Marianne North Botanical Image (from Plant Explorers)

Marianne North was a botanical artist who travelled to six continents in the late nineteenth century to paint flowers, primarily, in their "natural habitat." She was close to the Director of Kew Gardens and her Gallery of botanical art is situated on the grounds of the Kew public gardens, in gallery space that was designed and financed by North herself. Over 630 images are displayed, along with dado samples of wood obtained from round the world. My work on Marianne North in South Africa focuses on the ways in which she was complicit with British imperial ambitions, by conveying the sense that British women could travel with ease to remote outpost without fear of danger or discomfort. This sense that women travelers would encounter a "sphere of inviolability" in southern Africa was in significant ways a falsification... she ignored the political and civil unrest in the last half of the nineteenth century: She traveled through South Africa in 1882 and 1883, as one of the last countries visited in her twenty year project, and painted, in addition to the magnificent flora of Cape Town and its environs, a rosy picture of free-wheeling unaccompanied female travelers.

The image above is one of three plants named after North, the Nepenthes northiana - a giant pitcher plant from Borneo.