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Mindful journeys at the Horniman

We interviewed Sarah Strong from South London and Maudsley (SLaM) Recovery College about a resource to improve wellbeing while visiting the Horniman.

Could you explain the process of creating the resource – what did you do?

Participants of SlaM Recovery College attended our ‘Museums and Wellbeing’ course and, over a period of 6 weeks, developed the Horniman’s first wellbeing resource available to adults to explore the Museum with the aim of sustaining or boosting their mood.

We took the Wheel of Wellbeing, a visual framework based on positive psychology, as a basis for the activities to create an accessible introduction to the Museum and Gardens. As individuals or pairs we wandered around the building, responding to the displays by asking different questions about a variety of items and places. We then returned to the group, sharing our thoughts and suggestions, and discussed how our ideas might work. 

What is in the resource?

The Wellbeing Wander is a trail of sorts, a way of discovering what the Horniman has to offer in (hopefully!) manageable portions; it’s a great introduction to the Horniman if you haven’t visited before.

There are several activities to do both in the galleries and out in the Gardens, with some pointers to help you find your way. There are also some things to think about before you get there too; how you might think about objects around your own home, as well as the objects to see around the Horniman.

We’ve also provided all the useful information about facilities that can make your trip to Forest Hill a bit easier. It’s a guide that you can use again when you visit in future. It may even enhance your experience in other museums and galleries too.

Who is the resource for and why?

The resource is, first and foremost, aimed at those who have their mental and physical wellbeing in mind, but it is available to everyone.

Those who have lived experience of conditions and issues, such as anxiety or low mood, may find it particularly beneficial. Walking around the Horniman can be a mindful and calming experience, and we’ve also provided a few hints of where to go if you’d like a few moments of quiet time to yourself.

Why did you want to become involved?

I worked in a heritage collection for many years before working in mental health. I’m passionate about the importance of museums and galleries in life in general, and encouraging new audiences to discover all the amazing items they hold. I'm particularly excited about the positive role museums and gardens can play in improving wellbeing. 

How could someone use the Horniman for wellbeing? 

The Horniman is well suited for a project such as this, as it has the benefit of wonderful Gardens alongside the amazing Museum collections.

There is a variety of activities that you can participate in that can marry with the actions on the Wheel of Wellbeing, actions that have been proven to help wellbeing. This might be the very act of learning something new, taking time to observe and respond to the things around you, or just being in the open air and walking around the Gardens.

What do you want visitors to know about the resource and how would you recommend people use it?

I’d like to stress that it’s available and can be used by anyone even though it has been developed with wellbeing and mental health in mind.

You can follow every part of it or just use certain sections. You could use it as a generalised guide and apply it to other parts of the Horniman that we’ve not mentioned on the resource itself if you wish. If you know someone who gets anxious when travelling or going somewhere new, we’ve included some pre-trip things to think about to help get you on your way.

Did you learn or discover anything during the process?

I discovered just how much I miss working in the heritage sector and engaging with people who visit these places.

It was great to work with others in SLaM Recovery College who have the same enthusiasm for learning and collaborating on resources for the public at large. Working alongside a diverse range of others meant that I gained from their perspectives and it made me think about the Horniman and the needs of its potential visitors in a new way.

Why is it important to have resources like this in museums?

It’s important to acknowledge that different people interact with museums differently, and also that the spaces can be used in both traditional and non-traditional ways.

I hope that resources such as these might encourage people who don't visit museums often, or even at all, to come and investigate what's available at the Horniman.

The Wellbeing Wander resource is available online to print at home and behind the ticket desk.

Gods of the Sun

We’re taking a look at stories of some of the sun gods that feature in our collections.

Surya and Hinduism

In Hinduism, Surya is known as the solar deity and is often represented in iconography as a person riding a chariot of seven horses. This represents seven colours of light and seven days of the week. Surya was one of five deities worshipped throughout India and is ranked highly in the Vedas - a large body of religious texts - which date back to 1500 BC.

Surya is recognised in the Gayatri Mantra: one of the most powerful mantras in Hindu religion. The chant is said to create a powerful energy upon the users mind and body.

There are many stories of Surya, as he also features in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, but in Rig Veda text - an ancient collection of Indian Sanskrit hymns - Surya is believed to be created by Lord Bhrama with the sound in the universe, Om and the intelligence of Vishnu.

Have you heard of salutation to the sun (surya namaskar) or sun salutations? It’s a fundamental move in the practise of yoga.

The movements are said to be of Hanuman facing Surya as the chariot travelled across the sky, showing his gratitude for the lessons he learned, honouring Surya as the source of energy and light for the world.

  • Red shield, Shield possibly of Surya, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Shield possibly of Surya, Horniman Museum and Gardens

Ra and the Egyptians

In Egyptian mythology, Ra was worshipped as the god of the Sun and all creation, and even the king of the gods. He came in many forms, including a ram, a hawk-headed man and a scarab. In the IV dynasty, pharaohs were seen as the ‘sons of Ra’ and by the V dynasty, he was worshipped state wide, and temples and pyramids were built in his honour.

Ra is said to be a creator of all life in varying accounts. Some texts say that Ra created people from his sweat and tears, and he is also said to have brought everything into existence by uttering secret names.

Ra’s role as a creation god is strengthened by his story of renewal. It is said that Ra sailed across the skies during the day on a boat called ‘Barque of Millions of Years’. He then emerged in the east on a boat named ‘Madjet’ or ‘becoming strong’, which was called ‘Semektet’, or ‘becoming weak’ by the end of the day. Ra died by being swallowed by Nut - the goddess of the sky - and sailed in the underworld leaving the moon to light up the Earth. So, Ra is reborn at the beginning of each day and swallowed by Nut.

  • Sacrab charm, Scarab charm, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Scarab charm, Horniman Museum and Gardens

Amaterasu and Japan

In Japanese Shinto mythology, Amaterasu, meaning shining in heaven, is the goddess of the sun. With her brother Susano’o, the god of storms, they painted the landscape to create ancient Japan.

There are tales of rivalry between the siblings, which vary to some degree. Amaterasu proposed a challenge to Susano’o, to create people from an object belonging to the other. Amaterasu created three women from his sword and Susano’o made five men from her necklace. As these men were made from her necklace, Amaterasu said they were all created from her and in anger, Susano’o destroyed her rice fields and one of her assistants.

Because of this Amaterasu went into hiding in a cave, hiding the sun for a long time, which caused devils to come out of the darkness.

The god of happiness, Ama-no-Uzume, danced outside the cave, tearing her clothes off in front of the spirits (Kami) to make them laugh. Upon hearing the gods laugh, Amaterasu looked out of the cave to see a reflection of her light in a mirror that Ama-no-Uzume had put on a tree. Once out of the cave the door was closed behind Amaterasu, so she could not go back in, bathing light across Japan once more.

Amaterasu then remained with the gods whilst Susano’o was banished from heaven as punishment.

  • Panel, Item: nn1202, Embroidered panel, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Item: nn1202, Embroidered panel, Horniman Museum and Gardens

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.

About the Art: James Morgan

Award-winning director and photographer James Morgan set out to capture the lives of the Bajau Laut, the world’s last true marine nomads. These Malay peoples have lived at sea for centuries, plying a tract of ocean between the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

We spoke to James about his documentation on the lives of Bajau Laut and his current exhibition at the Horniman, Sea Nomads.

  • Portrait of James Morgan, Portrait of James Morgan, James Morgan
    Portrait of James Morgan, James Morgan

What drew you to the Bajau Laut people?

I first heard about the Bajau in relation to the 2004 Tsunami. There was a story I heard about the Moken, another ocean-based people, having an intimate knowledge of the sea and being able to predict the Tsunami and escape to deeper water.

I’m not sure how much truth there actually is to the story, but it got me interested in marine nomads and cultures with intimate links to the ocean.

How long did you spend with them to capture this series?

  • _DSC5408, _DSC5408, For the children that are born in Torosiaje, it may be several years before they set foot on dry land. The stilt village has a junior school but older children commute to the mainland. Sulawesi, Indonesia. , James Morgan
    _DSC5408, For the children that are born in Torosiaje, it may be several years before they set foot on dry land. The stilt village has a junior school but older children commute to the mainland. Sulawesi, Indonesia. , James Morgan

These images were taken over the course of numerous trips over a five-year period. I’ve visited different communities, all around Sulawesi in Indonesia, staying usually for a couple of weeks at a time.

Did you have any particular shots in mind when planning this series, or things you needed to prepare?

I didn’t plan the images, although I had a sense of the kind of story I wanted to tell – although it changed as it developed. Mostly it moved away from a romanticised notion of life at sea to a more complex portrait of a community intricately involved in destroying the environment on which they depend.

There wasn’t a huge amount of preparation, but I did learn to freedive in order to create the underwater images without needing scuba apparatus. I also learnt to speak passable Indonesian in order to work directly without a translator.

Did you use any particular equipment or software when capturing the Sea Nomad images?

These images are just from a simple DSLR in an underwater housing. Actually, a surf housing as I find them lighter and quicker to use than dive housings.

What are the difficulties or joys of photography that you face in a series like this?

Shooting a mostly uncommissioned series like this is a real joy. It frees you up to follow your instincts and interests. The challenge, of course, is that the funding has to be patched together from various grants and sponsors, so there’s quite a bit of non-photography work involved!

What would you like people to think about when they see your work?

  • _DSC8458, _DSC8458, Ibu Ani looks on as her son, Ramdan, forages the reef for clams. Since Ani's husband died of the bends whilst compressor diving, she has relied on her son to support her during the months they spend at sea together., James Morgan
    _DSC8458, Ibu Ani looks on as her son, Ramdan, forages the reef for clams. Since Ani's husband died of the bends whilst compressor diving, she has relied on her son to support her during the months they spend at sea together., James Morgan

I think the main aim of the series is just to show an unusual way of life. Particularly one that’s very connected to the rhythms of the ocean. I’m very interested in the way we create our worlds, drawing from our experiences to build up a narrative of what life is and where its boundaries lie. I hope that images like these encourage people to reimagine the world they live in.     

What made you first want to become a photographer and filmmaker?

Originally, I just wanted to travel and see new things, and telling stories was a way for me to pay my way. But the interest in travel quickly dropped away and it became much more about trying to share the internal landscapes of the people I met.

How did you get started?

I got started by selling simple travel photographs of Iceland whilst I was studying at university there.

What would you advise someone wanting to start taking photos of their own or other communities?

To interrogate why you want to do it.  

What projects are you working on now or have coming up?

I’m currently working on a feature film about a near-future expedition in the Arctic. 

Sea Nomads is currently on display in the Balcony Gallery until 23 June.


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
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 
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.

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, A heart charm
    A heart charm

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

Rituals and Food Across the Globe

During January, we take on new habits to eat healthier or cut down on things like alcohol, but have you ever wondered what food habits and rituals happen in other countries?

In the World Gallery, you can get to know the everyday rituals and ceremonies about food from across the continents through more than 3,000 objects and stories.

  • Image-1 (Module)---World-Gallery, World Gallery, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    World Gallery, Horniman Museum and Gardens


In Tibet, tea and tsampa have become so iconic that the act of mixing the ingredients has its own sign in Tibetan sign language.

A main food source for Tibetan Nomads, salted yak butter tea and tsampa (roasted and ground barley), form a nutritious and revitalising porridge that can be prepared even in harsh weather conditions. For Tibetans living abroad, eating and preparing traditional food is a powerful link to their homeland.

Watch Shapaley’s music video about the iconic food below.


The Mbendjele people of the Congo region are hunter-gathers that have existed in the Central African rainforest for 40,000 years. Hunter-gatherers live on whatever the land provides and do not farm or grow food themselves.

The Mbendjele people believe that everyone is equal and live in a society that has no leaders, grand buildings or poverty. There is no word for ‘famine’ in their language as the forest provides every resource they need.

  • Red River Hog, 1906.5.25.1 , Red River Hog, 1906.5.25.1 , Item on loan courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London
    Red River Hog, 1906.5.25.1 , Item on loan courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

The Tuareg people are a diverse group spread across Algeria, Liberia, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. They call themselves Kel Tagelmoust, "People of the Veil."

To show hospitality, the Tuareg have a ceremony of serving tea to visitors, which is drunk before and after work. Sugar is mixed into the tea (usually black tea) and sometimes mint. Often two teapots are used to mix the tea and sugar, pouring it back and forth from one pot into the other. The tea is then served in small tea glasses. Three glasses of tea are usually drunk in succession, getting sweeter with each glass. The first one is bitter like life, the second one is sweet like love and the third is light like a breath of death.

  • Ilbarad, 1971.1049, Ilbarad, 1971.1049, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Ilbarad, 1971.1049, Horniman Museum and Gardens


Across Polynesia, people share a similar understanding of mana as power, effectiveness and as prestige of divine origin. In Fiji, mana is often associated with chiefs and healers. Mana also exists within objects.

Drinking Kava is a major rite in all rituals and when receiving honoured guests. There are strict rules for the preparation of the drink and it is drunk in order of rank at chiefly rituals.

Kava is made from mixing the root of the Piper methysticum plant with water, in a special wooden bowl or tanoa. When drunk, kava produces feelings of calm and encourages contemplation and conversation. Kava has its own mana and is associated with the power of the land.

  • Kava root (Piper methysticum), nn4526, Kava root (Piper methysticum), nn4526, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Kava root (Piper methysticum), nn4526, Horniman Museum and Gardens


In villages across Poland, brown Polish bread is eaten with so many meals, it’s considered a national food. At New Year, ritual bread called Nowe Latko (New Summer) are baked in north-east Poland. These breads hang in prominent places in the home, such as a home altar, to promote prosperity in the New Year. The dough would show a householder surrounded by geese, set on a magical ring to protect against evil.

  • Bread Figure, 20.11.63/55, Bread Figure, 20.11.63/55, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Bread Figure, 20.11.63/55, Horniman Museum and Gardens

In some places dough, cheese or gingerbread figures are made for special occasions. In the Zakopane area, Redykołka cheese figures were given to family members when shepherds brought their flocks down from the mountains to the village.

  • Figure (food sample), 18.2.59/7, Figure (food sample), 18.2.59/7, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Figure (food sample), 18.2.59/7, Horniman Museum and Gardens


Our final stop is in the Americas, where we see that the special relationship the Arctic people have with nature and animals.

Providing essential energy to survive the extreme cold as food and as fuel for lamps, animal fat is one of the most important resources in the Artic.

  • Bucket, 17.13, Bucket, 17.13, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Bucket, 17.13, Horniman Museum and Gardens

The bucket, pictured above, held blubber: fat from sea mammals. The decoration of carved whales, polar bears and seals shows thanks and respect to the hunted animals. The Inuit use every part of an animal and believe they possess special attributes, which enable them to survive the cold. Using the animal skins, women would use most of their time making clothing for the community.

  • Coat, 6.12.65/653, Coat, 6.12.65/653, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Coat, 6.12.65/653, Horniman Museum and Gardens

Have you heard of the cassava root? It’s a starchy vegetable native to Central and South America that grows steadily in the Amazon rainforest.

The indigenous Waiwai eat lots of this vegetable but it has to be prepared properly, as it contains a poison called cyanide.

This cassava grater pictured below was made and used by the Waiwai people. It takes a long time to make, as tiny sharp stones have to be placed in to small holes in the wood, and then sticky tree resin is applied to hold everything in place. Once the cassava has been grated, it is then placed in a squeezer to drain out the poisonous juices. Then the washed and dried cassava is used to make flour, which can be baked into large flatbreads.

  • Cassava grater, 1969.88, Cassava grater, 1969.88, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Cassava grater, 1969.88, Horniman Museum and Gardens

All over the world, there are many different customs and rituals that happen around food. What are some of yours?

Learn more about everyday cultures in the World Gallery and on our YouTube channel. You can also download learning resources to help you navigate our World Gallery.


Your messages in the World Gallery

In the World Gallery you can discover what it means to be human but we also ask what is important to you. We’ve rounded up some of the messages and thoughts visitors left across January.

Have you left a wish, or said thank you on our Cloutie Tree? Below are a few of our visitors’ most recent messages.

I wish for prosperity and positivity in 2019. Speak what you want in existence and believe that it will come true.

I wish to get healthy again.

I wish for a digger, a giraffe, and a pirate ship.

Keep pushing on.


In January, many wish for wellbeing and set goals for the coming year. We’ve put together a guide to walking the Horniman, its architecture and some of the surprises in the Museum to help get your new year off to a great start.

One visitor said, Daffodils remind me of my mum, water and they trumpet in the Gardens.

Daffodils will certainly be back in the Gardens in a few weeks and from 28 January, the Gardens will be open until 5.20pm.

Carmen wishes for peace and freedom for Venezuela.

It was Penguin Awareness Day on 20 January and one visitor has drawn a lovely pair of penguins. You can keep up with up to date news and facts on our twitter feed.

One visitor lost their Johnny Rocket necklace with their son's name and D.O.B on it in Crete. We hope it finds its way back to you.

And happy 40th birthday to Katie, who drew this shark.

Keep sharing your thoughts and drawings with us in the World Gallery and you may be featured on the blog.

Walking the Horniman

Walking is one of the simplest exercises we can do; even 10-minute brisk walks can have great benefits to our overall health. We’ve put together a walking guide to the Horniman, its architecture and some of the surprises in the Museum.

The Architectural Walk

  • Clock Tower, Sophia Spring
    , Sophia Spring

The impressive Clocktower, made from Doutling Stone has become an iconic feature of the Horniman Museum and Gardens. Originally built in 1901, it’s a glowing beacon on top of Forest Hill. The clock tower was further extended in 1911 by Emslie Horniman, son of our founder Frederick Horniman.

Both the original building and the Emslie Horniman extension were designed by Charles Harrison Townsend.

Once you have admired the front of the building, take a walk around it to the left and you’ll find the green-roofed CUE building, which houses our Library and some offices.

The CUE building opened in 1996 and was designed by local architects Architype using methods developed by Walter Segal. The grass roof has been constructed with sustainable materials and CUE stands for Centre for Understanding the Environment.

An ecological survey of the Library building’s green roof recorded 52 insect species living there, including a rare type of ant and other unusual species. We also have a living roof on our Pavilion. They are self-sustaining and, no, we don’t mow them!

Past the Museum entrance and the Café is the Conservatory on the right.

Originally built in 1894, the grade ll Victorian Conservatory was an extension of the Horniman family house at Coombe Cliffe, Croydon. Having been abandoned for many years and in a derelict state, the Conservatory was moved to the Horniman in the 1980s and opened in 1987. The Conservatory today holds some beautiful events and even weddings, and is occasionally used by the Café as a pop-up tea room. It’s even been featured in magazines such as Vogue.

Read in more detail about the conservatory’s reconstruction and history.

Continue up the avenue and you will reach the Bandstand terrace with the beautiful views over London behind it.

The Bandstand dates from 1912 and was also designed by Charles Harrison Townsend. It was renovated in 2012 with new floorboards, its original weather vane was restored, and screens which blocked the windows for decades were replaced with glass. The Bandstand and the modern Pavilion (built in 2012) both offer beautiful views of the Meadow Field below, Dawson’s Heights and London’s skyline.

Behind you is the Dutch Barn. Frederick Horniman brought this small building back from Holland and it dates from around 1895. It now provides a useful indoor shelter for picnics in inclement weather.

Read more about Horniman’s architecture.

The Interactive Walk

Play a tune and tap a beat on the musical sculptures in the Sound Garden, the sounds echo throughout the acres connecting the Gardens to the music collections in the Museum.

Visit the Animal Walk to meet the rabbits, alpacas and sheep, as well as goats and guinea pigs. These living specimens connect us to Fredrick Horniman’s vision of linking the outside to the inside of the Horniman. Linking to the Museum’s Natural History collections, it looks at the connection between domesticated animals and their wild relations, and why people live alongside domesticated animals.

Stop by the Butterfly House, which is a warming comfort in the colder months and full of delightful creatures and plants all year round. Learn about the different species and life-cycles of these beautiful creatures from around the world, in a tropical habitat with over 500 plants.

Step into the Museum and head to the Nature Base, where you can learn about the behaviours of the wildlife living in the city. View insects close up, touch a taxidermy fox or badger, and see the harvest mice scurry. The honey bees are busy in their transparent home, making honey in their special hive.

Down the stairs and in the World Gallery you can leave your thoughts and wishes on the Cloutie tree. In the British Isles people have tied scraps of fabric to trees that grow near sacred wells or springs for thousands of years, to wish for wellbeing or thanks. Look at the wishes of others, and leave your thoughts on the tree or in our feedback area for others to ponder over.

Downstairs we have our Aquarium, where you can watch all manner of aquatic life, from hopping frogs to floating jellyfish.

  • Child at aquarium tank with Jellyfish, Laura Mtungwazi Beaullah
    , Laura Mtungwazi Beaullah

Gardens Walk

Wander through the Grasslands Garden, with wild landscapes featuring spectacular plants from North American prairie and South African grasslands. Its naturalistic planting scheme was devised by Olympic Park designer James Hitchmough and made to complement the World Gallery.

Our Sunken Gardens are a hive for botanical plants.

Admire the old olive trees before taking in the Medicine Garden. Planted in ten ‘body part’ sections, the Medicine Garden features a range of plants used to treat illness in different areas of our body. Some are local remedies that have persisted through time while others have formed the basis of modern medicines.

Next to this is the Dye Garden. Read about natural dyes and the processes used draw the dye from the plants, with different colours grouped between coloured yarn.

Admire the planting in the display around the pond. Built in 1936, the Arts and Crafts style Sunken Garden has spectacular floral displays which area planted for spring and late summer.

Behind this is the Materials Garden, featuring plants used by people around the world to make products as diverse as building materials to textiles and musical instruments.

Take a stroll up towards the Bandstand and you will pass the Pollinator bed. This border opposite the Bandstand contains about 50 different species of plants and has been designed to be attractive to pollinating insects. Pollinating insects like bees, hoverflies, moths and butterflies transfer pollen from one flower to another, helping the plants to fruit and set seed.

Follow the path higher and you will reach the Prehistoric Garden, complete with velociraptor. Prehistoric plants and living fossils are planted with information to tell you about which dinosaurs they appealed to.

Walk past the Prehistoric Garden to the South Downs meadow. This is a secluded and peaceful spot that is often quieter, featuring Canadian maple trees and spring flowers, like snowdrops and crocuses. Offering views of Kent on the eastern edge of the site, it’s a perfect spot for a little picnic.

The Sundial Trail

Have you spotted any sundials whilst walking the Gardens? There actually 12 of them and some may be read differently from what you may think. 

Solar time is a bit different from clock time. We use clock time, day to day, based on 24 hours of equal length. However, solar time changes slightly day to day due to the tilt of the earth and its elliptical orbit around the sun. Have a go at finding them all, or cheat a little and use this handy little guide.

This is just a small slice of the walks around the Horniman. Have an adventure and see what wonders you can find. 

New year, new resolutions

It’s a brand new year and usually, that means we say goodbye to our old ways and give ourselves new goals to aspire to. Setting New Year’s resolutions is a tradition around the world, so what resolutions have you made? To give you some ideas, we have rounded up some resolutions to help you get your year off to a great start. 

Be more active


You may not want to sweat out in the gym and purchase that expensive gym membership. So how about a run, walk or even a stroll in our Gardens?

Apart from the health benefits from exercise, a walk in our Gardens is free and, no matter the season, there are always new blooms of life flourishing across our 16 acres of land. Have a play in the interactive sound garden, walk your dogs or discover quiet corners for contemplation.

There are also proven mental health benefits to spending time in nature, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety. So discover what our gardeners and curators have developed outdoors, to coincide with the Museum’s collections.

Read a few more books

Did you know that every 1st Sunday of the month our library opens its doors to the public without any need for an appointment? The collection contains books covering anthropology to illustrated monographs and now has over 30,000 volumes.

The library is also staffed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and open to researchers on these days by appointment (please email enquiry@horniman.ac.uk).

Or, if you want to read more with your children, you can find books on our Natural History Gallery Balcony and a reading corner on our World Gallery Balcony.

Spend more time with family and friends

The Horniman offers many free activities, whether you are visiting alone, with a friend or with family.

From photographic displays on our World Gallery Balcony to our permanent collections there is always something to see and to think about.

In the Hands on Base, you can get closer to artefacts and objects. Whether you are interested in Mexican masks or want to learn more about endangered animals, who knows what you will discover in our free object-handling sessions.

Culture has a positive impact on wellness, so making some time for yourself in places like the Horniman, really can help you feel better.

View our Whats On calendar to see current and upcoming events and exhibitions.

Give something back to your community

  • Youth Panel , Balistic
    , Balistic

Volunteering gives an opportunity to give back to your local community, which has social benefits for groups like the over 40s.

Keep an eye on our website for ways to get involved or follow us on LinkedIn to hear about new opportunities.

If you’re aged between 14 and 19 and are interested in making a difference at the Horniman, why don’t you join the Horniman Youth Panel?

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