Home is where the heart is. That oft embroidered term has an added significance for those who carry their houses with them. Nomads: home on the move at the Exeter RAMM explores the peripatetic way of life that is nomadic culture.
The exhibition looks at the lives and homes of these ancient cultures. They are hunter-gatherers, pastorialists, traders, warriors or refugeees. Or even those ‘Winnebego wanderers’. Those who make a lifestyle choices to take up life on the road in a large well-furnished vehicle.
“Architect Gordon Clarke (IoNA) approached the museum directly as part of its public programme process over a year ago,” Tony Eccles RAMM curator of Ethnography told ArtsCulture.
The evolution of nomadic architecture
“We liked his thesis about exploring the evolution of nomadic architecture. His photo archive from his engagement with nomadic peoples is large and very striking.”
“Examples could have been reproduced as simple a selection of large framed photographs. However, more thought was needed about talking about nomadic peoples, the harsh landscapes they often inhabit and the natural resources at their current disposal. Their lives continue being directly affected by modernity, and not in a positive way.”
30 million nomadic people
The exhibition features examples of how over 30 million nomadic people in the world today have adapted to life on the move. It traces the evolution of nomadic culture and the development of the tent from the dawn of architecture to the yurts, tipis, black tents, and bush shelters in use today.
“It’s more an exhibition that asks about the evolution of nomadic architecture, rather than a focus on just a lifeway,” said Tony.
Pressures of the modern world
“However, it does reveal conservation issues as every nomadic people we talk about are under threat from the pressures of the modern world – pollution, discovery of resources on traditional lands, encroachment of farmers and game reserves. Land has a value which comes at a cost.”
And those modern resonances have an impact on the culture of the nomadic people. And other cultures, as the notion a house, home and dwelling are reconsidered.
Challenge and change
“All the groups that we are showing are living today as nomadic peoples, even though their cultures are having to respond to huge challenges and changes,” said director of the Institute of Nomadic Architecture, Gordon Clarke
“Some are almost at the end of their cultural lifespan, while others are adapting to the new world.
Day-to-day life of nomadic culture
“More than anything, these people all have a completely different relationship to the land, and a different sense of land ownership and care for the environment than typically found in our modern industrial societies. What we see as an environmental campaign, for them is just the way that they live day to day,” said Gordon
“For the architecture, it calls us to ask whether we truly need all the large and solid homes we take for granted in the west, and whether this is really a route to happiness.
“The tent borrows space from the natural world, makes it human for a while, and then it is returned once the community moves on.”
Nomads: homes on the move is at the RAMM, Exeter from 13 July to 6 October.
The exhibition lets you get face-to-face with a real Berber black tent in which planned story activities will enable visitors to step inside and briefly experience what life is like inside, taking shelter from a difficult environment.
top image: Berbers family, Morocco. Courtesy of Gordon Clark
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