Neither fortunes nor flowers last forever

Neither fortunes nor flowers last forever is a series of workshops led by local florists that look at non-western approaches to flower arranging and illuminate diverse cultural histories of plants and flowers. Each workshop also features a critical discussion that asks questions about colonial histories, cultural appropriation, and our current climate crisis.

Scarborough Museum, 2019, commissioned as part of In Residence curated by Aisle 4.

Workshop 2: Spotlight on Jasmine, from Syria to the Philippines

Led by Syrian florist Abd Al-Mounim and Hanan Nanaa, with conversation led by horticulturalist Christine Balmes

Abd Al-Mounim spoke about his experience as a Muslim florist in the Middle East and why Damascus, the oldest city in the world, is called the “City of Jasmine.” We imagined how jasmine grows up the sides of buildings in Aleppo, and contemplated how the smell of jasmine is nostalgic for so many Middle Eastern, South and Southeast Asian immigrants. Abd's instruction was translated to English by his daughter, Hanan Nanaa.

Together we discussed how botany was established as a colonial means for commodifying the natural resources of the New World, which resulted in the overwriting of Indigenous knowledges and experiences. Participants designed their own bouquet while learning about the Middle Eastern origins of tulips, roses, and lilies.

In conversation with Christine Balmes, we proposed ways to decolonize our understanding of plants and flowers. Christine also shared traditional knowledge of Sampaguita (Arabian jasmine), the Philippines' national flower.

.سيتحدث عبد المنعم عن تجربته مع الأزهار ك مصمم في الشرق الأوسط

.ومن خلال تجربته سيتعرف المشاركون على الأزهار المختلفة وسوف يقومون بتصميم باقة صغيرة

.على الرغم من أن معظم ورشة هذا العمل ستكون باللغة الإنجليزية، إلا أن تعليمات عبد المنعم ستكون باللغة العربية، وسوف تتم ترجمتها حنان نعناع إلى اللغة الإنجليزية

Abd Al-Mounim is a Syrian florist from Aleppo. He has worked in the flower arranging industry for more than 15 years, designing small and large arrangements for concerts, weddings, and special events. Abd emigrated to Canada in 2016 and is keen to share his passion for flower arranging with people from diverse backgrounds.

Hanan Nanaa is a student at Ryerson University, majoring in Politics and Governance. She is also a dedicated community activator. Recently she founded BAM-Books, Art, Music Collective, an initiative that empowers young people to get involved in civics through art.

Christine Balmes is a Filipinx landworker and horticulture apprentice based in Toronto. Her interest is in learning and doing more to make landworking more aligned with Indigenous knowledges, systems, and practices. She is a member of Kapwa Collective.

Photos: Anthony Gebrehiwot

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