Ikebana, a traditional Japanese art form, is blossoming in Dubai’s Safa Park.
Harue Oki has been learning and perfecting the art of Ikebana flower arranging since the age of 16, and even though the ancient art began around the 6th Century Harue is leading something of a renaissance here in Dubai.
The Japanese word Ikebana means ‘ living flower’ and uses principles of minimalism and ‘empty space’, in contrast to western arrangements that focus on bunching blooms together by colour or type. Ikebana is about creating a piece of art with a natural energy that uses organic materials such as branches and leaves as well as blossoms.
Harue runs workshops at The Archive in Safa Park, teaching students of all origins how to create striking and elegant arrangements of their own, and they have proved to be a success among the city’s flora and fauna fans. ‘I’ve done many courses for the local ladies and to be honest the Arab and Japanese aesthetic are so very different,’ says Harue. ‘Japanese style is simple, and creates empty space, whereas Arabic style has more colour and embellishment, but students still embrace it very quickly and admire the simple form.’
Harue explains that, aside from creating beautiful arrangements for the home, in Japan Ikebana was considered one of the skills a woman was required to have before she left home and got married. ‘It is one of the most traditional arts in Japan, in line with tea ceremonies and how to tie Kimono,’ who was born and raised in Japan. ‘My family was the kind of family that really valued the traditional arts, and when I was young I was forced learn, and I’m happy I did. My mother’s generation had to learn how to do these things, but not anymore. My family wanted to keep these traditions.’
Ikebana is a simple floristry form but it still takes a lot of practice and skill to achieve the balance that makes it distinct. Harue began her initial learning at home, and continued to practice and master the skill in between developing her career. She attended the Ohara School of Ikebana in Tokyo, where she gained the qualifications that enabled her to travel the world teaching the art. Her new course at The Archive will give students who pass and complete the programme a qualification too. ‘People will get an official certification from The Ohara Ikebana School in Japan. And they can take an instructor’s course. On completion they get a diploma so they can teach when they go back to their own countries,’ she adds. ‘But it’s not like school, it’s not classrooms and me talking, it is creative. Ikebana is relaxing, you concentrate on the flower composition and it makes your mind calm. You have to use your creativity and imagination.’
Harue says that the global popularity of Japanese animation and Manga has drawn interest in the wider Japanese culture and art, and made it appealing and accessible to a new generation who look at Japan as an inspirational and artistic influence. It’s an outlook which is helping to keep this ancient art alive and blooming. ‘The youngsters are rediscovering the traditional arts – they are now even interested in wearing kimono.
It’s like going back to their heritage. I get constant enquiries from non-Japanese people – we held a Japanese culture Day at the Archive and I did a kimono demonstration and the class was full! The youngsters in the UAE are raised on Japanese Manga so they like the modern Japanese culture as well as the traditional.’
Ikebana at The Archive. Dhs1,600 (inclusive of flowers, official certificate and registration fee). Tue 5pm-8pm. From October 14. The Archive, Safa Park. To enrol on the course email firstname.lastname@example.org
More floral courses in the city
Mamoso Floral Design Beginner Course
This beginner five-class course teaches budding florists how to create hand tied bouquets, vase and corsage arrangements, as well as how to work with foliage.
Dhs2500, plus Dhs700 for flowers and equipment. www.mamoso.com/design-course (04 330 7293).
Vintage Bloom Dubai
Learn the basics of floristry and create simple, hand-tied arrangements.
Dhs400 per person. Two hour class. Call for forthcoming dates. Indigo icon, unit 306, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, www.vintagebloom.com (04 451 5755).