For the past years I have followed in the footsteps of Daniel Solander, from the Pacific to the Arctic. I could not have imagined the impact Solander would have on my life when I became the first Swedish Ambassador to the entire South Pacific. I travelled extensively in the region and discovered the legacy of Solander through the Endeavour voyage in 1768 - 1771. The first encounter between the Nordic and Pacific Regions.
Solander has made important footprints. In New Zealand - Aotearoa, two volcanic islets bear the name of Solander, and several Solander botanic trails can be found around the country. Gardens commemorating the work of the Swedish naturalist are being developed in different places around New Zealand. Busts of Solander are kept at Auckland University and at Tairawhiti Museum, Gisborne. Over 1,100 herbarium specimens representing more than 300 species of plants collected by Solander and Banks are held in New Zealand at Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland Museum and the Allan Herbarium, run by Manaaki Whenua. The Herbarium specimens provide a vital benchmark for understanding New Zealand flora. The specimens are a verifiable record of plants growing in New Zealand before European settlement and continue to influence taxonomic research. The knowledge of generations of botanists is essential for historical reconstruction of the vegetation occurring in specific regions and provide an essential contribution to plant invasion research today.
In Australia, the Solander monument, located not far from Cape Solander in Kurnell, Kamay Botany Bay National Park, was inaugurated in 1914. The Solander Garden at the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, dedicated by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf in 1982, holds a living plant collection connected to Solander. The most recent addition, the Solander Garden of the Embassy of Sweden in Canberra, was officially opened in 2017 by the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament. The creation of a garden celebrating the memory of Daniel Solander in the Embassy grounds received invaluable support from the National Botanic Garden in Canberra and from my friend Dr Edward Duyker, the author of Nature's Argonaut
(1998), the most complete biography of Daniel Solander. The Daniel Solander Library at the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney is the oldest botanical research library in Australia. In Cooktown, the Botanic Garden has also an impressive Solander Garden holding a number of plants connected to the Swedish naturalist.
Solander is also remembered for his development of a dust- and lightproof collection box referred to as a Solander Box, which is still in use by art galleries and museums around the world. It also gave name to the Solander Gallery in Wellington. I met with the owners, Paulette Robinson and Vincent Drane on a cold and windy winter’s day in 2017. On this very first meeting we initiated what was to become the Paradise Lost: Daniel Solander´s Legacy
art collaboration. To commemorate the 250th anniversary of the encounter between the Arctic and the Pacific.
Our project drew upon an impressive network of artists, who were invited to respond to the legacy of Daniel Solander: Sharnae Beardsley from Christchurch, Dagmar Dyck from Auckland, Tabatha Forbes from New Plymouth, John McClean from New Plymouth, Alexis Neal from Auckland, Jo Ogier from Christchurch, Jenna Packer from Dunedin, John Pusateri from Auckland, Lynn Taylor from Dunedin and Michel Tuffery from Wellington. Many of them where to become my friends.
The involved artists at the Solander Gallery in Wellington in 2018.
“Philosophical Transactions” by my friend Jenna Packer in Dunedin, New Zealand. Solander (in red coat), Banks and Tupaia in conversation. Endeavour in the background.
To me, the Paradise Lost exhibition illuminates the contemporary presence of the past. 250 years later, the plants painstakingly collected and described by Solander still matter. The works displayed in the exhibition are ten modes of encounter with the Solander inheritance. A cabinet of curiosities dedicated to his legacy. The art bears witness to the entangled nature of our botanical, economic, political and cultural histories. Together the ten artists weave the scattered fragments of this past, thickened by its interactions with the present and coloured by daunting questions about our future. As it was formulated in a Canberra exhibition ‘These half-remembered images bear witness to the survival of the past in the present.’
(Brown/Green National Gallery of Australia). Through their engagement with the work of Solander, the ten Pacific artists contribute with new perspectives in a continued and everlasting dialogue about who we are, our past and our future. It was my hope that the exhibition would make us reflect further on sustainability, resilience and cultural exchanges in our beautiful but fragile world.
Sam Neill has been a great inspiration to many, not least through the documentary The Pacific: In the Wake of Captain Cook. Here we are together with a bust of Daniel Solander.
As much as it is about plants, the unpublished collection of Solander also tells a vivid story about meetings with Polynesian and indigenous Australian populations. I met with indigenous communities, representatives from botanic gardens, artists, universities and government institutions in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand to initiate a dialogue on the legacy of Solander.
I am proud to have initiated a Daniel Solander Garden at the Embassy of Sweden in Canberra. Previously a parking lot. Here visitors can learn more about Solander through interpretive signs provided by my good friends at the Australia National Botanic Gardens. Notice the New Zealand silver furn on the jacket. Documented by Daniel Solander in 1769.
The Endeavour voyage in 1768 – 1771, embodies the first encounter between the Nordic and the Pacific Region. Daniel Solander brought to this encounter a wealth of knowledge and curiosity in botany but also in the fields of linguistics, culture and astronomy. Another eminent person present onboard the ship played a crucial role for Solander and for the Endeavour expedition: Tupaia, the Rai'atean navigator who travelled with the expedition from Tahiti. In the course of the journey, the two men came to form a strong bond. Working side by side in the European encounter with Polynesian, Māori and indigenous Australian worlds, the cooperation between Solander and Tupaia was the first exchange between the Nordic culture and Oceanian civilizations. It was a partly forgotten story which had to be told again.
The award-winning exhibition toured New Zealand, Australia and Sweden for two years, it was the first collaboration in its kind between our three nations. Now we include Icelandic friends in our group to commemorate the visit to Iceland by Solander in August – October 1772.
The Embassy of Sweden and our Icelandic partners have initiated a project - Solander 250 - Bréf frá Íslandi
- inspired by Iceland at the time of the expedition in 1772. Together we continue a dialogue between us on history, biology, geology, anthropology and culture which has spanned over many centuries. The project deals with the anthropocene.
The British Library BL Add MS. 15511, f.48. John Cleveley the Younger (1772), ‘View of a mountain, near Hekla with a view of a travelling caravan’. Personally, I believe Solander is the second man from the left on a horse. He was described as a short and stout man with small eyes, a jovial face and fair complexion. Although a careless dresser, he had a peculiar liking for bright waistcoats.
John Clevely from the expedition to Iceland in 1772. By permission of the Linnean Society of London (EP/34). Based on my knowledge of Solander, I take the liberty of assuming that the man on the chair to the left, with a dog, is actually Daniel Solander in Hafnarfjörður.
All in all, the entire Solander 250 - Bréf frá Íslandi
project will be the most extensive dialogue between Iceland and Sweden on our past, present and future. We link the Arctic and the Pacific and it is all inspired by Daniel Solander. I believe he would have approved.
Daniel Solander has taken me on a fantastic journey which is about to continue on Iceland. For this I am forever grateful and consider myself as a proud Solander Apostle.