attached to the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs in Freetown, Tailors attached to the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs in Freetown, working long hours to finish a commission of flags for the Independence Day celebrations in 2011. , Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp
    Tailors attached to the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs in Freetown, working long hours to finish a commission of flags for the Independence Day celebrations in 2011. , Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp

This got me thinking about how we in Britain remember the end of the British Empire. It was not so long ago. By the end of WWII, it was widely accepted that British colonialism would draw to a close and by the 1960s, the majority of Britain's colonies had become independent.

Although memories of WWII continue to play an important public role, memories of colonialism are less visible. Yet the events that surrounded it continue to shape British life today. Although many people agree that the end of colonialism was an important moment in British history, it is certainly not something that is widely celebrated or publicly talked about much.

In 2016, I started a research project looking at objects, letters, films and photographs collected during the end of the British Empire in Africa, sitting in museums across the UK. This means they were collected between about 1940 and 1980. When it became clear to the British government that colonialism was no longer sustainable after WWII, they encouraged ever more migration from Britain into the empire.

  • A photograph of Roger Brain in Ibadan, A photograph of Roger Brain in Ibadan, 1962. Roger Brain was an agricultural scientist born in Wiltshire, who worked in both Sudan and Nigeria. In Ibadan, he contributed to the introduction of milk-producing Friesian cows.
    A photograph of Roger Brain in Ibadan, 1962. Roger Brain was an agricultural scientist born in Wiltshire, who worked in both Sudan and Nigeria. In Ibadan, he contributed to the introduction of milk-producing Friesian cows.

When former British colonies, like Sierra Leone, became independent, many families with British citizenship, whether born in Britain or in Africa, chose to leave.

  • Photograph of Audrey Brain, Photograph of Audrey Brain and one of her daughters up the Eiffel Tower in 1969, the year they left Nigeria and moved to Paris.
    Photograph of Audrey Brain and one of her daughters up the Eiffel Tower in 1969, the year they left Nigeria and moved to Paris.

Many left with the objects that were important to them. Some donated these objects to museums immediately, but most displayed them or stored them away in their homes. These collections have been offered to museums over the last 50 years, and I am interested in what they can tell us.

Museum collections from the end of the empire were usually collected by British teachers, scientists, artists, missionaries, or academics, as well as colonial officers. These pieces often reflect everyday family life, but also reflect a moment of transformation.

  • Independence Day celebrations in Ibadan, Independence Day celebrations in Ibadan, October 1960. Photograph taken by Roger Brain at the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium
    Independence Day celebrations in Ibadan, October 1960. Photograph taken by Roger Brain at the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium

  • Members of the Lukolela Baptist congregation, being baptised in the Congo River, the 1950s., Members of the Lukolela Baptist congregation, being baptised in the Congo River, the 1950s. It was taken by Rev. Lionel West, a missionary for the Baptist Missionary Society, who lived in Lukolela from 1930 up until Congolese independence in 1960.
    Members of the Lukolela Baptist congregation, being baptised in the Congo River, the 1950s. It was taken by Rev. Lionel West, a missionary for the Baptist Missionary Society, who lived in Lukolela from 1930 up until Congolese independence in 1960.
 

For example, they contain items made for sale by artists involved in an increasingly established art scene, including known carvers, weavers, potters, textile dyers or painters.

  • Carving of a Ntumpane drummer by Osei Bonsu, Carving of a Ntumpane drummer by Osei Bonsu, an established Ashanti carver based in Accra at the time he created this piece, probably in the late 1930s. Collected by Arthur Casswell Spooner. , Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
    Carving of a Ntumpane drummer by Osei Bonsu, an established Ashanti carver based in Accra at the time he created this piece, probably in the late 1930s. Collected by Arthur Casswell Spooner. , Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

  • 1968.434, An intricate painted piece of Adire Eleko., 1968.434, An intricate painted piece of Adire Eleko. The pattern is painted with cassava starch, then dyed in indigo. The price of Adire soared in Ibadan the mid-1960s due to the rising popularity of this cloth in post-independence Nigeria. , Horniman Museum and Gardens
    1968.434, An intricate painted piece of Adire Eleko. The pattern is painted with cassava starch, then dyed in indigo. The price of Adire soared in Ibadan the mid-1960s due to the rising popularity of this cloth in post-independence Nigeria. , Horniman Museum and Gardens

They also contain objects that reflect changing currencies of value. Such as religious or ceremonial objects that were sold. Items were possibly sold because they were no longer considered powerful or perhaps money held a different but greater form of power.

  • 1970.33, A ceremonial knife, 1970.33, A ceremonial knife purchased by Rev. Lionel West near Lukolela in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1950s. , Horniman Museum and Gardens
    1970.33, A ceremonial knife purchased by Rev. Lionel West near Lukolela in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1950s. , Horniman Museum and Gardens

I have also been looking at collections that reflect moments where the British Government attempted to forcefully contain resistance to colonialism. This includes the violent military campaign against Mau Mau fighters in the 1950s in Kenya, which involved the detention and torturing of Mau Mau suspects.

  • Aluminium replica watch, This aluminium replica watch was made by a convict in the small district prison in Karatina, Kenya. They were collected by Terrence J. Image, a prison officer who worked in both prisons and detention camps in Kenya during the Mau Mau insurgency., Imperial War Museum
    This aluminium replica watch was made by a convict in the small district prison in Karatina, Kenya. They were collected by Terrence J. Image, a prison officer who worked in both prisons and detention camps in Kenya during the Mau Mau insurgency., Imperial War Museum

What interests me is the way in which these objects often enable an understanding of the very complicated ways in which the end of empire was experienced and is remembered by those who lived through it. Sometimes these competing narratives make it very difficult to speak openly about this shared period in our history and to listen to those whose experience differs from our own. However, I do think we need to talk about it, to listen, and to understand the many ways our colonial past continues to affect our lives today. I hope that my research can help with that.

Do you or your family have memories or collections from Africa at the end of empire?

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