This October, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew invites visitors to immerse themselves in the vibrant culture and astonishing biodiversity of Mexico. The Mexico Festival will see Kew’s iconic Temperate House transformed by a vivid array of art and horticultural installations, each showcasing the unique spectacle of this North American nation, home to 12% of the world’s biodiversity.
Innovative Mexican artist Betsabeé Romero will create two must-see installations for the Temperate House, the world’s largest surviving Victorian glasshouse. These brand-new creations will highlight the close connection between Mexican culture and the natural world, as well as drawing on the vibrant creative traditions at the heart of Mexican art.
Romero’s central installation (Flower of Light and Song) will draw on the rituals and traditions of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on a huge scale, transforming the Temperate House with a giant chandelier in the shape of the Quincunce, which represents a harmonious relationship between nature and humanity in pre-Hispanic cosmology. Hand woven by communities in Mexico City, this piece will immerse visitors to the Temperate House in one of the central symbols of the Day of the Dead, the Mexican marigold, also known as cempasúchil.
Romero’s second creation, The Altar, inspired by Hanal Pixan (the Mayan Day of the Dead celebration) is formed as a ceremonial altar; a space for thoughtful reflection and commemoration, evoking a ritual which is still a central part of Yucatán culture today.
Elsewhere in the Temperate House, visitors can encounter the curious creations of Mexican designer
Fernando Laposse. Fantastic Jungle Sloths will see larger than life golden sloths climbing through the Temperate House canopy. Crafted by transforming plant fibres including sisal into sustainable pieces of art, Laposse’s work focuses on topics such as the environmental crisis and biodiversity loss, and he regularly collaborates with indigenous communities across Mexico to raise awareness about the challenges which they face in an increasingly globalised world.
Garden designer Jon Wheatley will work with Kew’s collection of Mexican plants to create a horticultural installation titled Surreal Pillars of Mexico. Inspired by Las Pozas, located in a subtropical rainforest in the Sierra Gorda mountains of Mexico, this display will showcase an array of Mexican plants, including some from Kew’s own collection.
October half-term will welcome a Mexico Family Fiesta featuring curated workshops and activities for all the family. Provided by innovative carnival and performance group Mandinga Arts, workshops will introduce participants to the stories of Day of the Dead through movement and games. Visitors will also be able to enjoy Carnival Parades featuring performers in traditional Mexican costume and stop off at the dress up and selfie station outside the Temperate House during their visit.
Explore the stunning surroundings of the Temperate House at night with exuberant evenings of live performances, cocktails and astonishing art as part of Mexico After Hours. Taking place on 7th, 8th, 14th and 15th October, these evening events will feature performances from Mandinga Arts and Crick Crack Club, as well as live cooking demonstrations from Santo Remedio chefs.
RBG Kew and Mexico
Kew’s focus on Mexico for the 2022 autumn festival highlights the country’s position as a biodiversity hotspot, estimated to be home to an astonishing 26,000 species of flowers. Mexico is classified as one of the world’s top five most megadiverse countries, representing 12% of global biodiversity in just 1.5% of global land area. Kew has many collaborative scientific projects in Mexico, which include focusing on the conservation of tree species, seed banking and training the next generation of taxonomists.