Ananse, Wisdom, and the World of Trees: Working in partnership with our local audiences  | Urban Nature Project

Connecting audiences with nature is at the heart of everything we do.  Thanks to money from National Lottery players, we are working on the Urban Nature Project to transform our gardens and visitor experiences at the NHM.

We have been connecting with our local community to help shape what goes into the new activities in the gardens, what stories of people, plants and animals should be shared, and how the activities should look and feel.

Lauren Hyams, the Museum’s Head of Urban Nature Project Activities tells us more about this work…

Children from St Thomas CE Primary School show off some of their creations. Trustees of the Natural History Museum

Co-creating a family trail  

Last year, working with storyteller Mama D of Community Centred Knowledge, we created a self-guided activity trail for the gardens that takes audiences on a journey around some of the trees in the Wildlife Garden. The theme of the trail links to a well-known Ananse story, and participating families are invited to help Ananse by gathering the common-sense wisdom of the trees in the gardens.

The trail aims to create a fun experience for families in the Museum’s gardens. They’ll learn the names of some common trees, engage with the cultural and ecological significance of trees and enjoy stories from the global south. 

Caribbean diaspora elders, Ananse stories and memories of nature  

In October 2021 we ran 3 sessions with a group of 19 Caribbean diaspora elders who use the Pepper Pot Centre in North Kensington. We wanted to collect the wisdom of the Caribbean elders around trees, nature, and their memories of Ananse stories from their childhood.

The session with the elders included song and movement, fruits and vegetables to taste and smell and cloths to handle.  From their stories and wisdom, we created a script for a film that will enhance the trail by sharing more about Ananse.   

Maha Shami, the Museum’s Community Engagement Assistant and Animation Lead for the Urban Nature Project tells us about the experience: 

 “Working with the elders at the Pepper Pot community centre was an absolute privilege. They had an endless amount of insight, perspectives and knowledge on the Ananse story, nature and life. We shared traditional Caribbean songs, foods and drank Sorrel. One lady named Joyce taught me all about how she grew up on a farm in the Carribean and how she volunteered at the Natural History Museum in her youth. We learned a lot from the elders and so are hoping this film can platform some of their invaluable wisdom and I am hoping we can continue our relationship with the PepperPot community centre.” 

Children’s art workshops  

During workshops with brilliant artists aged 8-11, of West African and Caribbean heritage from St Thomas CE Primary School we collaboratively created a storyboard and visuals for the Ananse film. 

Join us in 2023

Visit our transformed gardens in summer 2023 to help Ananse gather the common-sense wisdom of the trees and watch the films created collaboratively with the Caribbean elders and young artists.  

To find out more about the Urban Nature Project, and how you can get involved visit nhm.ac.uk/about-us/urban-nature-project.

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