Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tales and Truths of the South Pacific

Wintry where you are? Try basking in floral customs of the Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa, and Tahiti, courtesy of New Zealander Wendy Cowling.


Heilala (Garcinia sessilis): the national flower of Tonga

Photo: Tauʻolunga, via wiki

By Wendy Cowling

One of the pleasures of spending time with Tongan or Cook Island friends is that when passing a garden or bush plantation/vegetable garden, an islander often will pick some flowers, perhaps hibiscus or gardenia, from bushes lining the path, and distribute these among the members of the group to wear in their hair or to tuck behind an ear.  In Tonga it is also common for young men to make wreaths from a grass-like vine that grows on the beaches and wear these wreaths quite unselfconsciously for the rest of the day. 

Neck and head garlands of perfumed flowers are the most easily created form of body decoration in contemporary Pacific island communities, as the materials are so readily available.  Of course Hawaiians make lei, from the flowers of the frangipani and a wide variety of other brightly colored blooms.  Hawaiians pay top dollar for garlands of leaves made from three twined lengths of the sweet-smelling leaved vine, maile (Alyxia oliviformis).  These garlands are worn at high school and university graduations and by the brides and grooms at weddings; they’re also used to decorate newly-opened shops.  Maile plants, once solely worn by chiefs and sacred hula dancers, seem to have disappeared altogether in Hawai’i, presumably from over-harvesting; nowdays maile is imported from the Cook Islands.

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Posted by Julie on 01/25 at 03:24 PM
Culture & SocietySecular CustomsTravelPermalink

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Debating a Purple Carnation

Genetically-modified imports and crops are under much more intense public scrutiny in Europe than in the U.S. This week, EU ag leaders split over whether to admit another mauve novelty from Florigene. 


Arrangement with genetically-modified purple carnations

Photo: Florigene

The European Union is not so unified when it comes to genetically modified crops. This past week EU agriculture ministers split on whether to allow imports of a GM rapeseed and a ghoulish strain of purple carnation concocted in Australia.

On the rapeseed question, ag representatives from 12 countries favored the import, 14 voted against, and Ireland abstained. Because EU countries’ votes are weighted, this outcome constituted a tie – and the matter will be decided by “the EU executive” – which appears to mean “permission granted.”

“Under EU rules, the EU’s executive European Commission now gains the legal power to issue a default authorisation. Since 2004, the Brussels-based Commission has approved a string of GM products, nearly all maize, in this way, outraging green groups.”

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Posted by Julie on 01/22 at 05:32 PM
Cut-Flower TradeEcologyFloristsPoliticsSciencePermalink

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sun and Jatun Sonjo for Obama

The 44th U.S. President receives an ancient Incan blessing—flowers of protection.


In Lima, Peru, Native American spiritual leaders performed a Jatun Sonjo ceremony for Barack Obama: Luis Valle, left, danced while holding a photo of the new, “big-hearted’ U.S. president.

Photo: Martin Mejia, for AP

Barack Obama was sworn in yesterday, and not just in Washington, to the office of U.S. President. In many languages, with many rituals, his ascent was confirmed across the world.

Andrew Whalen of Associated Press reported on a floral blessing of the 44th U.S. president in Lima, Peru.

“A dozen faith healers gathered for Barack Obama’s inauguration, stomping their feet, dancing, shaking rattles, blowing smoke and chanting the new president’s name while throwing flower petals and coca leaves at his photograph.”

Juan Osco, one of the spiritual leaders, said the floral rite wards off harm, an ancient ceremony that brought good luck to the great chieftans of the Inca. The Native American brotherhood conducted this Jatun Sonjo, (‘Big Heart’ in Quechua language) for Obama, Osco said, “because he is the first black president and his heart is big for the whole world.”

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Posted by Julie on 01/21 at 03:05 PM
Culture & SocietyPoliticsReligious RitualsPermalink

Monday, January 19, 2009

2 Good 2 Be Private

A performance artist in the Netherlands wants to keep the bloom on the dreaded red-and-white holiday, fast approaching, by going public and global.

imageFederico Hewson

Cupid for 2009

Photo: Courtesy of Valentine Peace Project

Who’s got a date for Valentine’s Day?

You do. Federico Hewson is inviting you out, along with the rest of the world. His idea is to horn in on the couples-only approach to this holiday by spreading the “love magic.”

A performance artist based in the Netherlands, Hewson staged the first Valentine Peace Project in 2006, his international dating game that delivers poems and flowers all across the world, mainly to strangers, it appears. Look at his gallery of photos and you’ll get the idea.

There are children passing out flowers in nursing homes, women pushing grocery carts in the Bronx as they clutch fresh carnations, fellows cycling across public squares in Amsterdam, their backpacks full of flowers ....

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Posted by Julie on 01/19 at 09:53 AM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietySecular CustomsPermalink
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