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Stories that flower arrangements tell

April 21, 2018


SALMA Ansari gives a practical demonstration of sogetsu flower arrangement on Thursday.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
SALMA Ansari gives a practical demonstration of sogetsu flower arrangement on Thursday.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: The Japanese art of flower arrangement, ikebana, has several schools of styles that characterise each school’s approach. “Sogetsu, one of these schools, can be practised by anyone, anywhere and with anything,” said Salma Ansari during her demonstration of the art, titled ‘Just Imagine’, at the Karachi Club Annexe here on Thursday.

Creating exquisite art pieces before her audience, she was also decorating the stage by adding one piece of art after the other while explaining what she was doing as she worked. In between she also paid tribute to her teacher Nafisa Tapal, founder of the Sogetsu Study Group.

Nafisa Tapal, who was also the first president of Ikebana International’s Karachi Chapter, said that she founded the Sogetsu Study Group in 2011. “We hold meetings and Ikebana-related activities such as workshops, demonstrations along with regular classes on every Tuesday at the Japanese Information and Culture Centre here,” she said, adding that they also shared any new technique during these classes. She said that the curriculum comprised five levels of which the fifth level dealt with a teacher’s certificate course following which one could also teach and hold demonstrations like Salma was doing.

It was said that with sogetsu, which emphasises self expression, it was almost as if the flower itself became the person using it in an arrangement. Salma took branch with three shoots “to represent the sky, the human being and the ground he or she stands on,” she explained as she went about balancing it.

“In sogetsu, you should also understand the language of the flowers,” she said. “Listen to your branch. There may be one that would like to be placed upright while there may be another which would prefer a leaning pose,” she said as she made her branch look simple yet elegant by adding just one white flower.

Similarly a croton tiglium branch teamed up with orange and red gulmohar flowers to take on a new identity along with a bunch of lime leaves. There were brown paper origami birds hanging from strings on a frame in which bunches of baby’s breath served as clouds as silver rain drops were added. Salma said they portrayed a dream of an autumn landscape in sepia colours.

Similarly an arrangement of orchids on top of a green wire frame prop turned it into a shrine in memory of people who are no more. The long flowing leaves of a fishbone cactus were compared to the long curly hair of a pretty girl who wouldn’t marry. Salma had many more stories to tell about the pieces she created setting off her audience’s imagination, too.

She also said that she liked using waste materials in her decorations but no one realised until she pointed out herself that she had used pumice stones in one of her pieces and that dried rose petals in her peacock piece were actually onion peels!

The Consul General of Japan in Karachi, Mr Toshikazu Isomura, the chief guest on the occasion, said that he was very happy to see Japanese culture flourishing among Pakistanis.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2018