A ‘Corona Lily’ made with toilet paper rolls. A flower created with a football and jerseys. Messages of hope written with flowers on a Scrabble board.
These are just some of the photos of flowers people have been sending in from all over the world for the Bouquet of Hope, a digital art collaborative by the Museum of Art & Photography. “Some of them are quite interesting,” admits Abhishek Poddar, founder-trustee, MAP, Bengaluru, with a laugh.
But why flowers you ask? The seed for the initiative was planted all the way back in 1988 when Abhishek and his sister decided to do something special for their parents’ 25th wedding anniversary the following year.
Says Abhishek, “After a lot of back and forth, we decided to give them flowers. But flowers that will never wilt so they don’t have to be thrown away. So, we commissioned 25 artists and asked them to paint a flower each, one for each year of our parents’ marriage. We also asked them to paint the flower in a particular size so that it could be hung together and it would look like it had been done for the occasion rather than different paintings or flowers put together.”
After the nationwide lockdown was announced on March 25, Abhishek says they were thinking about how to engage with the people involved with MAP. “People were feeling rather depressed and anxious and didn’t know what was coming. We decided to do something to cheer everyone up and flowers are the best way to do that. We shared this story and the bouquet and we asked people to send us a flower back by email so that we could make a bigger bouquet and share that Bouquet of Hope. Within a couple of days, we received hundreds of emails with different flowers and messages. That is when we decided to make it available to everybody because for the first time, the whole world was in a similar situation. We launched the website where people can upload photos directly.”
So far, around 1,500 people have sent in photos of flowers from across the world, including Australia, Germany, Switzerland, France, Japan, Singapore, and Africa. There is no limit to how many photos one person can upload. “If you like, you can send photos of every flower in your garden. You can even take photos of an embroidered flower, wooden inlay, photo of a flower in a painting… anything.”
Stating that he thinks it took hold because it is such a simple idea, he adds that the initiative has grown organically.
“When Mother’s Day (May 10) came up, because the florists were shut and many people were not with their mothers, we decided to add a feature where one could send virtual bouquets. So, you can go to the website, select the flowers you want, create a special bouquet, write a message and share that over social media, WhatsApp or email. We are also working on a feature that allows one to save the bouquet they have created as well as templates of bouquets.”
Adding that many people are using it almost as a messaging platform, Abhishek says “It has become about hopes of various kinds, not just a bouquet you send during corona times. It is going to have a life that prolongs and goes beyond that.”