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Many purists believe in art for the sake of art, with appreciation being the sole reason for the existence of the works of art, and anything that has a practical use is denigrated as the product of mere craft, not art.

But flower arranging is one area where the question simply does not come up. There is a world of difference between a lot of flowers stuck together in a practised order and a work of art which keeps your eyes glued while your mind takes boundless flights of fancy as you interpret it.

Just one glance at mass produced arrangements from most vendors and shops, and one does not need to be an art snob to label those who put out the generic products that we take to funerals as craftspeople.

Floral art is a distinct branch of flower arrangement and Zimbabwe has its stars that comfortably hold their own alongside the best that the world has to offer. The eleventh edition of the edition of the Dublin World Flower Show from 18 to 22 June 2014 saw the country winning two gold medals and a special commendation.

The team comprised Surayya Kassam, Elise Oosthuizen, Neels Scott, Lynn Beahan and Lorette Smith, all names to reckon, now beyond the local scene.

Neels Scott, the only male member of the team is a power house in the art. In 2013 he walked away with the first prize in the Diversity class at Chelsea Flower Show which is the equivalent of getting one of those coveted gold statues at the Oscars or getting to stand in the centre at the Olympic prize winners podiums.

He also came up with the honorary design for Zimbabwe in Dublin, a labour of love. “All the plant material in this design was taken from Zimbabwe all the way to Ireland.”

Neels says being a top floral artist is about inspiration, interest and the knack for knowing what works best for a given flower:

“Attributes of a top floral artist? Well most importantly would be to have the passion for flowers and secondly to be able to take a flower and show it off to its best aantage. Floral art is now been classified as an art form. There is a big difference between a floral artist and a florist. A floral artist creates art with flowers and a florist makes what you bye in florist shops for example pretty bouquets, bunches and arrangements.

“To be a floral artist one has to combine the knowledge of plant material, horticultural experience and apply the principles and elements of design. As you may be aware by now that as a floral artist you are given a title to depict and to create a design accordingly. This is not always easy to achieve as one has to research this in depth. In order to compete at international level, preparations for a show of this magnitude start at least six months prior to the event.”

Then comes competition time, which is about making sure to obey the rules while letting the artist in inside soar:

“Of course one has to make sure all the required paperwork is in order for the plant material. This also applies to every exhibitor that entered the show. The challenges are immense but all done for the love of the art!” explains Neels.

Wikipedia defines Floral design as the art of using plant materials and flowers to create a pleasing and balanced composition. The site also goes on to claim that evidence of refined floristry is found as far back as the culture of Ancient Egypt .

It further defines professional floral designs as arrangements or artwork incorporate the elements of floral design: line, form, space, texture, and colour, and the principles of floral design: balance, proportion, rhythm, contrast, harmony, and unity.

As with most fine skills of lore, floral art seems to be yet another beautiful thing that is losing out to the internet age as kids these days prefer smart phones to any other activity. There are very few youngsters taking up the art. The society has realised the danger and are trying to hype up some excitement among the youth with outreach programmes at Arundel and Dominican Convent schools.

There is the wish to expand the reach, but resources are a big challenge. Floral artists are self funding and although the costs are not out of this world, they can prove too prohibitive for those living beneath or just on the poverty datum line.

In order to become a floral artist one needs to join one of the various garden clubs. Membership at a club where you will learn the skills costs between $10 and $15 a month. All clubs fall under the National Association of Garden Clubs. You also need to bring your own flowers and if you do not have a sizeable garden filled with lush plants or a greenhouse for out of season blooms, then you will need about $15 to put together a modest arrangement and around $60 for a more exotic arrangement.

Although the team that did us proud in Ireland were representing the country and donning their national green blazers with pride, the floral artists do not receive any Government support and have to rely on their own resources to take part in these international competitions.

Currently the media and many individuals are taken up with the proposed bid to host the World Cup in 2014. For many it is a distant dream, but because it has been vocalised and there are people talking about doing it, it may come to pass. The floral artists in the country would dearly love to be in a position to have such a dream.

“Imagine if Zimbabwe can win a bid like this?” wistfully imagines Neels Scott. Well, maybe the Ministry Sports, Arts and Culture will realise the value of the floral art industry and incorporate it into their policies. The next flower show will be the Judges Floral Art competition with the show being held at Chisipite Junior School on 9 and 10 August 2014.

monica.mpambawashe@zimpapers.co.zw

Source : The Herald

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