Collection to Source: Cosmology and ethnobotanical artefacts of the Northwest Amazon.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Brighton
Department Name: Sch of Humanities


My proposed practice-based doctoral study will focus on the Spruce Collection, a 19th century collection of Amazonian ethnobotanical artefacts at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. This collection has been the subject of a long-term research initiative at Kew, bringing together botanists, cultural historians and anthropologists from the UK and Brazil alongside indigenous source communities in order to stimulate new research and perspectives on people and plants in the Amazon. This study is practice-based and interdisciplinary, and my research will cross the fields of art, ethnobotany and ethnography. I aim to generate a narrative running from collection to source that considers how objects can be active agents, and through this process will create a new body of artworks and research that intersects with particular, pressing academic agendas relating to how we understand and represent human-material relations and their postcolonial context. In my study I will examine the Spruce collection by re-interpreting its historical significance, raising its potential as a material as well as an ecological archive, and creating new connections with indigenous source communities through artistic processes. By working with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, I will be collaborating with anthropologists, botanists and historians in the UK (including cultural historian Luciana Martins, ethnobotanist William Milliken, ethnobotanist and curator Mark Nesbitt), as well as botanists and anthropologists in Brazil. Fieldwork will form a crucial component of my research and thus there will be two sites of my study: the archive and the Amazon. During my field studies I will be based in Northwest Amazon where I will work with indigenous people from the 'source' communities from whom most of the Spruce Collection was drawn.


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