Page, Joanna;

Published On


Page Range

pp. 93–136


  • English

Print Length

44 pages


  • New World plants catalogued
  • Flora and herbaria
  • European naturalists
  • Royal Botanical Expedition to New Granada
  • Enlightenment norms of botanical illustration
  • contemporary Colombian artists
  • Alberto Baraya
  • María Fernanda Cardoso
  • Eulalia de Valdenebro
  • reworking classification norms
  • environmental change
  • Baraya's Herbario de plantas artificiales
  • exposing dispossession
  • De Valdenebro's seed collections
  • homogenization vs biodiversity
  • Cardoso's exploration of reciprocal relationships
  • Abel Rodríguez's illustrations
  • Nonuya community
  • Muinane community
  • Amazonian concepts of cohabitation
  • extraction
  • conservation paradigms

3. Floras, Herbaria, and Botanical Illustration

  • Joanna Page (author)
New World plants were exhaustively catalogued in the floras and herbaria produced by the great scientific expeditions led by European naturalists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such as the Royal Botanical Expedition to New Granada (1783–1816), directed by José Celestino Mutis. Species were primarily illustrated in a way that would allow their identification according to Linnaean taxonomies. Three contemporary artists from Colombia—Alberto Baraya, María Fernanda Cardoso and Eulalia de Valdenebro—have reworked the Enlightenment norms of botanical illustration in order to draw attention to their many erasures and to chart environmental change over the past two centuries. Baraya’s Herbario de plantas artificiales (2002–) celebrates the anomalies and aberrations that were smoothed out in the European quest for a universal system of classification, exposing the relationship between modern Western science and the dynamics of economic and cultural dispossession. De Valdenebro’s seed collections contrast the homogenization and commercialization of transgenic varieties with the greater biodiversity of native seeds, whose cultivation has unfolded within a much higher degree of reciprocity between humans and their environment. In On the Marriages of Plants (2018), Cardoso reflects on Linnaeus’s use of sexual terms borrowed from the human world in her exploration of more recent research into reciprocal relationships between plants, insects, and humans. I bring these projects into dialogue with a selection of illustrations by Abel Rodríguez (Mogaje Guihu), an artist whose work preserves the ancestral knowledge of the Nonuya and Muinane communities in the Colombian Amazon. Contrasting with Linnaean abstraction, Rodríguez’s drawings and paintings depict rainforest ecosystems in ways that cast light on Amazonian concepts of cohabitation and the co-constitution of human and nonhuman subjects. These enter into conflict with two dominant Western paradigms: extraction, on the one hand, and conservation, on the other.


Joanna Page

Professor of Latin American Studies at University of Cambridge

Joanna Page is Professor of Latin American Studies and the Director of CRASSH (the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) at the University of Cambridge. She is the author of several books on cinema, graphic fiction, literature and visual art in Argentina, Chile, and Latin America more broadly. Many of her research projects focus on the relationship between science and the arts, but her interests also include posthumanism, new materialism, decoloniality and environmental thought in Latin America. Her most recent monograph was Decolonizing Science in Latin American Art (UCL Press, 2021). Other books published in the past few years include Geopolitics, Culture, and the Scientific Imaginary in Latin America (co-edited with María del Pilar Blanco, University Press of Florida, 2020) and Posthumanism and the Graphic Novel in Latin America (co-authored with Edward King, UCL Press, 2017).