Mon | Jan 21, 2019

Divinity of colours, confluence of culture

Published:Sunday | December 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Photo by Amitabh Sharma Ikebana...labour of love and meticulous craftsmanship
Photo by Amitabh Sharma The beauty and abundance of nature in blossoms in this Ikebana
Photo by Amitabh Sharma In harmony - An Ikebana presentation
Photo by Amitabh Sharma It begins with an imagination that holds no boundaries, abstract pattern being made for Ikebana
Photo by Amitabh Sharma Laying the foundation to the creative expressions...the base being prepared for Ikebana presentation
Photo by Amitabh Sharma The beauty and abundance of nature in blossoms in this Ikebana
Photo by Amitabh Sharma The beauty and abundance of nature with the bold red of the anthuriums elevating this Ikebana

It is that time of the year. As the skies turn grey, days become shorter, cool air kisses the skin, the world erupts with joyous emotions, colours and celebrations, nothing expresses the delight of any festive season more than flowers.

Ikebana is an art form that has transcended boundaries and, though embedded in traditional Japanese culture, its variants and manifests are limitless. This ancient form of flower arrangement combines aesthetics with therapeutics and transcendental energy.

Ikebana, loosely translated as the art of arranging cut stems, leaves, and flowers in vases and other containers, evolved in Japan over seven centuries ago. Though the arrangements might, like the Japanese tradition, look minimalist, there is a methodology involved in these creations.

"One can arrange the stems and flowers as one wishes," said Dr Pauline Milbourn, president of Ikebana International St Andrew Chapter. "But we have to be familiar with different ways of fastening and positioning the flowers, which come after training on Ikebana techniques."

On an overcast afternoon in Kingston, Milbourn and her colleagues styled an Ikebana in honour of the birthday of the Japanese emperor. The evolving work of art used the moribana technique, with a shallow container and a kenzan, a porcupine-esque holder that had many sharp points, which are where the stems of the flower are inserted.

The moribana, or stacking of flowers, gives the user a broad expanse to create shapes and weave a mound of flowers.


Ikebana, according to texts, is a confluence of spirituality with beauty, tracing its roots as an offering to Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. This art form also embraces key traits of respect and appreciation for nature, finding solitude and silence.

"This (Ikebana) cannot be done in a hurry," Milbourn said, "it is a work of patience."

Over the centuries, Ikebana has evolved into varied forms of arrangement. Rikka (standing flowers), Seika or Shoka (living flowers), and Nageire (flung flowers) are used to make arrangements in bowl-shaped vases as opposed to the moribana (piled-up flowers) style when using dish-like containers.

The Ikebana created by Mibourn and members of Sogetsu School in Jamaica were a confluence of two cultures, using bamboo and anthuriums, the focal points to give striking contrast.

upright style

They used the upright style, randomly but meticulously creating an abstract pattern by stems, encapsulated with the snowy white Baby Breath and interspersed with anthuriums, which gave an impression of the Japanese national flag.

The primary stems were placed vertically, while the secondary stems, comprising Baby Breath, tilted at almost 45 degrees and scattered over a 30-degree area to the front. The ornamental stem - the anthurium - was tilted around 60 degrees and placed across the front. The shape formed roughly a triangle, and the arrangement was filled with the two flowers to be shaped into an Ikebana.

This was a work using locally grown flowers into a traditional art form, striking a balance between the elements - the overcast skies, the green of the grass and the blue of the water in the adjacent pool - resonating harmony, which confirmed Buddha's words, "Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without."