Ethno-Botanic Resonance

About this event 

In partnership with the Liliesleaf Trust UK and PF25 cultural projects, and in collaboration with Chelsea Physic Garden, CREATURE (Centre for Creative Arts, Cultures and Engagement) presented Ethno-Botanic Resonance. It comprised an artist performance and a panel discussion with art and cultural practitioners, a botany specialist, and a social anthropologist, fostering a visual and conceptual dialogue on ethnobotany across diverse cultural landscapes.

Ethno-Botanic Resonance delved into the profound intersection of ethnobotanical knowledge, cultural well-being practices, and the art of Ikebana. Ethnobotanical studies illuminate the global recognition of herbal bathing as a healing practice deeply ingrained in diverse cultures. Emphasising its dual impact on physical and psychological well-being, the narrative unfolds within the historical context of The Wash Houses, the oldest public washing facility in London since 1847.

Curated by Angelika Li, London-based Hong Kong artist Hedy Leung embarked on a journey through ethnobotanical wisdom, unveiling the interconnectedness of human societies, plant ecosystems, and ancient well-being practices through an Ikebana performance. Weaving a historical entwinement of cultural traditions and botanical insights, the performance elucidated the intrinsic relationship between ethnobotanical knowledge and herbal bathing practices across cultures and time. It explored the shared heritage of botanical wisdom and cultural well-being rituals. Through the integration of medicinal herbs, the performance transcended traditional aesthetic boundaries, offering a contemporary discourse on the ecological and therapeutic aspects of plant life. Collaborating with the Chelsea Physic Garden, Leung meticulously examined each herb for its visual charm and historical-cultural significance in traditional medicine, creating intentional narratives embedded in Ikebana arrangements.

The Ikebana performance was followed by a panel discussion, with the artist and the curator, on plant-based healing, migration, trade routes, and colonialism across cultural landscapes from South Africa, East Asia to Europe, and beyond.

Moderator: Professor Wessie Ling is a Professor of Transcultural Arts and Design at the School of Art, Architecture and design at London Met and the Director of CREATURE. Caroline Kamana is Director of the Liliesleaf Trust UK responsible for the delivery of the Anti-Apartheid Legacy: Centre of Memory and Learning, the UK’s first museum and community hub dedicated to the heritage of anti-apartheid and its contemporary resonances. A heritage and humanities education specialist, she has multiple years’ experience of teaching and curriculum innovation across primary, secondary and tertiary institutions and within cultural heritage sites. An expert facilitator of community engagement through archives and collections, her practice has been set between South Africa and the UK, including at the Constitutional Court of South Africa and for St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

Hedy Leung is a holistic practitioner and a member of the Sogetsu Teachers' Association and Ikebana International Switzerland (Basel Chapter). Her work explores synergies between humans and nature through sound, plants, and Sogetsu Ikebana. She has participated in art and cultural projects, as well as artist-in-residency programmes in Europe. Besides her artistic practice, she explores energy balancing through BioGeometry Advanced Training. Leung is a certified senior Chinese medicated food dietitian with a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Diploma in Practical Chinese Medicine Nutritional Studies.

Angelika Li is a Hong Kong curator based in Basel. She is committed to engaging with the essence of places and the connections through culture, heritage, and stories. As the co-founder of PF25 cultural projects, a non-profit organisation bridging Basel and Hong Kong, she actively fosters a continuous dialogue between international communities. Her research focus includes diaspora, identities, colonial ideologies, and healing, showcased in the exhibition series 'Homeland in Transit', channels narratives and imaginations of 'homeland' from Hong Kong perspectives and interweaves them with experiences from around the world. In 2022, she was guest curator for the programme of ‘Brice Marden. Inner Space’ at Kunstmuseum Basel. Angelika holds a BA in History of Art and Architecture from the University of Reading and an MA in Cultural Management from the Chinese University in Hong Kong.

Dr Vibe Nielsen is a social anthropologist with a background in Museum Studies, Modern Culture and European Ethnology, working on issues related to the decolonisation of museums, botanic gardens, and public places. Her recent publications include The Colonial Roots of Botany – Legacies of Empire in the Botanic Gardens of Oxford and Kew (2023, Museum Management and Curatorship) and Diversifying Public. Commemorations in Cape Town and Copenhagen (2023, In: De-Commemoration: Removing Statues and Remaining Places) among many others. She is a Carlsberg Foundation Visiting Fellow at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, with a Junior Research Fellowship at Linacre College.


Partner organisations and collaborators:

Chelsea Physic Garden is one of the oldest and most respected botanic gardens in Europe. It is the oldest in London, and only surpassed in age, in England, by Oxford Botanic Garden. Founded in 1673 by The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London for its apprentices to study medicinal plants and their uses, it became one of the most important centres of botany and plant exchange in the world. Chelsea Physic Garden’s plant collection is unique in being the only botanic garden collection focused on medicinal, herbal, and useful plants. It is destined to demonstrate the medicinal, economic, cultural, and environmental importance of plants to the survival and well-being of humankind. It helps everyone to understand the value of plants in their lives, to Sow the Seeds of Discovery through people, plants, and place.

PF25 cultural projects is a Basel-based non-profit organisation which aims to build mutual understanding, to develop an intercultural network and to create active synergies through meaningful, on-the-ground cultural exchanges generated by research with a focus on Hong Kong and Basel - and extending to other regions of Switzerland and Europe - with a view to expanding a wider spectrum of imagination and to exploring more diverse possibilities of living for the future.

The Liliesleaf Trust UK educates around the South African liberation struggle and the wider movement against apartheid, and particularly the important role of the global community. They connect the learnings from this heritage – as one of the most important, Black-led histories of the 20th Century – to deliver their mission: “Learning from the world-changing history of international solidarity against apartheid to support positive social change, and an end to racism and inequality.” Their arts and education-based activity programming supports community cohesion, skills development, and aspiration by channelling the legacy of anti-apartheid action, solidarity and collaboration. They are developing 28 Penton Street, Islington - a former HQ of the exiled African National Congress and British hub of anti-apartheid – into the Centre of Memory and Learning, bringing to life the power of anti-apartheid legacy for contemporary communities.

Ikebana performance and installation with found green materials and everyday objects.

Image: 3 x 7 = 21, Hedy Leung, 2023. Ikebana performance and installation at Salon Mondial, Münchenstein/Basel. Found green materials, everyday objects, video of Freilager-platz train tracks as part of PF25 cultural projects residency programme with Atelier Mondial. Photo credit: Julian Salinas

Details: Wednesday 6 March 2024 at 5.30pm-7.00pm in the , Aldgate campus

Ethno-Botanic Resonance Event

AAD Sessions 2023-24