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The Healing Pavilion

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Photograph of a gallery exhibition space showing large tapestry hung on a wooden wall. The tapestry is made up of a black and white, archive photograph, from the early 20th century showing a group of white men and women gathered in a group holding museum artefacts in their hands or on their laps. They are surrounded by other museum exhibits and display cases. The tapestry is framed with a bright yellow border. Surrounding the tapestry is a wider wooden structure containing seating and alcoves. To the right of the image a gallery visitor reclines in one of the alcoves with her back to the tapestry, in contemplation. To the right two more visitors, one sitting, one standing are looking at the tapestry. The standing visitor is listening to an audio guide on headphones. The hues of the scene are warm browns and olive greens.
The Healing Pavilion, exhibition, Artworks: Grace Ndiritu. Gallery photos: Steven Pocock. Source: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

‘The Healing Pavilion’ is a new art commission by British-Kenyan visual artist Grace Ndiritu. It radically reimagines what textiles and architecture can do in a museum burdened by colonial history. It is deeply connected to Ndiritu’s ongoing body of work, ‘Healing The Museum’ which she began in 2012.

The installation consists of two tapestries within a site-specific structure, inspired by Zen Buddhist temples in Japan. It is designed to re-activate the museum as a space to encounter, contemplate, ask questions, exchange, listen, share and meditate.

‘The Twin Tapestries’ are based on archival images from Wellcome Collection and the Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin, titled ‘Repair (1915)’ and ‘Restitution (1973)’, respectively. They ask what has changed since these photographs were taken and reveal violent pasts and hidden power dynamics at the foundation of Western museology, while reflecting attitudes and practices towards African objects in many European museum collections.

Lined with walnut panels taken from Wellcome Collection’s former ‘Medicine Man’ gallery, which closed shortly after this exhibition opened, the pavilion embodies a physical transformation of the past. Through her practice, Ndiritu asks how we might energetically and architecturally reinvent the role of contemporary museums and transform these institutional spaces.

The exhibition is accompanied by an audio walkthrough and guided meditation from the artist to immerse visitors within the sanctuary-like structure of the pavilion.

‘The Healing Pavilion’ is curated by Janice Li and Emily Sargent.

Exhibition guide

A digital exhibition guide, with audio description, British Sign Language and captions and transcripts is available to use on your own phone or device. You can access the guide using QR codes in the gallery.

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This exhibition is accompanied by two essays: ‘Collective Healing Through Confrontation in Safety’ by Janice Li and ‘Ways of Seeing: A New Museum Story for Planet Earth’ by Grace Ndiritu.

About the artist

Grace Ndiritu

Grace Ndiritu is a British-Kenyan artist whose artworks are concerned with the transformation of our contemporary world. She believes that most modern art institutions are out of sync with their audiences’ everyday experiences, and the widespread socioeconomic and political changes that have taken place globally in the recent decades have further eroded the relationship between museums and their audiences. Ndiritu has been featured in the Guardian, Artforum, Art Review, TIME and Phaidon’s ‘The 21st-Century Art Book’. Her work is housed in museum collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the British Council (London), LACMA (Los Angeles) and the Modern Art Museum (Warsaw). She is also the winner of The Jarman Award in association with Film London (2022).