Amerindian history lesson by Csáky Associates

A £250 000 exhibition tracing the culture and movement of the early tribes of the Amazon and Caribbean opens at London’s Horniman Museum this weekend, designed and structured by Csáky Associates.

Amazon to Caribbean: Early Peoples of the Rainforest examines the passage of the WaiWai tribes from the South American rainforests, down the River Amazon and north into the Caribbean Antilles region.

The 600m2 zoned exhibition space presents artefacts that explain the art, identity and customs of the tribes, drawing parallels with modern day living.

Csáky Associates has been developing the exhibition for the past year, having won the project in a creative pitch. ‘We are trying to create a link between the local communities of south London, the Caribbean and back into its history,’ explains consultancy creative director John Csáky.

Graphic elements, created by consultancy graphic designer Nick Foote, draw on the geometric shapes used by the tribes on artefacts such as skirts and rugs, as well as the graters and sieves used to prepare cassava, an indigenous South American plant that was central to life in Amerindian societies.

The natural world played a major role in Amerindian folklore – the jaguar and anaconda were especially revered – and the graphics and exhibition interiors reflect this with a natural colour palette and an ‘immersive environment that feels jungle-like’, according to Csáky.

The tribes also held a cosmological view that the universe is composed of three separate, stacked layers/ the sky, the Earth and the underworld, from which it was thought women originated. Foote has created a graphic depiction of this mythology, using petroglyph- style representations that will also feature in the exhibition.

‘The cultural links between the upper Amazon and the Caribbean Antilles is a relatively unexplored subject and [the exhibition] will offer visitors the opportunity to discover an exciting new perspective on Amerindian culture,’ says Horniman Museum director Janet Vitmayer.

Interactive elements, including a mock-up canoe and paddles, are located in each corner of the museum space. Large printed screens, created by Csáky Associates and produced by BAF Graphics, have been designed to be used like ‘theatrical sets’ that can be easily repositioned when the exhibition travels around the UK after its 12 months at the Horniman Museum.

The exhibition was designed in collaboration with Horniman Museum head of anthropology Hassan Arero and exhibition manager Maria Ragan.

It will feature contemporary works of art by Caribbean artist Aubrey Williams and is opening to coincide with the launch of Black History Month, which takes place each October throughout the UK, as well as the closing of the Africa 05 celebrations.


• Opened in 1901 by Victorian tea trader Frederick John Horniman

• Collections seek to encourage a wider appreciation of the world, its peoples, their cultures and environments

• A £1.5m aquarium set to open in spring 2006

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