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From Butterflies to Sawfish

Mami, talks about her experience volunteering, highlighting objects from our Handling Collection and some of our displays.

  • Mami holding turtle shell, Mami holding turtle shell, Mami
    Mami holding turtle shell, Mami

Hello, my name is Mami and I moved to the UK from Japan last year. I am a housewife, and my family members are my husband and a shiba-inu dog. I have been volunteering with the Horniman since May 2019. I am really excited to be working for the Horniman, because touching objects is very fascinating. So, I’m pleased to work and learn about the objects and English simultaneously!

I really recommend that you stop by at our touch tables when you are exploring the Horniman. I found it surprising because I had never seen a table like this in Japan. I had never seen a table like this before I came here or touched any museum objects before.

We have several objects: a sawfish, a turtle shell, a sperm whale tooth, a piece of seal skin and a fish skeleton. Today, I’d like to introduce a couple of these handling objects to you and my favourite parts of the Museum.

Sawfish (Anoxupristis caspidata)

  • Mami with sawfish, Mami holding sawfish, Mami
    Mami holding sawfish, Mami

Sawfish, Anoxupristis caspidata, are a type of ray that are closely related to sharks! They live I in shallow coastal waters like bays and estuaries in tropical and subtropical countries. Sawfish like to eat small fish and animals without a spine. They attack groups of fishes, cutting them into smaller pieces with their saws, making them easier to eat. Surprisingly, they can find food with their rostrum (nose extension) which contain sensory organs! They also use the rostrum as a club to stun the prey or to pin it to the floor before eating it. The rostrum is used as a defensive weapon against strong enemies, using it as a club to stun the prey or pin it to the floor before eating it.

All five species of sawfish are now listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This is because of loss of habitat, plastic and being caught in fishing nets left behind by humans in the sea. They are also facing threats due to plastic pollution caused by us.

Turtle Shell

You are also able to touch the shell of a green turtle. Its scientific name is Chelonia mydas. The shell is hard, like a suit of armour and so tough even a shark’s teeth can’t bite through it! Its shell enables it to swim fast, but unlike many other turtles, the sea turtle can’t pull its head and legs inside its shell to hide from its enemies. Green turtles spend their entire lives at sea and only adult female turtles come ashore when it’s time to lay their eggs.

Sea turtles often drown when caught in fishing gear, nets and long lines. Further to this, they often eat plastic bags because the bags are mistaken for foods such as jellyfish. The plastics remain in their organs and they become to be unable to eat. In the Natural History Gallery, you can see a Green Turtle, currently on loan from The Natural History Museum, London. Its surrounding display highlights the effects facing sea turtles today.

  • Green Turtle, Green Turtle, Natural History Museum, London
    Green Turtle, Natural History Museum, London

As I Live and Breathe, Claire Morgan

  • As I Live and Breathe, As I live and Breathe, 2019, Claire Morgan, Sarah Duncan
    As I live and Breathe, 2019, Claire Morgan, Sarah Duncan

In addition to these objects, you can see the stunning works, As I Live and Breathe, created by award-winning, internationally-exhibited visual artist, Claire Morgan. A gorgeous installation of spheres, which are made from colourful waste polyethene hang from the ceiling in Gallery Square. Inside the Natural History Gallery her series of works continues, combining plastics and nature in a touching display of taxidermy. See her body of work until May 2020 and read more about the exhibition and Claire in About the Art.

Butterfly House

  • Mami pointing at owl butterfly, Mami with owl butterfly, Mami
    Mami with owl butterfly, Mami

Lastly, I would like to introduce another attractive display which ismy favourite place in the Horniman, the Butterfly House.You can meet a lot of beautiful butterflies, caterpillars and pupae! They are very friendly, and sometimes they will land on you (but please don’t touch them, sorry and the plants as well). The specially planted tropical garden is kept hot and humid for the butterflies, you may even feel like you are staying at in a tropical area. I missed Japan when volunteering here, as it is similar to Japans early summer season. Some of the butterflies come from South East and East Asia, including Japan. I would be pleased to show you them if you stopped by.

When I decided to volunteer for the Horniman, it was not only to improve my English, but I also wanted to get involved in a local community. Engaging in voluntary work is best practice for me and I extremely appreciate working here. Since I started working here, my life in England has grown to be more satisfying than before. At first I was really nervous but now I really enjoy volunteering, because I can work with friendly and lovely co-workers. Whenever I am struggling they always help me. Having lunch with them is the happiest time for me, and one of my favourite times of the day.

As a volunteer, I will really be pleased if I am able to speak English better and speak perfectly when you are visiting, and this motivation always stimulates me to study not only language but also the fascinating objects. Volunteering is becoming an essential part of my life, and assists in expanding my world in this country. I am gradually building my confidence and enhancing my skills throughout the voluntary work, thanks to my inspirational co-workers and all of the great visitors.

Thank you for reading my blog, and we hope you come and experience our touch tables and fascinating objects. If you are interested in volunteering at the Horniman find out more on the website. We look forward to your visit! Thank you, Mami

About the Art: Claire Morgan

We caught up with internationally-exhibited sculptor and artist Claire Morgan about her body of artwork, As I Live and Breathe.

Hello Claire, Can you tell us about yourself as an artist? How did you become an artist?

It might be a cliché, but as early as I can remember, I always wanted to be an artist when I grew up.

At some point during school I was gently told that you can’t actually work as an artist, so I started looking at fashion design, but everything kept going back to sculpture. I studied sculpture at Northumbria Uni, and as soon as I graduated I started applying for absolutely any opportunity I could find, regardless of the fact that I had no CV.

Basically, I just kept working every waking second, and eventually I got one or two temporary commissions, and it started to grow from there. About 10 years ago I was approached by Karsten Greve, and around that time drawing started to become more significant for me.

Now my practice spans a lot of different media, and the explorations in one area feed into the other areas. Day-to-day, the hands-on side of my practice usually involves drawing, painting, planning sculptures on paper, and doing taxidermy.

  • As I Live and Breathe, As I Live and Breathe, 2019, Claire Morgan
    As I Live and Breathe, 2019, Claire Morgan

What would you like visitors to think about when they see As I Live and Breathe?

I would like them to think, and I feel like sometimes a written explanation limits the potential for that.

It is too easy to explain an artwork away to nothing, and I like my work to retain an element of ambiguity, so I don’t think it is helpful to spell out exactly what I want someone to think.

Aside from that, my work isn’t the result of a linear process – it isn’t a case of me figuring out how to make people think a certain thing, it is more that I think about certain things and the work comes out as a result of that. It’s more a process of me asking myself questions and exploring the unexpected possibilities that arise from that process of questioning.

That said, I can certainly tell you what I am thinking about, which leads to my ideas.

I am terrified by the aggressively selfish attitude we as a society have towards everything around us. We just keep consuming and consuming, and even now do little more than pay lip service to actually dealing with the mess we have made of the planet and the disastrous direction we are moving in.

I’m not for a minute suggesting that I am not complicit in this. I suppose that is part of what scares me. It is so easy to lead a double life – to be genuinely concerned about our impact, but to knowingly placate yourself by doing good yet relatively ineffectual things like refusing plastic straws, while still taking transatlantic flights and eating meat and dairy.

We hurt ourselves, mentally and physically, and we hurt what sustains us. And yet, amid all of this, there is the overwhelming beauty and frailty of life.

What is your favourite medium to work with and why?

At the moment I have been working with pastels and pigments, and the bodies of dead animals. So a bit of a broad range there!

I like having the freedom to move between different materials and techniques. The thing I enjoy most is learning. That often means I put myself in the position of doing things I find very difficult, and therefore the process can be infuriating and slow.

What is the creative process of making your sculptures and artwork?

Whether the end result is a drawing or painting or sculpture or all of those things, all my ideas tend to start in the same way.

I need to move away from my everyday working environment. That can mean going outside and walking, travelling, visiting museums, cinema, gigs and reading books. Anything that can transport me either physically or mentally.

Generally, the most productive thing is to go elsewhere. Then ideas begin to appear in the form of words or shapes. I then start to sketch these things very roughly and discover connections between them.

What drew you to using taxidermy?

When I was younger I was not interested in taxidermy at all, and perhaps I even disliked it a bit because I had jumped to conclusions and never really thought about it properly.

But I’ve always used organic matter in my work. Animals are just a part of that.

Early on I was just using bits of animals, feathers and unpreserved dead things, but as my work developed I moved away from simply exploring decay, and became preoccupied with the specific roles of the lifeforms in my work.

I wanted to be able to manipulate the specific positions of animals, and to control them visually, and to halt their decay. I found that in order to do that I needed taxidermy, and as I started to learn the various processes, my understanding of it changed entirely, and the process of touching and exploring the dead beings has become a central part of my practice.

  • Sliding Out Cold, 2019, By the Skin of the Teeth, 2019, Sliding Out Cold, 2019, By the Skin of the Teeth, 2019, Claire Morgan
    Sliding Out Cold, 2019, By the Skin of the Teeth, 2019, Claire Morgan

What motivates and influences you as an artist? What other artists are you drawn to?

I don’t think I’m motivated primarily by other artists, perhaps more by their approach, their way of thinking, and their single-mindedness and determination.

Back when I was studying, like 20 years ago, I was really influenced by people like Anya Gallaccio, Rebecca Horn and Kiki Smith. Now I’m perhaps more influenced by people working in other artforms.

The writing of David Foster Wallace has directly inspired new ideas many times.

Music is a vital part of my process when I’m working on the more expressionistic parts of drawings and paintings, and when thinking of new ideas. At the moment I use Aphex Twin, Bjork, Jon Hopkins, Fuck Buttons, Nathan Fake, Nick Cave, and various other electronic/techno stuff. It’s not just reading and listening to tunes – I cannot make work without this.

Your artwork has been a residence in some beautiful places, such as the Musse Jean Lucrat. Where has been your favourite place to display so far? Or where is your dream location to display your work?

Working at Chateau d’Oiron was pretty amazing. The location, the historical details of the chateau, and the permanent collection of contemporary art there are all very inspiring. I was offered the attic of the chateau, and there was evidence of many animals living in that room currently – or at least using it – not just insects, pigeons and rodents, but barn owls, bats, and pine martens. There was an important renaissance fresco in the room directly below, and I developed my work in response to all these things.

Dream locations… Well an obvious one in the UK is the Turbine Hall. I’d be excited by any opportunity to work on a very large scale temporary commission in a culturally or historically significant location. That seems to be the kind of situation where I work best.

Your artworks seem to play with concepts of time and fantasy, what other narratives do you feel your artwork has?

Fantasy isn’t something I really think about in relation to my work. Everything I make stems from observations and concerns about what I see around me, consciousness and our perception of reality, and the physical world.

I’m interested in the passing of time, and our complete lack of control in the face of the change that brings. That affects every other aspect of our lives, and I think it does have a considerable role in the way we try to distance ourselves from other animals and from nature, because at the end of the day nature embodies change and mortality, and that is what scares us most.

What do you have coming up?

I’m currently working towards a solo exhibition at Galerie Karsten Greve Paris in 2020.

Some projects just culminated – my exhibition at the Horniman, and a new body of work for the Fondation Daniel & Florence Guerlain Drawing Prize.

Generally I am quite drained and need to start from scratch when I’ve finished a project, so now I’m really trying to focus on my studio practice, researching and experimenting a bit, and starting to develop new ideas for the solo show.

At the moment I also have work in some group exhibitions in Germany and France.

Two suspended installations and two paintings can be seen at Biennale Ephémères, Château de Monbazillac, France, until 30 September, and other works can also be seen at Bêtes de scène, Villa Datris, France until 3 Nov 2019, and ARTENREICH – Insekten in der Kunst, Museum Sinclair-Haus, Germany, until 13 October.

All my current and forthcoming projects (and my studio and cats!) can be followed @clairemorganstudio on Instagram and Facebook, and on the news page of my website.

Horniman and Homecoming

The Horniman is excited to be involved in the Homecoming festival this year. The festival takes place from 19-21 April in Lagos and London.

Homecoming is a great celebration of Lagos art and culture. This resonates with our work at the Horniman, our commitment to music, visual art and performance, and how artists offer new perspectives on our collections.

The Horniman collections are from all over the world, while our exhibitions, displays and events bring artists from different backgrounds to show their work in our galleries and Gardens.

Homecoming gives us the chance to share some of the ideas we are working on with artists and colleagues in Lagos, and this is great timing because we have a number of projects in development.

Grace Ladoja MBE, Homecoming’s founder, says:

Homecoming's purpose is to ignite a celebration of cultural heritage and creative exchange, through the lens of music, fashion, sport and art.

In the Horniman, we're delighted to have the support of one of the UK's most culturally significant institutions for this year's edition. Their collection - one of the most expansive in the world - is steeped in Nigerian heritage and the Museum is already doing some wonderful work with artists and creatives in Nigeria, particularly in the run up to the country's 60th year of independence in 2020.

I'm confident this collaboration with the Horniman will help bring new audiences to the Horniman, while creating heightened visibility for Nigerian creatives under an international lens.

We’d love to hear more about the projects that are happening in Lagos, find ways to connect to them and share our ideas with you.

So what are we doing here in London?

Jide Odukoyo, Turn it Up

Jide Odukoya is a Nigerian photographer, whose first photographic pursuits were on the streets of Nigeria, including cities such as Lagos, Ogun, Ibadan, Ekiti, Benue, Oyo, Calabar, Enugu, Abuja and Port Harcourt. Now he majors in both long and short-term documentary photography projects focused on lifestyle, socio-economic issues, health and gender equality issues in Nigeria and beyond.

  • An image from Turn It Up by Jide Odukoya, An image from Turn It Up, Jide Odukoya
    An image from Turn It Up, Jide Odukoya

We were interested in Odukoya’s approach at the Horniman, and commissioned a series of photographs and film footage documenting the busy street markets on Lagos Island for the new World Gallery back in 2016.

Odukoya will be showing his recent series, Turn it Up, on the Balcony Gallery above the World Gallery. 'Turn it Up' is Lagosian vernacular for lavish fun. Odukoya shows Nigeria abuzz through public displays of cosmopolitan affluence and indulgence, celebrating Nigerian weddings and parties as some of the world's most opulent and outrageous ceremonies.

Through his work, Odukoya also wishes to evoke the paradox of such opulence, highlighting how momentary overindulgence is an important part of Nigerian cultural identity because the wealth that supports it is so fragile. See this display from June 2019.

Music in South London

The Horniman has one of the biggest collections of musical instruments in the world. The objects within come from all over the world, from 4,000 year old Egyptian hand clappers, to one of the first dance band drum kits in London and many instruments from Nigeria.

Our home in the heart of South London, puts us in the midst of a thriving and dynamic music scene, including Jazz, Grime and Afrobeat. Over the next two years we will be working with a range of musicians from the area, giving them a chance to work with our music collections and develop new work.

  • 1930s Drum Kit, 1930s Drum Kit
    1930s Drum Kit

This project, which is the first of its kind, will result in a major exhibition and music festival in autumn 2020.

Textiles and Independence

In October 2020, Nigeria will celebrate its 60th anniversary of Independence. We will be marking this at the Horniman with a new display in the World Gallery focusing on textiles, objects, images, sounds and memories from Nigeria in 1960.

We have a significant collection of mid-century indigo-dyed Adire cloth, printed wax cloths and woven Aso’Oke and Ekwete from the south and east, as well as thicker woven cloths from Kano in the North.

  • A close up of Nigerian textiles, A close up of Nigerian textiles - 1968.434
    A close up of Nigerian textiles - 1968.434

These textiles speak to a moment of artistic production and cultural reflection that surrounded Nigeria’s independence. They also reflect how this moment was one of migration and movement, with these textiles following their owners, as both Nigerian and British citizens resettled in the UK.

We will also be working with Nigerian/British artist Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, weaving her own personal collection of objects and family memories from Nigeria in 1960, and creating new objects reflecting on the legacies of this moment in the present.

We hope to invite other people living in both Nigeria and Britain, to share their stories and photographs from and around the time of Nigerian independence, and to discuss how independence is remembered and reflected on today.

We’re interested in hearing what else is going on in London and Lagos, as part of this cultural exchange. What are your plans and how can we work together?

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.

About the Art – Shauna Richardson

Crochetdermy® is a technique that you have created yourself. Can you tell us about the development process behind Crochetdermy® - how you came up with it and what it entails?

Crochetdermy® pieces are realistic life-size animals created using a freestyle crochet technique which I began to develop in 2007 when crochet was an endangered craft in this country. 

I came up with the name Crochetdermy® both to better describe what I do and as a way of holding people’s interest. Pre coming up with the name I found that people would drift off when I introduced myself as someone who crocheted animals.

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.

I enjoy interventions and playing with preconceptions. The first piece of Crochetdermy® I created was a 7ft brown bear which I entered into the Burnham Market Flower and Produce show in the ‘One Crochet item’ category. The memory still makes me laugh.

What inspired you to create this exhibition?

This exhibition, EVOLUTION of The Artist and The Exhibited Works, was an opportunity to display not only a selection of Crochetdermy® pieces  which demonstrate surface skills, but also with the graphs and charts - a little of what makes me tick. If there was one piece in the Horniman collection that I could cite as a source of inspiration it would be the Mendelism mice.

The exhibition includes bears, lionesses, boars, and monkeys, what drew you to these animals?

The trophies form an intervention within the existing museum display, there is something intriguing about the juxtaposition. The baboon skin is a new piece created specifically for this exhibition. Although an empty skin, the baboon reveals something of the evolution of the works,  demonstrating technique and the creation process.

How long does a piece take to make? Do you use live examples or taxidermy to help you create your work (or both)?

I have made some very large pieces. The biggest - The Lionheart Project - was made up of three 25ft lions, this took 18 months to create. More typically something like the baboon skin would take 6-8 weeks.

I use all sorts of sources for anatomy reference but by far the most referred to and most useful is my (live) Jack Russell - The Bean. 

Are there any other mediums that intrigue you? 

Everything intrigues me. I annoy friends, family, and not least myself with wanting to have a go at everything. One lifetime will certainly not be enough.

What impact have Natural History museums and galleries like the Horniman’s had on you and your work?

The impact that Natural History Museums have had on my work I think is plain to see. This side of my character is a bluff old traditionalist, revelling in historic hushed woody rooms full of glass cases. 


How do you hope people will react to your pieces? What would you like them to think about?

My job is to make and display the pieces, people will react individually and on their own terms. Within the show there is a comment upon the status of creativity within mainstream education, it is a small gesture but secretly I would be thrilled if this were to be noticed. 

What is next for you?

A large bear is about to be unveiled at the opening of a new MOXY hotel in Downtown New York. Also America bound is a metallic gold wolf skin which is to be exhibited in Excellence in Fibres! at the San Jose Museum until January 2019. Private commissions tend to keep me busy.

Celebrating the arts

Disguise. Layers. Extraordinary and ordinary. Natural and man made. These are just some of the themes that art students come to explore at the Horniman.

  • Drawings by Artsmark students, Drawings by Artsmark students
    Drawings by Artsmark students

Artsmark celebration week ran from 8 – 12 October and is a national celebration of arts and culture. Artsmark is the creative quality standard for schools, accredited by Arts Council England. Artsmark provides a framework for teachers to plan, develop and evaluate arts, culture and creativity across the curriculum.

The Horniman is an Artsmark partner, so we support schools to achieve their Artsmark status and schools can visit us as part of their award.

During Artsmark celebration week, Sacred Heart School from Camberwell brought their year 11 GCSE group to explore the theme of disguise. Luckily we have around 3,000 objects in the handling collection that pupils can touch, photograph and draw to build up their sketchbook as part of their GCSE topic.

  • Drawings by Artsmark students, Drawings by Artsmark students
    Drawings by Artsmark students

We explored camouflage in animals, looking at a zebra skin and stoats that change colour with the time of year. The pupils also looked at textiles, puppets and masks for inspiration for their final piece. As part of their visit, the students also explored the new World Gallery to look for further examples of disguise.

Pupils from Langdon Park Secondary School from Tower Hamlets also visited during this celebration week and their theme was ‘Layers’. Pupils explored clothing, seed pods, gourds and even an armadillo carapace.

We celebrate the arts all year round at the Horniman with handling sessions for schools for art, music, textiles and puppets. Find out more about Artsmark, and Horniman school sessions. Check out more artwork by schools visitors.

  • Drawings by Artsmark students, Drawings by Artsmark students
    Drawings by Artsmark students

Think Pink

Time for perhaps the most divisive of the colours. We take a look at Pink.

How did pink get its name?

We are used to thinking about pink as a colour in its own right, but it is a paler shade of red and as such is the only hue we’re covering in this series.

The word pink was first used related to colour around the 1680s prompted by a type of Dianthus flower known as pinks. These flowers got their name due to their frilly edges, which was known as pynken in Middle English – finishing an edge of cloth with a patterned, cut or scalloped effect, as is done with pinking shears.

  • Dianthus-plumarius - pinks, Pinks or Dianthus-plumarius, Sten CC BY SA 3.0
    Pinks or Dianthus-plumarius, Sten CC BY SA 3.0

In Europe, pink is often referred to as rose relating it closely to another type of flower, and going back to Homer’s “Rosy-fingered dawn” in the Odyssey.

In nature

Pink is very common in nature, mainly in flowers although lots of other species sport the colour. Bright, vibrant colours attract insects and pollinators which are crucial to plants fertilising, or in the case of fruits like raspberries or strawberries, may offer great opportunities for seed dispersal when eaten. Their pigment comes from anthocyanins which are pigments that can appear to be shades of red, purple or blue.

  • Roses in the Horniman Gardens, Roses in the Horniman Gardens, Connie Churcher
    Roses in the Horniman Gardens, Connie Churcher

There are lots of pink animals too. From flamingos to dolphins, pigs to moths. Some animals get their colour from a diet rich in carotenoids, which we looked at in our yellow blog. Other animals, like pigs, have been selectively bred this way or use it as part of their rich plumage like hummingbirds.

  • Elephant hawk moth from our collections, An elephant hawk moth from our collections
    An elephant hawk moth from our collections

There are several pink minerals, including rose quartz, rhodochrosite, and pink topaz. There are rare pink beaches, coloured by years of coral erosion, and pink brick or sandstone buildings can be seen from India to Argentina.

Popular and powerful

According to a study by Eva Heller in 2009, pink is most closely associated with sensitivity, childhood, femininity, sweetness, and romance, in Europe and the US. The association with pink as feminine stems from just before World War I but didn’t become established until the 1940s and the baby boomer generation. Previously, boys were pictured in pink because red was associated with activity and aggression, and pink was a hue of red, deemed to be a stronger colour compared to blue.

Commerce has had a role to play in pink or blue being associated with gender.

In the past, lots of clothes were white, as these could be bleached easily when stained or dirty, and white was (and still is) associated with innocence, particularly in children's clothes. By pushing consumers towards a new colour code for children, shops could sell more products as you would buy different clothes for boys and girls, rather than reusing clothes multiple times across families or generations. Toys aimed at girls featuring pink packaging is also a more recent trend, coming into prominence in the 1980s and 1990s.

  • Gendered toys, An aisle of pink toys, Josh Puetz via CC BY-NC 2.0
    An aisle of pink toys, Josh Puetz via CC BY-NC 2.0

Although is it not uncommon to see men wearing pink, it is still not very popular with men. Only 1% of men would choose it as their favourite and only 7% of women.

In Thailand, pink is associated with the day Tuesday, while in France, a reddish-pink is the colour of medicine in academic dress. In Japan, pink is associated with spring because of the cherry blossoms, but it is also the colour of ‘off-colour’ jokes. In China pink is associated with westernisation, and is considered a foreign colour.

Pink is often used as a symbol of sexuality, particularly in LGBTQIA communities and the original pride flag had a pink stripe to represent sex. Women wore pink pussy hats in the 2017 Women’s March. In Japan, erotic movies are called pink films and recently, Janelle Monáe sang about female sexuality in her song Pynk.

Because of the way the colour has been applied to gender, there is some pink backlash, with campaigns like Pinkstinks opposing the ‘pinkification’ of girlhood. ‘Pink tax’ refers to the higher costs paid by women and girls in products from dry cleaning to bicycle helmets.

Pink in the arts

The phrase ‘in the pink’ means being in good health and dates back to the sixteenth century, meaning to be the very pinnacle of something. It is used by Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet (Act 2, Scene 4):

Nay, I am the very pink of courtesy.

Pink was most commonly used for flesh tones of white people in European art, and features as the colour of male infant dress. It really got trucking in the 18th century with Madame de Pompadour, who made pink and blue fashionable colours at the French court, and the hue Rose Pompadour is named for her.

  • Portrait of Marquise de Pompadour, Portrait of Marquise de Pompadour, Francois Boucher (via Wikimedia)
    Portrait of Marquise de Pompadour, Francois Boucher (via Wikimedia)

In the early twentieth century, Elsa Schiaparelli created shocking pink and used it across her designs, lending the name to her perfume. Marilyn Monroe wore a now iconic pink dress when singing that Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, Mr. Pink rallied against the name in Reservoir Dogs and Mean Girls wore pink on Wednesdays.

From Kay Thompson to The Pink Panther, The Psychedelic Furs to Nicki Minaj, pink pops up in music just as much as film, fashion, and art. Listen to our playlist of pink-influenced songs.

Learn more about colour in our family-friendly exhibition, Colour: The Rainbow Revealed.

The 2018 Artquest research residency

Artquest, in partnership with the Horniman, are offering a research residency for one London based artist to focus on our collections.

  • The Horniman Bandstand, The Horniman Bandstand in our Gardens
    The Horniman Bandstand in our Gardens

The residency includes:

  • An award of £3000 to engage with the work and collections of the museum
  • An additional award of £850 towards a public facing event showcasing the thinking and research undertaken during the residency
  • Privileged access to museum’s music collection objects and curators

For the 2018 residency we are interested in hearing from applicants to engage with any of our collections (Anthropology, Aquarium and Animal Walk, Archive, Butterfly House, Natural History, Gardens or Musical Instruments) and we particularly welcomes applications from artists with a participatory or socially engaged practice.

Please note, that this is not a studio residency and applicants are expected to have their own studio / workspace to complete any work.

Find out if you are eligible for the residency and apply on Artquest by 10am on Monday 13 August 2018.

Saint George, Patron Saint of Ethiopia

We're sure that many of you are familiar with the story of Saint George. As the Patron Saint of England, his legend is one well known across the country.

Even if you aren't familiar with George himself you'll have seen the cross of Saint George everywhere - from flags on government buildings to football strips.

Saint George isn't just the Patron Saint of England though. George's patronage extends to amongst others, Aragon and Catalonia, Georgia (unsurprisingly), Moldova, Palestine, and Ethiopia. In our collections from Ethiopia in particular, Saint George features prominently. So just why has the East African nation taken the Saint to their hearts?

Ethiopia, along with its neighbour Eritrea, is something of an exception in the Horn of Africa, in that it is a nation in which the majority of the population practices Christianity. Christianity in Ethiopia takes the form of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church which traces its roots all the way back to the Apostles. Made the official church of the Kingdom of Axum in the 4th century AD, making it one of the earliest nations to adopt Christianity, it has remained the dominant religion in Ethiopia ever since. In fact, the Kings of Ethiopia claimed descent from the biblical figures of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.  

  • Saint George 001, Depictions of Saint George slaying dragons and beasts from horseback are common throughout Christianity, the decision to depict the saint with a darker skin tone, however, is not.
    Depictions of Saint George slaying dragons and beasts from horseback are common throughout Christianity, the decision to depict the saint with a darker skin tone, however, is not.

It is unclear quite how the story of Saint George first came to Ethiopia. Saint George is an important figure in the Middle East particularly in Palestine and Lebanon - it is said he was born in either the Levant or Cappadocia - and may have been introduced to Ethiopia by contact with other Oriental Orthodox churches such as the Coptic Church of Egypt. 

  • 465px-Bete_Giyorgis_03, The Biete Giyorgis is dedicated to Saint George and is considered the greatest example of the rock-hewn churches at Lalibela.
    The Biete Giyorgis is dedicated to Saint George and is considered the greatest example of the rock-hewn churches at Lalibela.

One thing that's very clear though is how important George is in the East African state. In the town of Lalibela, an important pilgrimage site for Ethiopian Christians, eleven churches were hewn from rock between the 7th century AD and the 13th century AD. This monumental task means that the churches are found in subterranean trenches with the earth around them excavated to create the form of magnificent church structures. The best preserved and best-executed church in Lalibela is the Biete Giyorgis, the Church of Saint George. Allegedly, this church was sculpted under the orders of Gebre Mesqel Lalibela - after whom the town is named - in the 13th century AD after Saint George visited him in a vision instructing him to do so. 

Addis Ababa's cathedral is dedicated to Saint George, as is the city's leading football team. There's even a beer named after Saint George.

Saint George is a popular figure in Ethiopian iconography often appearing on horseback driving his lance or spear into the dragon he so famously slew. Just as George's role as a warrior saint made him a popular figure amongst knights and crusaders of Europe, his association with war and battle is prominent when examining our collection of depictions of George in Ethiopian art. The two paintings featured below depict Saint George at the heart of one of Ethiopia's most important historical moments, the Battle of Adwa.

  • Battle of Adwa 01, Depictions of the Battle of Adwa are in ample supply thanks to the significance of the battle in Ethiopian history. In this painting, Saint George provides Ethiopian forces with divine inspiration from the heavens.
    Depictions of the Battle of Adwa are in ample supply thanks to the significance of the battle in Ethiopian history. In this painting, Saint George provides Ethiopian forces with divine inspiration from the heavens.

At the end of the 19th century, Africa had been carved up by the European powers at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85. All of Africa was claimed by European empires with the exception of two states, the Republic of Liberia and the Ethiopian Empire. Despite this, in 1895, the Kingdom of Italy invaded Ethiopia to further its colonial ambitions in the Horn of Africa. Despite initial Italian success, Ethiopian forces would rout their opponents at the Battle of Adwa in 1896, ending their imperial ambitions in Ethiopia. According to the historian Raymond Jones, Adwa stands out as one of the significant events of the 19th century as "In an age of relentless European expansion, Ethiopia alone had successfully defended its independence."

  • Battle of Adwa 02, As above, this painting of the Battle of Adwa portrays Saint George, Emperor Menelik II, and Empress Taytu, leading Ethiopian troops into battle.
    As above, this painting of the Battle of Adwa portrays Saint George, Emperor Menelik II, and Empress Taytu, leading Ethiopian troops into battle.

In both paintings, we see the amassed forces of Ethiopia and Italy facing off against each other across a battlefield. The Ethiopian forces are also led by the same three figures in both paintings - Emperor Menelik II, Emperess Taytu, and Saint George. Saint George soars above both scenes surrounded by a halo of red, green, and gold, the colours of the Ethiopian flag, granting divine inspiration to the forces of Ethiopia. In one case he even hurls his spears into the massed ranks of the Italian army. 

The Battle of Adwa is commemorated to this day in Ethiopia as a national holiday, with public celebrations held in towns and cities across Ethiopia every year. Each year they celebrate the leadership of Menelik II, Tatyu, and of course Saint George.

Artist Commission: The Studio 2019

We are looking for an exceptional artist with a collaborative practice for our 2019 Studio commission. 

What is the Studio?

The Studio is an exciting, new contemporary arts space at the Horniman, as well as a collaboration between the Horniman, artists and local community partners. The successful artist will join the Collective, the working group who programme the Studio. The chosen artist will be commissioned to create a new artwork as part of an exhibition opening to the public in October 2019.

The Studio will open for the very first time in October 2018. We will commission a new exhibition programme each year inspired by the Horniman’s collections.

The Studio aims to be a hub for exciting events and activities alongside its exhibitions programme, co-curated by artists, community groups and partners working with the Horniman.

The Commission

The Studio in 2019 will focus on Memory. Museums play a vital role in mediating memory, since they often present objects, images and stories from the past. 

Anthropology museums have a particular responsibility in how they present the way the past speaks to the present.

They need to provide a space for contested and alternative forms of memory to flourish. Such memories often challenge and re-orientate the Horniman's curatorial voice, creating both social cohesion and disruption amongst its visitors.

Selection Criteria

We are looking for an artist with great experience of working with people, and involving communities within their work. The artist will also have experience of exhibition-making in their portfolio of works but is not required to have had past experience of working with museums or museum collections.

  • Artists with a practice in social arts or socially-engaged arts, who work together with people and community as part of their practice. We will also consider applications from artist-led organisations where artists share a collaborative practice.
  • Artists who have a track record of creating exhibitions as an outcome of participatory process.
  • Artists who can demonstrate best practice and ability to engage the public in critical enquiry through their work.
  • Artist’s Expression of Interest statement on why the area of enquiry is of interest and interest in the Studio.

Please note: we are not looking for a proposal idea response to the enquiry in your Expression of Interest at this stage of application.

Next steps and application

Download and read the Guidance in the open call document below:

Then submit

1. A brief Expression of Interest statement of no more than two A4 sides that include the following information:

  • Why you are interested in the area of enquiry (see above section Commission Area of Enquiry). No more than 500 words.
  • How you may work collectively or collaboratively with community partners and curators. No more than 700 words.
  • How this opportunity will support your own artistic practice. No more than 500 words.

2. Visual examples of your work. Select three examples that best represent your practice in relation to the criteria outlined in this brief. Please send these as a separate document or signpost us to links of these works online. Please note that if you are emailing us images we are unable receive emails over 9MB.

3. An up-to-date CV (Curriculum Vitae).

To Anila Ladwa, Curator of Studio Programmes (aladwa@horniman.ac.uk) by 5pm on Tuesday, 3 April 2018, with the subject line ‘Studio 2019 Expression of Interest’.

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