The pre-Hispanic Canarians lived on the islands for approximately two thousand years, though only five or six centuries, barely seventeen or twenty generations, separate them from us. After
the conquest the price of their diminished survival was to forget themselves, hide their footprints and lose their identity in the mist of a new European society. They left behind a culture bereft
of life, as if it had ceased to exist over five thousand years ago; stone, clay and wood, the hushed vestiges of their not so distant presence, and our ignorance. (Text: Faustino García Márquez).
Originally arriving in the Canary Islands to photograph the lives of cave dwellers, Francesca Phillips became intrigued by the mysteries surrounding their indigenous population and the connection between them and the people of today. Produced and curated by Francesca, The Quest for Ancestral Faces is the result of her multidisciplinary art and science research project,
the objective of which is to provide a more complete picture of the heritage of the islands. Including themes of migration, ancestry and culture, it explores identity, ´canariedad´, in the
current population in relation to their indigenous ancestors, reveals the faces of these earliest inhabitants, and opens the window on a rich history that is for the most part concealed by
the familiar tourist industry.
Just over five hundred years ago the Castilians invaded and conquered a mysterious and isolated population lying between the three continents of Africa, Europe and America. Pliny the Elder wrote about the Canary Islands in his encyclopaedia Naturalis Historia in AD 77-79, and throughout the centuries the archipelago has sustained continuous migratory waves. Genetic analyses
have now established that the original settlers were North African Berbers, Amazighs, and that their DNA remains in the contemporary Canarian population. Francesca has made over fifty portraits of people from across the eight islands, along with video interviews and conversations between experts in the fields of genetics, archaeology and anthropology, and with a selection
of the portrait sitters.
With very little to go on from the time of the Castilian conquest the appearance of the ancient population remained an enigma. Fifty-one of their faces are now finally revealed. Thanks to the collaboration of Face Lab, based at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, the contemporary portraits are juxtaposed with facial depictions from skulls dating from the 6th century. This
work has been done by Dr. María Castañeyra-Ruiz, a visiting forensic anthropologist from Fuerteventura, and led by Face Lab´s director Professor Caroline Wilkinson, world renowned for her facial depictions of Rameses II, J. S. Bach and King Richard III amongst others. This is the largest facial reconstruction project ever undertaken from a single archaeological population anywhere
in the world.
The inaugural exhibition was held within the framework of the II Congress of Museums of the Canary Islands, organized by the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage of the Government of
the Canary Islands. Forty-nine of the skulls depicted are held in El Museo Canario, the remaining two in the Benahoarita Archaeological Museum of La Palma and the collection of the Cabildo
of Lanzarote respectively. Also presented was the 4D face of a male mummy from the museum’s collection, with animation, and images of the average pre-Hispanic man, woman and child, produced by Face Lab.
The Quest for Ancestral Faces evolved from Los Canarios, exhibited at Gallery La Nube di OOrt, Rome, in 2014.
More details coming here soon.