Easter around the world
18 April 2019 | 12:00 am

Thu, 18th Apr 2019

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.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. 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.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.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.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.

Horniman and Homecoming
12 April 2019 | 12:00 am

Fri, 12th Apr 2019

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.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.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.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?

About the Art: James Morgan
11 April 2019 | 12:00 am

Thu, 11th Apr 2019

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.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?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?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.  

A new breath of life for our Wildlife Pond
2 April 2019 | 12:00 am

Tue, 2nd Apr 2019

Shayna Soong, Schools Learning Officer discusses the recent Wildlife Pond renovation and upcoming family activities and school sessions on the Nature Trail.  Nestled at the bottom of the Horniman Gardens lies a wonderful habitat corridor known as the Nature Trail. The site of a former railway, this trail is a tranquil oasis for wildlife and visitors alike. At the end of the trail lays a wildlife pond and log meadow – both fantastic habitats in their own right, and a great setting for school and family outdoor learning sessions.Unfortunately, the pond had rather suffered in recent times – the dipping platform was decaying, the water had filled up with tree leaves and duckweed, and the whole area was overgrown and gloomy.  Gardens Team to the rescue!Kevin and Daniel of the Gardens team set to work early this year, digging out the decaying old platform, clearing vegetation and excavating a new route to the log meadow.The team built a new, extended platform with non-slip strips, a seating/workspace at the back and removable barriers at the front. A fabulous walkway was also created, with steps up to a new gate providing direct access to the log meadow.The duckweed has been cleared and native marginal and submerged pond plants have been established. The tree canopy has also been reduced to allow more light into the pond. These measures will help to oxygenate the pond which, in turn, will encourage more aquatic wildlife.  There are plenty of newts living in the pond, the star of any pond dipping session, along with aquatic invertebrates such as dragonfly nymphs and water boatmen.The improvements to the pond and surrounding area will make a huge difference to the experience of families and school groups taking part in learning sessions on the Nature Trail. The Learning Team would like to extend a huge “thank you” to the Gardens Team, in particular, Kevin and Daniel, for their time and hard work. Learning outdoors   For schools, the Nature Trail is a fantastic place to bring your Science topic to life. During guided learning sessions, pupils can directly experience native British habitats and learn a range of fieldwork skills under expert guidance, and all in a safe, managed environment. For more information about Schools Learning Sessions on the Nature Trail, see Habitat Explorers for KS1 or Go Outside: Pond and Meadow for KS2 & 3. Families can also experience the wonders of the Nature Trail during supervised pond dipping sessions during the school holidays and guided Welly Walk events. Upcoming events: Pond Dipping – Tuesdays 9 and 16 April  Nature Trail Welly Walk: Signs of Spring - Saturday 27 April

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