Celebrating the arts
16 October 2018 | 12:00 am

Tue, 16th Oct 2018

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.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.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.

Seeing things in Black and White
25 September 2018 | 12:00 am

Tue, 25th Sep 2018

Black and white, the two most basic colours that make up our universe are also those imbued with the most symbolism to humanity. Let there be light Diametric opposites, the contrast between black and white has fascinated us from our earliest moments. In almost all creation myths throughout human history, gods have separated the light from the dark, the white and the black, a division that has come to represent all the dichotomies that continue to fascinate us to this day – light and darkness, day and night, order and chaos, life and death. Even in their composition, the two could not be more different. Black is formed by either a complete absence or total absorption of all visible light, while white is composed of all visible wavelengths of light. For many centuries it was actually believed that white was the basic building block of all colours but in 1666 Isaac Newton demonstrated that in fact, the reverse is true.Not so blæc and hwīt Etymologically, both black and white come from Old English sources, the former being derivative of blæc while white has developed from hwīt. Like most words for colours in the English language, this means that the origin of these words is Germanic as opposed to Latin as is the case with Romance languages. While English and European languages have only one word to describe black and white, several non-European languages such as Japanese and Inuit have multiple words that can describe different hues of white. Sanskrit actually has different words for specific types of white such as the white of teeth, the white of sandalwood, and the white of cow’s milk. Black and white all over You would think that a black and white colouration wouldn't make much sense for animals but it's more common than you think and can help for a number of reasons. Animals that live in snowy regions such as the Arctic or high mountains almost exclusively sport white fur as a means of blending in with their surroundings which is useful for both predator and prey. You are far less likely to come across an animal that is purely black in colouration and the most famous example, the black panther, is actually a genetic mutation of leopards and panthers. An excess of melanin leads to a darker coat which has its own advantages when it comes to stalking prey explaining the continued existence of these offshoots.Animals that sport a combination of black and white are some of the most well known and include pandas, zebras, and penguins. It is often asked why these animals have evolved to have such an unusual combination of colours, especially as you think it would make them stand out. Scientists still aren't totally sure what the answer is. In some cases, it might be to help them blend with their surroundings regardless of the weather, or it may even be to help other animals identify them. Badgers, for example, may sport white stripes so that even in the darkness of a burrow, predators will recognise them and be deterred from picking a fight they may not win. Black is the new black Although these days it is increasingly common to wear black and white clothes casually, for generations black and white have been used to mark special occasions or to show importance. An austere black is something we have grown accustomed to seeing sported by figures of authority since the medieval period. Judges across the world often sport black gowns, and politicians are also commonly dressed in black, suggesting to us a seriousness, solemnity, humility, and clarity is at play in their thinking. From the 14th century onwards, it even became increasingly common for monarchs in Europe to favour black garments over more ostentatious colours that had previously been favoured. Around the world though, white is typically the colour of a bride's dress during a wedding although this only became a trend Europe and the Americas following Queen Victoria's decision to wear a white gown during her own wedding. Prior to this, brides would often simply wear their best clothing regardless of colour, now though white is ubiquitous with weddings. The reserved nature of black has also made it the colour of mourning in the Western world since the Roman period, although in Africa and Asia it is more common that white is worn when attending funerals. In the 19th and 20th century, black became an increasingly fashionable choice when it came to clothing. No longer simply suggesting melancholy or seriousness, black began to be viewed as a sign of elegance and sophistication. Men's formal attire for parties or ceremonies was and remains black and white, but with the creation of her "Little Black Dress" in 1926, Coco Channel made a black dress indispensable for women's wardrobes, famously saying, "A woman needs just three things; a black dress, a black sweater, and, on her arm, a man she loves." Throwing up the white flag In the realm of politics, black and white are not colours that are often adopted by the mainstream. The colour black and a black flag have been the traditional symbols of anarchism since the 1880s. In the middle of the 20th century, black was also adopted by a number of fascist political parties and both the paramilitary wings of the Italian National Fascist Party and British Union of Fascists were known as the “Blackshirts”. During the political tumult of the 19th and 20th centuries white was often associated with the cause of monarchism due to the white background of the House of Bourbon of France. The White Army which was primarily composed of monarchists and liberals opposed the socialist Red Army during the Russian Civil War. White though is most famously associated with the cause of pacifism and peaceful resistance. White flags have been used as a symbol of surrender on the battlefield since the Roman period in Europe and the Eastern Han Dynasty in China. These connections, have seen it become the colour adopted by pacifists the world over, for example, the White Rose group, a non-violent resistance group of students who opposed the crimes of Nazi Germany.

Reef Encounters: Laura Puk
20 September 2018 | 12:00 am

Thu, 20th Sep 2018

This month as part of our Reef Encounters series we spoke to Laura Puk, a PhD student at the University of Queensland, who is researching how damaging microalgae are spreading across coral reefs. What is your typical day? That depends a lot on whether I am in the field or working in the office. When I’m in the field - which can often be for weeks or months at a time - we’re often out on the water for the better part of the day. After coming back home, we need to clean our dive equipment, take care of samples, input the collected data, or work on all the pictures taken. When I’m in the office my day is very different and much more computer-based. I either work on the data collected during my field trip, read papers, write, or do all the little things that come up on the side. When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work? I’ve wanted to be a marine biologist for as long as I can remember. My interest in coral reef research began when I took a gap year after my undergraduate degree and helped monitor coral reefs in Madagascar.What inspires you in your work?  The unbelievable diversity of life and intricate interactions between marine organisms. There’s still so much to discover. What would your message for the future of reefs be? I think coral reefs have a chance if we don’t lose hope and act now. Coral reefs are in grave danger and the coral reefs of the future may look different to what we know. However, if everyone puts in an effort we may be able to preserve these incredible ecosystems and the services they provide to people. What’s your favourite creature on the reef, and why? That’s a difficult one. I sort of have a soft spot for rabbitfish, probably because of their ability to feed on algae and because rabbitfish pairs look out for each other.Sharks also still get me. When I first see them my heart rate goes up, but when you watch them calmly swimming along, it’s oddly relaxing. What kit do you use? Until recently I used a Sony RX 100 with an underwater housing, but I just got a housing for my Olympus om-d e-m 5 and am super excited to start playing around with it. Who’s your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs? I actually don’t have a proper ‘reef hero’. I admire Jane Goodall, even though she’s worked on chimpanzees not coral reefs. She went to Africa in the 1950s and 1960s as a young woman to become a scientist in a society where that wasn’t an easy journey to make. Since then she’s worked for decades to promote conservation in every field and inspired thousands and thousands of people around the world.

Around the World in 80 Objects Part Four
18 September 2018 | 12:00 am

Tue, 18th Sep 2018  Our Around the World in 80 objects tour has come to a close. We've travelled through Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, and at last, we're back in Lewisham. Every day on our Twitter for 80 days we've been posting a new object that you can see in our World Gallery as we navigated a route around the world. Find out how our journey came to an end as we followed in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg and celebrated human creativity, imagination, and adaptability around the world.These statues will be familiar to many who have visited Java. They are known as loro blonyo figures which translates to the "inseparable couple". The pair are Dewi Sri, a pre-Islam and pre-Hindu goddess from Java and her consort Sadono.https://t.co/pOMAfYwr4r pic.twitter.com/siGa1IkinY — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 15, 2018As our Around the World in 80 #WorldGallery Objects tour reaches Papua New Guinea, we're marvelling at this beautiful cowrie shell necklace.https://t.co/ysyrAp1uZd pic.twitter.com/7jvBml1A2U — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 16, 2018  Today on our Around the World in 80 #WorldGallery Objects tour we're on New Britain in the Bismark Archipelago.These masks and headdresses were made by the Tolai people of the island. https://t.co/fc1MLB9yOH pic.twitter.com/5UubQ2s8tt — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 17, 2018  A short hop to New Ireland next on our Around the World in 80 #WorldGallery Objects tour. New Ireland has been inhabited for 33,000 years and also goes by the names Niu Ailan and Latangai.https://t.co/lP7Kq4ofha pic.twitter.com/h18JoOD1tm — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 18, 2018The Solomon Islands is a nation formed of over 800 islands in the South Pacific. It's also the next stop on our Around the World in 80 #WorldGallery Objects tour.This canoe head is inlaid with mother of pearl and depicts a human head.https://t.co/QvVMTXlfgs pic.twitter.com/k2H69IIXZz — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 19, 2018This ceremonial axe was made by the Kanak people of New Caledonia from serpentinite, barkcloth, and flying fox fur.https://t.co/nieBRBMb9F pic.twitter.com/bomG4JBOGS — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 20, 2018Our Around the World in 80 #WorldGallery Objects tour has taken us to the antipodes today.This chisel was used in Maori tattooing, or ta moko, which was the rite of passage that people underwent to visually display their adulthood.https://t.co/LqoCXw35Da pic.twitter.com/Rwb0qKRAiV — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 21, 2018Clubs such as these are known as kinikini and were made in Fiji and Tonga. They were wielded exclusively by chiefs and priests and acted as a staff of office, shield, and weapon on the battlefield.https://t.co/VlcShMeK8b pic.twitter.com/UefVFvMxcl — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 22, 2018This beautiful necklace is made from shells and is from the Cook Islands of the South Pacific, the latest stop on our Around the World in 80 #WorldGallery Objects tour.https://t.co/0WEkJ4y5eV pic.twitter.com/kX1Wndtm33 — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 23, 2018The te taumangaria of Kiribati is a unique weapon combining elements of a sword and a trident.Made from coconut wood and sharks teeth, the weapon was used by the attendants of duelling champions.https://t.co/sVMF3BupzC pic.twitter.com/OWb93cZmLs — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 24, 2018Today we're stopping in Tahiti for our Around the World in 80 #WorldGallery Objects tour. Anyone for a spot of fishing? This fish hook has been made from whale ivory and the shell of a black-lipped pearl.Do we have to leave?https://t.co/GjHNApf2rF pic.twitter.com/nKB2Ko0C6U — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 25, 2018This kindly looking chap is a moai tangata from Easter Island. Figures like these are generally believed to be carvings of revered ancestors. #WorldGalleryhttps://t.co/iqmso4BSdb pic.twitter.com/ElvTTIJWIi — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 26, 2018We've managed to make it across the Pacific on our Around the World in 80 #WorldGallery Objects tour and we've set foot on the Americas at its southernmost tip.This glass arrowhead was made by the indigenous people of the Tierra del Fuego. https://t.co/lSc2bHIRG7 pic.twitter.com/nfozpJWmmF — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 27, 2018This is a collar of office made of guanaco hooves once worn by a leader of the Tehuelche people of Patagonia.Europeans originally believed the people of Patagonia to be a race of giants as they were typically taller than Europeans. #WorldGalleryhttps://t.co/s6vhuoNzHp pic.twitter.com/RZhAxUvQ7i — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 28, 2018It wouldn't be much of an Around the World tour if we didn't get lost in the Amazon.This mask has been made as a composite of a number of animals including a tortoise, an armadillo, and a caiman. #WorldGalleryhttps://t.co/nO6IONZ4t1 pic.twitter.com/rmGBipxWsZ — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 29, 2018This short cape of many colours was made by the Wai Wai people of Guyana from a collection of toucan, macaw, and parrot feathers. You can see it in our #WorldGallery.https://t.co/JRpTCQ9NfY pic.twitter.com/fCZFHmuVSG — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 30, 2018Cassava is hugely important to the Wai Wai people of Guyana both as a staple food and in rituals.This cassava grater is made of wood and stone and would be used to prepare the tuber of the cassava for consumption. #WorldGalleryhttps://t.co/nDThcMxyVe pic.twitter.com/GKu4SffcbH — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) August 31, 2018This beaded pot is a vessel for Yemayá, the mother of all things, in Santería, an Afro-Cuban religion combining Roman Catholicism and Yoruba religion. Yemayá is an adapted version of Yemoja, a Yoruba water deity. #WorldGallery https://t.co/ebzCsD7Hq4 pic.twitter.com/oyveb0y82O — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 1, 2018Mexican Trees of Life trace their origin back thousands of years but after the arrival of the Spanish they became a way of displaying the Christian creation myth.Many Trees of Life now have taken on secular stories or are purely decorative. #WorldGalleryhttps://t.co/3oKyMtA8Md pic.twitter.com/zPqHE6hI9L — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 2, 2018The next leg of our Around the World in 80 #WorldGallery Objects tour is a trek across the Great Plains of North America.It's a good thing we've got moccasins like these made by the Dakota peoples.https://t.co/UWDM9yiTmh pic.twitter.com/59QuMj2cdx — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 3, 2018War shirts such as this were worn by the bravest warriors in Dakota tribes and continue to be produced for ceremonial purposes and to celebrate special achievements. #WorldGalleryhttps://t.co/koO4XyRGaV pic.twitter.com/TApHDOVKaz — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 4, 2018This rattle was made by the Blackfoot people. The man who would carry this rattle was known as the Brave Dog and if the rattle was passed on to a new owner they would become the Brave Dog. #WorldGalleryhttps://t.co/kjgpNm9ld9 pic.twitter.com/aXIL3TAahf — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 5, 2018On our Around the World in 80 #WorldGallery Objects tour we have reached the Northwest Coast of North America.The Haida are just one of the people who call this area home and this carved wooden bowl in the shape of a hawk is used as a grease container.https://t.co/tbJV57hilp pic.twitter.com/PkGPhCCCQG — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 6, 2018These dolls are a great example of the traditional outfits of Arctic or Inuit peoples. They show the traditional parkas worn by both men and women as well as boots called kamiks. #WorldGalleryhttps://t.co/mrsmQCy8qS pic.twitter.com/IKcxD4HY5Q — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 7, 2018Due to the climate, Arctic peoples cannot cultivate crops. Instead they have lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle hunting with harpoons or knives.Inuits make use of every part of an animal when it is killed including its skin and blubber. #WorldGalleryhttps://t.co/6HXYDMeXnU pic.twitter.com/wOsupGTMfl — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 8, 2018As we traverse the Arctic on our Around the World in 80 #WorldGallery Objects tour we'll need to rest in igloos.Arctic peoples use snow knives made of walrus ivory to shape ice into blocks to build igloos from.https://t.co/mpwKbAnF5e pic.twitter.com/B09Rkqut2w — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 9, 2018This mangle board from Iceland was made in the 18th century and given as a lover's gift. It is covered in etchings and carvings, but would you be happy to receive an iron for valentine's day? #WorldGalleryhttps://t.co/va5ExZl3MH pic.twitter.com/vSQKniqd3Y — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 10, 2018What makes this door lock from the 19th century Faroe Islands remarkable is that it is identical to those used in the catacombs of Ancient Egypt. #WorldGalleryhttps://t.co/Edp1oMegrb pic.twitter.com/8XlJNqr5Fz — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 11, 2018This drinking bowl from Norway is called a viking bowl and has been carved with two horse heads to be used as handles so you can maximise your drinking capacity. #WorldGalleryhttps://t.co/0ZBgNpEeGk pic.twitter.com/QQzFWuNFzz — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 12, 2018This figure of a påskgumma, or Easter witch, is a lot more charming than the witches of Swedish folklore. Witches were in the past believed to go to Bålkulla on the Thursday before Easter to celebrate the witches’ Sabbath with the devil. #WorldGalleryhttps://t.co/xB8fKx3cvT pic.twitter.com/NIUSsMCLge — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 13, 2018We're nearing the end of our Around the World in 80 #WorldGallery Objects tour and we're heading back through Europe.This carved flint dagger is from Denmark and was made in the Neolithic period more than 5000 years ago.https://t.co/u4nbSQ23Q9 pic.twitter.com/UavaGtJsxx — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 14, 2018Pipes have been a constant on our Around the World in 80 #WorldGallery Objects tour and we won't stop that now.In 1773, this porcelain pipe was made in Germany and it's a beaut.https://t.co/WU4Kd11EA7 pic.twitter.com/AVWBM5Jg3V — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 15, 2018During the Dutch Golden Age, delftware vases such as this were sold around the world and they remain an iconic style of pottery to this day. #WorldGalleryhttps://t.co/ggSuF8Ryxp pic.twitter.com/Xe2MuxXOjN — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 16, 2018This morning we've completed our Around the World in 80 #WorldGallery Objects tour having made it back to Lewisham.We hope you've enjoyed this journey with us but we think it's time for a knees up and a cup of tea from an 18th century teapot.https://t.co/qK9m1lD0Yt pic.twitter.com/Dnz0oS5VfM — Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) September 17, 2018

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