Human Flower Project
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Get Down with Bissap
Build your verve and calm your nerves with a glass of festivity, gift of the hibiscus.
Brewing bissap from hibiscus flowers over an open fire.
What’s red and healthy and drunk all over?
Hibiscus tea. It goes by many names across the world – karkade in the Sudan, roselle in Thailand, flor de jamaica in Jamaica, and Red Zinger at your favorite hippie restaurant. Since moving to Texas 12 years ago, it’s been our favorite summertime beverage, though only today did we learn that it’s a widely acknowledged “refrigerant,” that like Barton Springs Pool, can actually lower body temperature.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Learning to Grieve in Prague
The Czechs are noted for their impassive approach to death. Rites for Vaclav Havel may change all that, as Lincoln’s death revolutionized funerals in the U.S..
An outpouring candles and flowers at Wenceslas Square
to mourn the death of former president Vaclav Havel
Photo: David W. Cerny, Reuters
Funerals in the Czech Republic tend to be understated affairs or, in many cases, skipped altogether. With the nation’s secular majority and a culture of silence around the subject of death (in part a holdover from the era of Communist rule) there are fewer religious rites here than in most other nations of the West and, according to scholar Olga Nesporova, only somewhat perfunctory services for non-believers.
Her study criticizes Czech funerary observances for their failure to comfort the bereaved or even address the reality of mortal life.
She writes, “Standard secular funerals today are held in an atmosphere similar to that in the 1970s and 1980s. The speech is formal and usually given by a professional speaker provided by the crematorium, who has no personal relationship with either the deceased or the bereaved, to whom the speaker is introduced no more than a quarter of an hour before the funeral ceremony commences.” Any remarks must fit into “a template” limited to about five minutes. No mention of heaven or hell—or the lack thereof—please.
“The brevity of the funeral address is perhaps not surprising since a speech celebrating the working life and social contributions of the deceased may seem insincere when read by someone who had never met them, and since there is little point in talking of the future when there is no conception of an afterlife. “
Surprisingly, to us anyway, Nesporova’s study makes not one mention of flowers. We assume that’s because obsequies are typically so minimal that flowers don’t even come to mind.
This week, however, the Czechs and their friends around the world staged yet another cultural revolution, this one floral, public, personal, emotional. The nation mourned Vaclav Havel, the playwright, heroic dissident and former president who helped topple Communist rule in Czechoslovakia and led the country into a new era.
Culture & Society • Religious Rituals • Secular Customs • Permalink
Thursday, December 15, 2011
The Unforeseen: Yahoo Falls
Plantsmen Allen Bush and Paul Cappiello, hunting for pink muhly grass, fall down a rabbit hole of botanical wonders in McCreary County, Kentucky.
Silene rotundifolia blooming near Yahoo Falls
McCreary County, Kentucky, November 2011
Photo: Allen Bush
By Allen Bush
I had no idea what was in store last spring, when Paul Cappiello began talking about an autumn day-trip to Eastern Kentucky. Paul is the Executive Director of Yew Dell Gardens in Crestwood, Kentucky. The premise – or the excuse for a fun walk in the woods - seemed simple enough: try to find cold-hardy native stands of the pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris. They were there, somewhere in the Cumberland Mountains; we knew that. Julian Campbell had said so. And Julian knows where just about every native plant is, in every nook and cranny across the state. He had found pink muhly seedlings in Rowan County earlier in the year.
Monday, December 12, 2011
On the Rim
John Levett tracks the “inherent restlessness” of plants, people, structures, de-structures—and memory—along the Thames’ tributaries.
Photo: John Levett
By John Levett
Back in the ‘80s Paul Burwell [RIP], Anne Bean and Richard Wilson formed the Bow Gamelan Ensemble, described once as “a multi-media urban-junk-and-pyrotechnics percussion trio” and famously performing ‘Concrete Barges’ at Rainham Marshes on the Thames Estuary and coming close to self-drowning. I read about Paul Burwell’s death in an edition of The Wire sometime last year. He’d moved up to Hull (something about estuaries) and had fallen into a routine of alcohol consumption that contributed to his early death.
It’s curious how one often uses names of groups, products, organizations as a simple matter of naming without considering their origin. It was only last week that I clocked the London 2012 trademark and noticed that it actually pictured the numerals ‘2012’ having previously taken it as a random splash of flashes that was a signifier for something I wasn’t going to research. I’m currently going through the Beatles archive for long defunct cultural references and turns of speech. Thus it came as a slap on the forehead when I realised one crisp morning last January that Bow Gamelan referred to Bow in London’s East End.
The occasion was a detour organised for one of the urbanist groups that I convene. We met at Three Mills not far from Bromley-by-Bow tube station, and it was during the introduction that Burwell, Gamelan and Bow came together. Our group had done some work last year in the East End around Shadwell and the liminal environments close by the Isle of Dogs and we were back there to explore the cuts through to the Thames estuary.
Art & Media • Culture & Society • Gardening & Landscape • Permalink