茶, चाय, Tea (Chá, Chai, Tea) will explore the global history of tea and its contemporary implications. It will invite conversation and discussion around the meanings of an accessible, relevant and seemingly everyday ‘cuppa’.

The Chá, Chai, Tea project will focus on a collaborative exploration of the Horniman collections from and connected to Asia, reinterpreting them and making them more accessible. The project will include a temporary exhibition, a legacy display and a public programme bringing new meanings to the Horniman’s Asian collections.

We will place the communities that are most connected to these legacies at the heart of the conversation using our collection to explore identity, nationality, culture and the living legacies of imperialism that often go unnoticed and unacknowledged. This work is not just for the Asian community but will also be led by the Asian community.

Through this co-production, the Horniman’s Asian collections will have new and diverse perspectives, lenses and conversations applied to them that would be otherwise impossible to achieve.

Horniman’s tea

The project will consider the Horniman as not only a steward of objects that are rooted in imperial history but as an active proponent of empire.

Horniman’s Tea Company actively played a role in the trading of tea and profiting from the exploitation of peoples under colonial subjugation.

Museum tea and teaware collections are inherently colonial due to the drink’s relationship with orientalism, the Opium Wars and sugar production. These themes can be further examined through the intersections of class, gender, sustainability and workers’ rights.

The project will platform and centre the narratives, voices, and perspectives of the Asian communities who are most closely connected to the narrative of tea and most impacted by the legacies of this history today.

We have reached out to a mixture of organisations, networks and individuals – from local community organisations that work with specific groups of identity to wider-reaching networks and collectives who work in coalition with international partners exploring de-colonial narratives and issues of social justice.

Our confirmed consultation and co-development partner list currently is:

Our critical friends on the project are:

  • Yurika Imaseki, Curator
  • Sabita Banerji, Chief Executive of THIRST
  • Arup Chatterjee, Academic

Maia Conran, Artist and Researcher on the Tea Project

Artist Maia Conran is the Horniman Museum Arts Fellow. The Fellowship, in collaboration with University of the Arts London (UAL), will take place in dialogue with the 茶, चाय, Tea (Cha, Chai, Tea) Exhibition.

The project will use photography, film, installation and performance in ways that research tea as a cultural practice, drawing a connection between the advent of photography and the Horniman’s Tea business – both of which were founded or developed around 1826.

If tea marks a social time, photography is its equal for recording time spent together. Through practices of sharing and hospitality, this project proposes not ‘the story’ but ‘stories’ of tea as a social and collaborative process. The fellowship will draw out imperial and postcolonial relationships between photography, tea and time over the next three years.

The Fellowship will begin by inviting discussions and engaging with the Horniman’s collection. Maia Conran will convene a conference in 2024, inviting diverse, critical perspectives on tea, photography and time, hosted by both institutions.

About Maia

Maia Conran is an artist from North Wales and Course Leader of BA Fine Art Photography at Camberwell College of Arts, London. She exhibits in solo, collaborative and group exhibitions, screenings and awards internationally.

Maia has been awarded residencies at Cardiff Contemporary Art Festival; Glyn Vivian Gallery Swansea, Standpoint Gallery, London, and the National Slate Museum of Wales. A single screen version of her multi-screen film Term is published on DVD by Filmarmalade and her work is the subject of a monograph published by Grand Union Gallery, Birmingham.

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