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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.

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?

The Movement of People

Rachael Minott, the Horniman's Anthropology Curator (Social Practice), writes about migration and how the movement of people is represented in the World Gallery.

Our world is the way it is today because of the movement of people.

Last week on 10 December, the first international pact on the movement of people was signed by 164 members of the UN to try to encourage safe and legal border crossing, and find an alternative to children’s detention centres for illegal immigrants.

The history of migration is as old as time. Land occupied today is occupied because people moved there, nations emerged, grew and developed. Most major faiths have a grounding in the survival of the mass movement of people, and many families will have stories of migration that brought us, or our ancestors, together.

Whether through forced migration or by choice, migrants and international migration, have changed the world.

The World Gallery at the Horniman is a celebration of the variety and beauty of world cultures. While it celebrates cultural difference, it also aims to understand the common threads of humanity that are shared globally.

The exhibition text panels state that travel, trade and interest in other cultures have always influenced European cultures. And yet, while this interest celebrates the diversity of Europe today, the violence of that exchange is also acknowledged.

Geographic regions are introduced with an acknowledgement of the impact of European colonialism. The Gallery holds memorials created for the bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, in 2007.

This migration - not of choice nor hope, is not to be celebrated, but remembered. The survival of this migration, a testament to strength and resilience.

The World Gallery also explores non-European exploration, through the voyaging history of the Oceania region. Advocates for the term Oceania Pacific Islands, like Epeli Hau’ofa, describe the region as a sea of islands, in which the water is as much the territory as the land. This highlights that the sea both connects and separates approximately 40 million people.

Living with the sea as a territory, movement between islands was as natural as travelling along a road, and so migration, voyaging and exploration were a natural part of the regions culture.

[Fun fact: did you know that Madagascar was only settled about 1000 years ago? Many of the Malagasy are of Polynesian descent, sharing linguistic and cultural characteristics of southern Borneo, 7,000km away. This led many to assume that it was first settled by oceanic voyagers despite being a part of the African continent]. 

In the section of the Gallery dedicated to Asia, you will see a celebration of Nomadic peoples in Tibet, who today embrace the same nomadic lifestyle practiced for thousands of years in that region.

Exploring the constant migration and movement of peoples, this display showcases the importance of smart phones as a part of nomadic existence, showing them alongside essential material culture that dates back over 400 years.

  • Installing the Bedouin camel furniture, Phil from our Exhibitions Team, installing camel furniture in the Tuareg section of the World Gallery. The Tuareg are a nomadic people., Tania Dolvers
    Phil from our Exhibitions Team, installing camel furniture in the Tuareg section of the World Gallery. The Tuareg are a nomadic people., Tania Dolvers

There is much that can be said about physical movement, but a retention of culture that will ring true to many migrants who live in a diaspora – when a group of people spread from one country to other countries – connect to their home through people and practices, like food, dance, faith etc.

And while migration has had undoubtedly positive effects, there is a lot of trauma associated with its process. It can be a difficult decision, disrupting connections to place, space and families. But there is hope in migration, hope that you move to something new and worthwhile, that will make your life better.

  • Boat 195, The prow of boat 195, Dani Tegan
    The prow of boat 195, Dani Tegan

The World Gallery also talks of forced migration. You can see in the European area, a piece of Boat 195 which set off from Libya in 2013 carrying 253 people. Those on board Boat 195 were rescued near the coat of Sicily on 17 August 2013.

Its presence in the Gallery reminds us that forced migration is a perennial issue, with lives risked daily with the hope that the journey will be worthwhile; will eventually bring a safety not possible in the lands left behind.

The Horniman during the Second World War

Anthropology Volunteer, Lynne Darwood, has been looking into our archives and others for information about the Horniman during World War II.

The declaration of war took place on 3 September 1939, but preparations for conflict with Germany started before this.

The Times newspaper ran an article on the 25 August 1939 under the heading ‘Precautions in Crisis.’ This article set out rules for the screening of lights, darkening of windows and the meaning of various air raid warnings signals. The piece advised that several London museums had been closed to enable the package and removal for safeguarding of works considered to be national treasures.

  • Bomb damage to Lewisham, Lewisham Road showing damage from Flying Bombs, Imperial War Museum © IWM (CH 15109)
    Lewisham Road showing damage from Flying Bombs, Imperial War Museum © IWM (CH 15109)

The Horniman was closed on the outbreak of the war and the South London Advertiser of 19 January 1940 informed its readers that “several valuable museum pieces” from the Horniman had been “removed into safety areas several months ago”.  However, the expected aerial bombardment of London did not occur and when the Victoria and Albert Museum re-opened on 11 January 1940, there was a call for other museums to follow suit.

The Horniman re-opened on 4 March 1940 with two sections of the Museum being ‘available for inspection between 10am and 6pm each day’ except Sunday. The building was restructured to house an air-raid shelter within the Museum, with space for 100 people and visitors were limited to this number.

The Horniman continued to run during the war, acquiring new items (which were mostly gifts), such as a large collection of sea shells, made by Sir William Hamer, and a Corbeille de Mariage, which is a type of wedding basket. 

During this time, the Horniman was used for patriotic exhibitions such as ‘Russia Today‘ in December 1942, and a ‘United States Exhibition’ in August 1943, which featured photographs of American industries and buildings, including the huge circular granaries built for the storage of wartime harvests, as well as native costumes and maps of the States. The latter exhibition drew many visitors, including large numbers of American servicemen.

Fundraisers were held, including an art exhibition in conjunction with the Royal Air Force ‘Wings for victory week’ in March 1943, which included an auction of art works by local Civil Defence artists in what was the Lecture Theatre, which is now The Studio.

The Gardens were also called into service as the site of a barrage balloon and spotlight. The balloon was tethered to the ground by metal cables and was intended to keep enemy planes from flying too low on bombing raids. A local resident, recorded in the Forest Hill School Oral History Project No. 2, ‘South East London in the Second World War’ describes the balloons as being like ‘great big elephants’.

  • RAF Barrage Balloons with WAAF Operating Crews CC.0 via Wiki Commons, RAF Barrage Balloons with WAAF Operating Crews, CC.0 via Wiki Commons
    RAF Barrage Balloons with WAAF Operating Crews, CC.0 via Wiki Commons

The South London newspapers reported flying bombs raids from June 1944 onwards.

These bombs had a limited range, so they had to be fired from the French and Dutch coasts. The bases were gradually overrun by the Allies following the D Day landings and the last attacks took place in October 1944. The heaviest period of bombing was referred to by the newspapers as ‘the Battle of South London’ and lasted from June to September 1944.

Lewisham was the third worst hit borough in London. It was hit by 115 flying bombs causing 275 casualties. 1,070 more were treated in hospital and 373 treated at First Aid Posts. A total of 1,129 houses were destroyed, 1,553 rendered uninhabitable, 5,305 seriously damaged and 55,335 suffered minor damage.

The Horniman was closed in August 1944 following damage caused by a flying bomb. The damage was not considered serious but the Council Architect reported in June 1945 that for the Museum building to re-open, the minimum work would entail:

  • new main entrance doors;
  • re-glazing and the repairing of lights in the Entrance Hall, Vestibule, Curator’s Room, Lecture Hall, Library and Library Stairs;
  • repairs to the doors in the lecture Hall and Library, Mummy and Aquarium corridors; the removal of all defective plaster on ceilings; and
  • flaking distemper on walls and ceilings.

In April 1945 the Education Officer, E.G. Savage, had started pressing for the re-opening of the Horniman as a matter of some urgency.

He stressed the importance of the Museum as an educational resource, and reminded the authorities of the extensive use of the Horniman by school children before its closure. The Education Officer estimated that following re-opening the Museum would be able to cater for at least 1,000 children a week.

Local people were also keen to see the Horniman open again.

In August 1946 an official who came to inspect the Horniman, was advised that applications were being received daily from the general public asking when the Museum would be available.

However, extensive damage countrywide, caused by the war, meant there were shortages of both materials and labour. Re-imbursement for the cost of the work could be claimed from the War Damages Commission, but consent for work to be carried out needed to be obtained from the Ministry of Health under the Defence (General) Requirements and licenses for timber obtained.

The work was due to start but had to be put off because priority was being given to de-bricking schools, and the work was only finally allowed to proceed after promises were made not to go to the local Employment exchange for labour.

  • The Horniman is closed due to bomb damage, Notice that the Horniman has been reopened following bomb damage
    Notice that the Horniman has been reopened following bomb damage

The Horniman re-opened on 25 September 1946 with the minimum possible repairs which made it safe for people to enter the building. The zoological and biological specimens had been repaired and reclassified. The Aquarium was ready for new specimens to be collected, but the ethnological section was in a bad way with the staff being advised to just clean up the section and open it with a large notice stating that it was under re-arrangement. The West Hall (no longer there) did not re-open until April 1947.

In the Press Notice for the re-opening, the London County Council described the Horniman as a landmark of South London whose “many friends will be glad to know of its reopening” and “a magnet for generations of schoolboys.”

A Merman in New York

Helen Merrett, our Collections Coordinator and Loans Registrar, tells us about our now international merman and what it takes to get him from A to B.

Our famous Merman is on his travels again, having just made his debut in the new World Gallery Curiosities section of the Perspectives Wall. This time he’s gone international. The Merman has not travelled abroad since he was transferred to the Horniman in 1982 from the Wellcome Collection.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic was a hugely popular exhibition at the British Library when it opened in October 2017, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The exhibition featured star objects from JK Rowling’s personal archive, including original drafts and drawings by JK Rowling and illustrator Jim Kay, both on display for the first time. 

The exhibition has now toured on to the New York Historical Society Museum and Library to celebrate the 20th anniversary in the USA. 

Merpeople are an important part of the exhibition story. There is focus on the authorial process and the development of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, showing that published versions can often be different from the original draft concepts - merpeople were originally going to feature earlier then the fifth book.

When the merpeople appear in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, rather than the classical mystical image of beautiful enchanting creatures, they have grey skin, yellow eyes and broken teeth, similar to the style of the Horniman Ningyo Merman.

  • The Horniman Merman on his travels, The gorgeous Horniman merman
    The gorgeous Horniman merman

Because the Merman has been so popular (this is his eighth time out on loan since 2011), he now travels with a mount made by our Exhibitions Team that works for different displays. For all objects going out on loan our Exhibition Technicians work with a Conservator to determine the best shape to give support to the object.

The Merman has a very unusual balance point, and is also very fragile. It is very important we sent him with a mount we know gives the right support, and this also makes the install at the borrowing venue much more straightforward. We discussed this with New York Historical Society to ensure our mount worked with the exhibition design, so accurate measuring was crucial. 

  • The Horniman Merman on his travels, The merman on his special mount
    The merman on his special mount

All objects are assessed by a Conservator before they go out on loan. The Merman required a small repair and clean to ensure he was stable for travel abroad.

Then he had the all-important photoshoot so we could capture his condition before he left the Horniman. Our Conservation Officer Charlotte put together a very detailed condition report so that we can see if there are any changes whilst he is travelling and installed elsewhere.

  • The Horniman Merman on his travels, A merman photoshoot
    A merman photoshoot

Packing is another important part of any object going out on loan. A special tray and box had previously been made by Charlotte in our Conservation Team for travelling in the UK, but this needed some slight tweaks to give extra support to the merman for travelling across to America.

  • The Horniman Merman on his travels, On the left, his old packaging, on the right, his swanky new travel arrangements
    On the left, his old packaging, on the right, his swanky new travel arrangements

I was lucky enough to escort the Merman on his travels again, ensuring that he arrived safely, and was unpacked and installed at the New York Historical Society. Naturally, the Merman was an instant hit amongst staff and the other couriers there to install the exhibition.

Everyone wanted to know the history of the Merman and a few pictures were requested of the star. He has been displayed with a beautiful book from the American Museum of Natural History and a manuscript from the British Library, showing historic illustrations of mystical creatures including mermaids. It was fantastic working with the British Library and New York Historical Society on this exciting exhibition, and that the merman has become part of the story of where magic and myth began.

  • The Horniman Merman on his travels, Helen installing the merman in New York
    Helen installing the merman in New York

Harry Potter: A History of Magic is on at the New York Historical Society from 5 October 2018 until 27 January 2019.

The merman will be back in the World Gallery in February 2019.

Around the World in 80 Objects Part Four

 Our Around the World in 80 objects tour has come to a close. We've travelled through Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, and at last, we're back in Lewisham.

Every day on our Twitter for 80 days we've been posting a new object that you can see in our World Gallery as we navigated a route around the world.

Find out how our journey came to an end as we followed in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg and celebrated human creativity, imagination, and adaptability around the world.


 

 



























About the Art: Bryan Alexander

We spoke with Bryan Alexander, the photographer behind our new exhibition Yamal: The Stream of Life, about working in the Arctic for almost half a century.

What are you looking for when you capture a photograph?

When I am out on the tundra or in native camps, I tend to just react to whatever is going on around me. It’s hard to plan too much ahead as things can be so unpredictable in the Arctic.

If I am working on a specific story I will often make a list of the subjects that I feel I need to photograph in order to tell the story.

What are the difficulties you face working in and photographing the Arctic and how do you overcome them? 

The cold is one obvious difficulty when working in the Arctic, especially during the winter months.

With the right clothing though I find I can keep warm enough even when photographing in temperatures as low as -58° C. When it’s very cold I usually wear a combination of modern cold weather clothing and traditional native clothes.

Finding cameras that work well at these low temperatures can be challenging, particularly nowadays with most cameras being electrically operated. Batteries lose their power much quicker at extremely low sub-zero temperatures, so I always have to carry a lot of extra batteries.

Transport can also be a problem when travelling in the Arctic, where the distances are vast. Reaching isolated camps and villages can be difficult due to the limited transport. One camp I visited in Chukotka, Siberia took me a month to reach.

During my time working in the Arctic, I have travelled by a wide variety of transport from traditional Arctic transport like dog sleds, snowmobiles, reindeer sleds, and kayaks, to modern transport, like all-terrain vehicles, motor boats, helicopters, and planes.

  • Nenets Selfie, (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com
    , (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com

Having worked in the Arctic for 47 years now, what changes have you noticed to the landscape and to the people?

Of course, the whole world has changed considerably over the past 47 years and the Arctic is no exception.

The only place that I have been and noticed a significant change in the landscape is Northwest Greenland. The warming climate has resulted in the icecap and glaciers receding considerably there.

The Politiken Glacier, which I first travelled on by dog sled in 1971, was used regularly as a route to neighbouring villages and hunting grounds by the local Inuit during the winter months. Now it is impassable by dog sled because of the receding ice and the deep crevasses that have opened up.

To me, the most striking change to affect the Arctic’s native peoples has been the steady decline in their traditional culture. There have been positive changes too, better transport, schools, healthcare etc. I feel privileged to have been able to document this period of change in the life of some of the Arctic indigenous peoples.

What is your fondest memory of working in the Arctic? Or your most notable incident?

I have many fond memories of working in the Arctic, certainly too many to mention here. I think that the most memorable incident occurred on my second trip to North Greenland.

During the winter, I went walrus hunting with three Inuit hunters from the village of Siorapaluk. We travelled by dog sled and were about 30km out on the frozen sea when the ice broke up around us.

For three days we drifted out to sea on a small ice floe, before being blown back towards the Greenland coast during a severe storm. On our fourth day adrift, the local villagers realised it was likely that we were in trouble and alerted the authorities.

Once the storm had subsided a search for us began. Two helicopters searched for us for over five hours and the pilots were on the point of abandoning their search when one of them spotted us on the ice.

Fortunately, there was a happy ending for all concerned in this rather scary incident and a few days later, we all headed out onto the frozen sea to hunt walrus again.

What is your relationship with the Nenets? How did you gain access to their communities and lives?

I first visited the Yamal in 1993 on an assignment for an American magazine. Travelling in isolated areas of Russia at that time was difficult, so I was fortunate when I was offered a ride in a helicopter to visit a remote Nenets reindeer herders’ camp.

When the helicopter landed in a forest clearing, I was amazed to see how traditional the Nenets herders were. They were living in reindeer skin tents and everyone at the camp was dressed from head to foot in traditional reindeer skin clothes.

Sergei Serotetto, the head of the group of herders, invited me to have a meal in his family’s tent. We all got on very well and I ended up asking if I could stay with them. There was a problem in that I had lost my bag containing my cold weather clothing. Sergei and his family quickly solved that problem by finding me a reindeer skin parka and long boots to wear.

I ended up staying over a month with them as they travelled from the forest north across the River Ob and then onto tundra on their 1000km spring migration. The longer I spent with these herders, the more interested I became in Nenets culture and the problems the people faced.

After I returned to the UK, I managed to persuade the magazine’s editor to send me back to the Yamal again at the end of the summer, to re-join Sergey and his family as they began their journey south back to their winter pastures.

Since my two visits there in 1993, I have returned to the Yamal on a number of occasions to document life in different camps and communities. I have photographed, not only Nenets, but also different cultures like the Khanty, Komi and Selkup, who also live in the Yamal.

  • Young girl with goose, (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com
    , (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com

What was it like returning to the Nenets over the years? What surprised you the most about how the community has changed or hasn’t?

Although I have visited the Yamal region many times since 1993, it was only in 2017 that I re-visited Sergey and his family. They were at their winter pastures and it was wonderful to be with them again. It was just like visiting old friends anywhere.

At first glance, there didn’t appear to have been much change. Sergey and his family were still living in the same reindeer skin tent and his wife Galya still made reindeer-skin clothes for the family.

However, I noticed that there had been no snowmobiles in the group back in 1993, everyone travelled by reindeer sled. Nowadays every herder drives his own snowmobile.

In 1993, there had been no electricity at the camp, candles and kerosene lamps were the only light source. Now every tent had a small portable generator, bringing not just light but enough power for laptop computers and TV. Children can watch cartoons before going to sleep, and later in the evening after they have finished their work the adults can watch movies.

In 1993, gas development in the Yamal Peninsula was just beginning. I thought that within ten years there would be no more reindeer herding on the Yamal Peninsula but I have been proved wrong. Although the reindeer herders have lost a considerable amount of their pastures to the gas industry there are now many more reindeer in the Yamal than there were in 1993.

What do you hope people take away from this exhibition?

I would like to think that people will take away an insight into Nenets culture and that the exhibition may even inspire some of them to visit the Yamal see the region for themselves. 

What do you have coming up next?

At the beginning of September 2018, I will be in Moscow for the opening of my exhibition, “The Arctic Circle of Life” at the State Museum of Oriental Art. After that, I plan to travel to Siberia’s Gydan Peninsula and photograph there for about a month.

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