While I expected to see many horticultural wonders during my visit to
the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh last summer,
what took me by complete surprise was a photographic exhibition on display
in the main entrance lobby. The images were so compelling I used a great portion
of my garden-viewing time to read the entire story
behind each powerful photograph.
With kind permission from the desk staff, I used my phone camera as best I could
to make record of several I thought were particularly potent in their imagery & description;
those that were especially moving and/or important to me.
In light of recent Peace Day 2014 this seemed like an appropriate time to share them.
* PLEASE NOTE*
The original photographs have been slightly cropped to fit
the format of this blog post. Reflections on framing glass couldn't be avoided
nor some odd angle and color distortions.
The descriptions were copied verbatim from the exhibit walls.
Photographer's names are clickable to their websites.
Visit them. They are all amazing.
no strangers poses a fundamental question: What does it mean
to be human and alive? When the people of the world answer this question, they do so
in 7,000 unique voices. Tragically, half of these may be silenced within a generation or two.
At risk is our human legacy, a vast achieve of knowledge and expertise.
Rediscovering a new appreciation for the diversity of culture is a
crucial challenge that should be faced.
A young Tibetan woman poses next to a Chinese fighter jet on display in front of the
Portola Palace, the ancient home of the Dalai Lamas, the spiritual rulers of Tibet. Such
symbolic gestures of intimidation are encountered throughout Lhasa, which has become
largely an outpost of the Chinese government and a symbol of their conquest of the
OFU ISLAND, SAMOA, 2000
The training of the Polynesian way finder, or navigator, begins in infancy as he is placed
in tidal pools for hours at a time so he might feel and absorb the rhythms of the sea. If,
on his first deep ocean voyage, he becomes sick from the swells, his teacher will tie him
to a rope and pull him behind the canoe until the nausea passes. It was by such devotion
and rigor that the Polynesian ancestors settled the Pacific.
A Swahili woman from Kenya decorates her hands and feet with designs made from henna,
a dye derived from a powdered leaf mixed with water and the juice of unripe lemons. The
designs are drawn with a fine twig; five to six applications are required to ensure that the
henna doesn't fade too soon, a process that takes up to 12 hours. In modern times, a black
synthetic dye is used to enhance the elaborate designs. A Swahili woman who appears in
public must remain concealed in black veils and long robes. Her hands and feet are the only
parts of her body that may be seen.
TIMBUKTU, MALI, 2009
In 1914, when the French took control of Timbuktu, they confiscated the ancient manuscripts,
threatened the scholars with jail and taught the children that their ancestors were not Arab
or Berber, Tamashek or Tuareg, but Gaul. The library pictured here is one of the oldest in the
world. It is filled with ancient manuscripts that have survived throughout the centuries.
ARNHEM LAND, NORTHERN TERRITORY, AUSTRALIA, 2008
For over 55,000 years, the Aboriginal peoples of Australia thrived as hunters and gatherers,
and guardians of their world. In all that time the desire to improve upon the natural world had
never touched them. They accepted life as it was, a cosmological whole, the unchanging
creation of the first dawn, when earth and sky separated and the original Ancestor, the
Rainbow Serpent, brought into being all the primordial ancestors who through their thoughts,
dreams and journeys sang the world into existence. This woman stands in a sacred site of
the Rainbow Serpent.
OGLALA, SOUTH DAKOTA, 2011
Stanley Good Voice Elk is a Heyoka (clown dancer) and a dreamer of the Thunder People.
His Heyoka name is Wakinyan Hoksila (Wakeeya Hokshila) which means Thunder Boy, or
or Iktomni Hoksila, Spider Boy. He burns sage, prays and prepares for a coming kettle
dance to thank the thunder beings (thunderstorms) as they leave for the summer.
HENAN PROVINCE, CHINA, 2004
Young monks train at the Shaolin Monastery in Henan Province, China. The physical
strength and dexterity displayed by the monks is remarkable, as is their serenity. At its
core Buddhism is simply a wisdom philosophy, a set of contemplative practices, a spiritual
path informed by 2,500 years of empirical observation and deduction that, if followed, offers
the certain promise of a transformation of the human heart.
SARAWAK, MALAYSIA, 2012
A Penan family from the Ubong River in Sarawak with a feast of wild foods - sago, wild
boar, fruits and seeds - all gathered or hunted in the forest. A Canadian or American grows
up believing that poverty for some is a regrettable but inevitable feature of life. The Penan
live by the adage that a poor man shames us all. The greatest transgression in their culture
is "sihun," a concept that essentially means a failure to share.
: : :
Traditional societies are not failed attempts to be modern, let alone
failed attempts to be like us. Every culture is a unique expression of the
human imagination and heart.
When asked what it means to be human and alive, the peoples of the world
respond in 7,000 different voices, 7,000 languages that together
express the full wisdom and knowledge of our species,
insights that no doubt will prove invaluable to future generations,
even as we continue this never ending journey.
~ Introduction, copied from the entrance wall ~