Exploring people’s deep-rooted relationship with plants, water and the natural world, this is a multi-sensory exhibition, centred around five large-scale ceramic pieces by artist Serena Korda.
Their bulbous organic forms incorporate plant matter from the Horniman’s 16-acre Gardens, and reference objects from the Horniman’s anthropology collection. Each ceramic work releases an individual scent, replicating essential oils distilled from plants in the gardens, and complemented by a blended scent infusing the whole exhibition space. The site-specific soundscape features music created from signals occurring in plants and trees.
The exhibition is completed with a display of 100 objects from the Horniman’s world-class anthropology collection, chosen because they reflect people’s spiritual and cultural relationships with plants and water across different times and places. Objects on display include: a statue of Mami Wata, an African water deity; a dowsing stick, a device used to locate underground water; an udu drum also used as a water vessel; and an array of pipes, scent and incense holders from across the world.
A highlight of the exhibition is a rare volume of Anna Atkins’ Photographs of British Algae (1843), the first ever photographically illustrated book. Anna Atkins (1799-1871) was an English botanist who used cyanotypes for her work and is considered by some to be the first female photographer. For this exhibition, a series of cyanotypes has been created of plants from the Horniman Gardens and other objects, using the same technique as Atkins.