Pocahontas and After
In the summer of 1616, the young Powhatan woman whom history and mythology have come to know as Pocahontas was a guest of the Percy family at Syon House, in Brentford. On her visit to England, which was an important diplomatic and commercial mission, she was known as Lady Rebecca Rolfe, travelling with her husband, the tobacco planter John Rolfe, and her son Thomas. Pocahontas was in fact her childhood nickname – it means “the playful one” – and her birth name was Matoaka. She had known George Percy, who was the governor of the settlements in Virginia, and it was probably at the invitation of his brother Henry that she came to Syon House. During her time in England she visited the Earl in the Tower of London, where he was imprisoned in the aftermath of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot.
Pocahontas never returned to North America: she died at Gravesend in 1617. It was this anniversary that led the theatre company Border Crossings, as part of the 2017 ORIGINS Festival, to ask three contemporary Native American women to hold a ceremony at Syon House in her memory.
In the aftermath of that event, the company has deepened its exploration of the dialogue between Native American heritages and contemporary London. Drawing off rich photographic archives depicting the indigenous peoples of North America, artists, curators and historians have worked with a broad range of volunteers, children from local schools and refugee support organisations to elicit personal photographic responses to this material.
The resulting exhibition, POCAHONTAS AND AFTER, shows the archive images in juxtaposition with the contemporary photographs they have inspired. We hope you will find that the dialogue between these images is stimulating, provocative, and celebratory.
The catalogue, downloadable from this page, is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Licence.
With the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.