Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Beauty in Context

Landscaping in South Africa has its fair share of challenges. Not least of which is the huge disparity in lifestyles and priorities. I have created luxurious gardens in opulent neighbourhoods, while just over the hill, people are living in relative poverty. Sometimes 10 people to a shack, without the capacity for beautiful gardens. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is sometimes very obvious when living in a first-third world context.
Are Gardens Important Really?
A lady from our church who stays in one of these poorer areas (Cato Manor) recently had her house and all her belongings burnt to ashes. Fortunately she, and none of the orphans and children she cares for were hurt, but everything they owned is gone. I can't imagine what she must have felt to see all her possessions go up in smoke.
The good news is that several people have stepped in to help rebuild her house and put her back on her feet - the benefits of love and community!
Walking through the area today, I am reminded again of the imbalance that we live with on a day to day basis. Its hard to justify the need for spending money on creating gardens (or any art for that matter), when there is so much need around.

But 'imbalance' is probably a good word to use to describe the effect of financial extremes, as well as the difference between the two extremes. I believe a beautiful garden can do more to help restore the spirit, provide inspiration and aspiration, than almost any other art form. And is therefore almost as necessary as food for our bodies. People are at the heart of what we do when we create gardens, but people are multi-faceted and need more than just food.

Its within this framework that I choose to make gardens with little practical function other than food for the soul. But it is truly a careful balancing act that we need to walk, and community is at the core of what we do. The community are the clients we build them for, our staff we work with, the people we care for, and the people who find sustenance in enjoying the beauty of creation all around them.
Its in the context of community that my art finds meaning and value.
Poverty is also relative - A satellite dish in an umjondolo settlement!
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