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 3: A Guide to South Asian Flower Garlands

Led by Ramsankar and Anita Singh of Om Deepam Puja Centre, with conversation led by environmental activist and artist Amrita Singh

Over 25 years ago, Ramsankar and Anita Singh opened one of Scarborough’s first Indo-Guyanese shops. They spoke about how their business supports Scarborough’s vibrant South Asian immigrant community. The family re-traced their journey from India to Guyana and finally to Toronto, and recalled how the city has changed over the past three decades.

Participants created their own flower garlands, whilst learning about the many varied types of garlands that are sacred to Hindu practice, such as jasmine, tulsi, and lime.

In conversation with Ramsankar and Anita's daughter, Amrita, we discussed how the North American cut flower industry was moved from California to Central and South America as a consequence of the United States' "War on Drugs". We learned about the social and environmental violence the industry continues to proliferate, and considered the complexities of making difficult decisions as consumers.

Anita and Ramsankar Singh's shop has been a hub for the Indo-Caribbean community to find religious items, special occasion clothing, and custom-made wedding jewelry. Along with operating their thriving family shop, the Singhs have also worked on sets for Aerosmith and the 2008 Mike Myers film, The Love Guru, as well as styled models for the Miss West-Indian Canadian Pageant. They are active leaders in their community and also operate a local Hindu temple in Scarborough.

Amrita Singh is a multi-disciplinary artist currently completing a Masters degree in Environmental Studies at York University. Based in Scarborough, her work explores environmental inequality, with a focus on race, gender, income, and orientation. She received her BA from York University (2016) in Drama Studies and draws from her experiences on stage to create works which theatrically illustrate environmental and social justice issues.

Photos: Kat Rizza

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