Human Flower Project


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Floral Demonstrations Grow Thorns

There’s a new spirit abroad in floral protests, not just “in your face” but “on your case.”


Striking junior doctors marched in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh Jan. 16 with “sympathy” flowers for the chief minister who has yet to meet their demands.

Photo: Raju. V

Are flowers the new pink slip?

Since 2004, we’ve been reporting on how flowers feature in protest across the world, from the pink gladioli brandished by Cuba’s Damas de Blanco, to bouquets laid outside Shanghai’s Google headquarters—when the government threatened to suspend the company’s operations in China.

In these demonstrations, flowers proudly identify the bearers (the pink gladiolus has become the emblem of the Cuban civil rights marchers) or they express solidarity with the recipient (for example, the Internet giant).

But increasingly, we see floral protests taking another form: rather than standing FOR an organization or being presented TO someone, they’re delivered AGAINST.

The most recent example comes from Andhra Pradesh, India. Last week, junior doctors (known in the U.S. as medical students, interns and residents) took flowers to the Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy along with placards reading “Get well soon CM.”

The show of mock-sympathy was an early demonstration in the junior physicians’ strike, now in its 9th day. “The junior doctors have been boycotting elective duties since January 14, demanding regular payment and a hike of stipends, reduction of rural service, health insurance and improvement of emergency infrastructure.” (Interesting to note that Indian doctors don’t have health insurance!)

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Posted by Julie on 01/22 at 12:55 PM
Culture & SocietyPoliticsPermalink

Monday, November 21, 2011

Radicles from the Afghan Front

Two years after its seed was collected in a remote Afghan village, a tiny cedar settles into its new Kentucky home.

imageCedrus deodara (at right) in the Kullu Valley of NW India

Photo: via wiki

By Allen Bush

The Himalayan cedar barely got a nod last month at the silent auction in Louisville, Kentucky. Jack Alexander from the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University had donated a tiny Cedrus deodara but the seedling was far from the most fetching plant on the block. The little tree (auction item # 61) had a story with a bare bones bid-sheet teaser:  “Collected from wild Waygal District Nuristan Province Afghanistan. “  No commas, no more details.

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai held a loya jirga this week in Kabul, 2,000 elders gathering to sip tea and try to untangle their country’s problems. Louisville’s pow-wow – the 61st annual meeting of the Eastern Region of the International Plant Propagators Society, —drew a smaller crowd: some 150 folks sampling Kentucky Bourbon and fretting over the siege of the emerald ash borer.

Across the auction room at the Seelbach Hotel, there was a huddle around Parrotia subaequalis, a witch hazel relative recently introduced from China.  The day before, visiting nurserymen, academics and representatives from arboreta and botanic gardens had seen a small 4’ (1.2 m) tall planting at Yew Dell in Crestwood.  Those standing in the cold drizzle erupted in oohs and aahhs, sparked by the rich burgundy fall foliage. This plant’s relative, the Persian ironwood Parrotia persica, never quite reaches the autumnal expectations of brilliant oranges and reds as advertised—at least not in the Midwest.  But its Chinese cousin delivered the fall goods at Yew Dell, in plain sight. The top bid for the rare Parrotia was $280.00.

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Posted by Julie on 11/21 at 10:15 AM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapePoliticsPermalink

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Laura Pollán’s Gladiolas of Freedom

The leader of Cuba’s Damas de Blanco has died after winning the freedom of their family members. But the cause goes on, fortified by her defiant flower.


Laura Pollán Toledo marches in Havana in a demonstration for political freedom by the Ladies in White.

Photo: Javier Galeano, for AP

Why symbolism? And, at the root, why flower symbolism?

The direct floral action of Laura Pollán Toledo can answer. Pollan, a former schoolteacher, died October 14 in a Havana hospital. For eight years, holding a pink gladiolus high, she led Las Damas de Blanco (The Ladies in White), a brave and influential freedom movement in her native Cuba.

Pollán’s husband was among 75 journalists and other pro-democracy activists who were rounded up in March 2003, swiftly tried, and jailed for speaking out against Castro’s regime. Some, like Pollán’s husband, Héctor Maseda, were sentenced to more than 20 years for allegedly undermining “the territorial integrity of the state” (which means challenging the status quo, not pressing for annexation to Haiti.)

Working to free her husband, Pollán came to meet—then to organize—the families of others who had been imprisoned during the infamous Primavera Negra (Black Spring). They began a weekly protest vigil through Havana. Dressed in white, the prisoners’ family members would attend Mass together at the Santa Rita church and then march ten blocks to a nearby park, carrying pink gladioli overhead.


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Posted by Julie on 10/29 at 02:05 PM
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tonic to the Nation

Did you miss the Festival of Britain? Likely so. And though post-war styles are in revival, its spirit of communitarian hope is harder to come by.


Festival Gardens at the Festival of Britain 1951

Let the days of “getting-by” be gone

Photo: Pete G., via wiki

By John Levett

One of the most memorable events in my life was the 1951 Festival of Britain—memorable because I never went to it. I was six years old at the time and most probably was completely unaware of its happening then, but as the years and decades went by it loomed larger and larger in my consciousness as one of the significant misses in my life. The most probable reason for the miss was that my mother couldn’t afford it. She ran a small grocer’s store in Luton at the time and looked after gran. I doubt that the store made much but it was the only grocer’s in the street so we got by.

‘Getting by’ was a frequently-used phrase in the post-war years. One of the finest writers of social history of this or any time is David Kynaston. Last summer I read his opening volume of Britain’s post-war years ‘Austerity Britain 1945-51’ and am just finishing ‘Family Britain 1951-57.’ No description of their quality from me would suffice; read them and smell the smog.

Earlier this Summer I was frequently trolling down to London with packages of art work for a couple of exhibitions tied to bike, thence to backpack. For this annual hike I have a carrier-bag of string; for the packaging I have bubble-wrap from the waste-skips at the back of a retail park; for the reinforcement I have cardboard from the back end of Asda. I’ve never outgrown the collect-and-save “You’ll never know when it’ll come in useful” routine of those post-war years; never walk past a builder’s skip without checking if there’s anything worth retrieving.

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Posted by Julie on 09/13 at 04:31 PM
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