The Healing Pavilion
Captions and transcripts

‘The Healing Pavilion’ is a new art commission by British-Kenyan visual artist Grace Ndiritu, which radically reimagines what textiles and architecture can do in a museum burdened by colonial history.

Change exhibition

Grace Ndiritu, The Healing Pavilion


‘The Healing Pavilion’ consists of two large-scale tapestries hung within a site-specific structure, created by British-Kenyan artist Grace Ndiritu. The installation 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’. Combining her artistic and esoteric spiritual practices, the artist uses socially engaged artwork to inspire non-rational ways of seeing. Her work looks to transform our contemporary world to allow a different kind of future.

Ndiritu identified two archival images from Wellcome Collection, London, and the Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin. She had the photographs enlarged and woven into two large-scale tapestries, titled ‘The Twin Tapestries: Repair (1915) and Restitution (1973)’ respectively. Together they reveal violent pasts and hidden power dynamics at the foundation of Western museology and reflect attitudes and practices towards African collections in many European museum collections. Through the material and symbolic weight of the tapestries she conveys the complexity of troubled histories and asks what, if anything, has changed since the photographs were taken.

Inspired by Zen Buddhist temples in Japan, the pavilion is designed to re-activate the museum as a space to encounter, contemplate, ask questions, exchange, listen, share and meditate. Lined with walnut panels taken from the ‘Medicine Man’ gallery of objects from Sir Henry Wellcome’s collection, which closes shortly after this exhibition opens, the structure embodies a physical transformation of the past. Through this work, 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. You can access this through the digital guide.

Entering the Pavilion

The imagery in the exhibition contains colonial, institutional violence from recent pasts. We encourage you to take refuge in the pavilion and take part in collective healing. If you require any assistance, please speak to a member of staff.

To enter the pavilion, we invite you to remove your shoes and store them on the shelves below.

The Healing Pavilion

Designed by Grace Ndiritu with Plaid, 2022
Walnut-veneered MDF taken from ‘Medicine Man’ gallery
Courtesy of the artist; commissioned by Wellcome Collection

Featuring ‘The Twin Tapestries: Repair (1915) and Restitution (1973)’.

The Twin Tapestries: Repair (1915)

Grace Ndiritu, 2022
Produced by Flanders Tapestries
Woven polyester, cotton, wool and acrylic
Courtesy of the artist; commissioned by Wellcome Collection
Image reference: Wellcome Collection 14429i

The first tapestry is based on a photograph taken in 1915, depicting junior members of staff of the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum. They are posing with human remains and collection objects from the Global South, including masks and skulls. The sitting was staged in a gallery titled, ‘Hall of Primitive Medicine’, displaying predominantly non-European objects categorised based on theories that othered, exoticised and marginalised the cultures they described. A century later, though many objects in question are transferred to institutions around the world, Ndiritu’s work calls for action needed to repair the history of the collections at Wellcome and across European museums.

Please see ‘The colonial roots of our collections’, and our response on our website for more information on our commitment to confront the history of our collections.

Walking Meditation

The Twin Tapestries: Restitution (1973)

Grace Ndiritu, 2022
Produced by Flanders Tapestries
Woven polyester, cotton, wool and acrylic
Courtesy of the artist; commissioned by Wellcome Collection

This tapestry is based on an archival photograph, believed to be an informal staff portrait taken in 1973 one day after work at the Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin, almost 60 years after that of ‘Repair (1915)’. In the centre of the image is the Mandu Yenu throne, on which the museum staff are sitting and leaning. A royal throne from the Kingdom of Bamum in Cameroon, this object demanded respect and signified power in its original context. It is currently on display at the Humboldt Forum, Berlin. The throne’s contested history and future are still under discussion in Germany.

Faces of those depicted in the original photograph have been digitally altered to shift attention away from the specific identities of the sitters. By focusing directly on the interaction between the staff and the objects, Ndiritu asks instead what restitution for a history such as this might look like.

The Healing Pavilion booklet

The printed booklet that accompanies the exhibition contains two essays, which you can read via the links below:
Collective Healing Through Confrontation in Safety’ by Janice Li
Ways of Seeing: A New Museum Story for Planet Earth’ by Grace Ndiritu

Exhibition credits

Janice Li, Emily Sargent

Exhibition Project Managers
Nelly Ekstrom, Amy Higgitt, Georgia Monk

David Chan

Production Manager
Christian Kingham

Exhibition Technician
Lucy Woodhouse

3D design

2D design
Martin McGrath Studio

Graphic production

Lighting design
Sanford Lighting

The Moule Partnership

Creative Access Consultants
Eleanor Margolies, Prof Hannah Thompson

Audio description

British Sign Language

We would like to thank our colleagues who have generously lent their expertise and ideas to the exhibition, and who have contributed to its planning and delivery.

Special thanks to Gropius Bau, Berlin for their collaboration on the commission.