To consider ancient traditions


While I expected to see many horticultural wonders during my visit to
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.

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.

            LHASA, TIBET
            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 
            Tibetan nation.

            © Randy Olson

            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.

            KENYA, 2006
            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.

            © Brent Stirton

            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.

            © Wade Davis

            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.

            © Aaron Huey

            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.

            © Steve McCurry

            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.

            © David Hiser

            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 ~


  1. Powerful images and words....thank you so much for sharing. I wish this exhibition had been on when I was in Scotland visiting our daughter in March last year.
    I will be re-reading and absorbing these images & words again tonight.

    1. Thanks, Jenny. I've searched the internet trying to discover if this exhibit is
      traveling anywhere else but can't seemed to find any info. I believe it originated
      at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. Here is the link:

  2. Thanks you for sharing as I don't see an opportunity presenting itself to view this exhibition. Amazing images especially of the Monks and the family in Sarawak. So much collective wisdom and a lifetime of learning.

    1. Very pleased you enjoyed it, maya.
      It was so powerful ... I wish more could see.

  3. Thank you for showing these images, very powerful.
    I am not sure if I have this right but I thought I read somewhere that the people of Timbuktu kept many of the books in their houses for security and then they were encouraged to put them all in the libraries which were then burnt down by jihadists?
    I have just checked this and apparently they think that many of the libraries were not burnt, and over half the manuscripts still exist.

    1. My pleasure, Debbie.
      I know nothing of those facts. Actually, I know so little about ANY of the facts presented in this exhibition. That was
      one of the reasons I was so blown away, I think, because I knew so little of these people I share a planet with. It was
      embarrassing to be so ignorant and I have been trying to remedy that.

  4. I am sitting here with tears in my eyes and pain in my heart. So much beautiful tradition -- some of which I wasn't even aware of. Thank you for touching my soul today.

    1. I felt just like that. Writing the post brought it all back.
      YES, there is so much beautiful tradition in this world !

  5. thank you Christi fantastic pictures and story behind , you have really "eyes" for finding what comes inside

  6. Hi Christi, two books that relate to these images and thoughts are 'Wild' & 'Kith' by Jay Griffiths

    1. Just ordered a used copy of 'Wild' ... will start there ;>]
      Thank you so much, Mo.

  7. Thank you very much Christi for sharing this wonderful post ! ;-)

  8. Thank you for sharing these. Gorgeous, powerful & so thoughtFULL.

  9. Els, handstories, grace ... you are most welcome, am very pleased to share

  10. well, and again thanks... inspiring, thoughtfully curated