Sunday 8 September 2019

Shoso's Speech at the Opening of Wa 2019

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Wa: Melbourne Ikebana Festival. I’d particularly like to welcome our special guests, a representative of Dr Tien Kieu, Member of the Victorian Parliament, Daniel Nguyen, City of Yarra Councillor, Wadaiko Rindo, and Trish Nicholls of Ikebana International, but it’s great to see so many of you here and you are all very welcome.

All of you are part of this first international Ikebana festival. When I said we should call our next exhibition an ikebana festival, not an ikebana exhibition, some of my students laughed, saying “That sounds too big for us”. It is true that it was a bit ambitious, but we needed it and we achieved it thanks to you all.

Why did we need Wa: Melbourne Ikebana Festival?

Firstly, because it can be a very effective vehicle to promote ikebana. Ikebana is not very well recognised in Australia, although it was introduced here over 60 years ago. Many organisations organise exhibitions regularly and some of them have invited ikebana masters from Japan. That is wonderful, but I believe we need to do more to reach the wider community.

Secondly, contemporary conditions have changed. Many people see climate change and environmental sustainability as the biggest problems we face today. Ikebana has a role to play here. Ikebana can teach us that nature is not our resource but rather we are part of nature.

The history of Ikebana suggests that its role has been rather passive for five centuries. For instance, when the middle class emerged in the Edo period, ikebana developed simplified styles to accommodate their needs. When Western culture was introduced to Japan, Ikebana changed again to adjust to the social change. If society changes, ikebana changes. 

But right now may be a time when ikebana can lead contemporary culture. We, alone, cannot change the environment, but by promoting and supporting ikebana, we may be able to influence people to change their way of thinking about the environment. Ikebana has a role to promote a new attitude to nature, which is actually very ancient.

I will talk more about ikebana and nature tomorrow morning.

However, the journey to our inaugural Melbourne Ikebana Festival was not an easy one. We would not have been able to achieve this without the hard work of the team, our committee, sponsors, an anonymous sponsor, many volunteers and all the exhibitors. Thank you all very much.

In particular, I would like to thank the team, Shoan, Shoto, Shokai, Sue, Ryoko and Takako who spent so many hours for this event. Whenever there was a problem they had a solution. They are a very creative and dynamic team and this small budget international culture festival needed just this team. Every time we overcame our problems we realised that we were stronger.

We have overcome many hurdles. The first big hurdle was when a group of people decided to leave Wa, making us a very small group, simply too small to claim "Melbourne Ikebana Festival".

We decided to recruit exhibitors from outside and we successfully recruited wonderful exhibitors including 3 international and 2 interstate exhibitors. We really appreciate their being with us today and their belief in us.

The second was when we were unable to afford to invite a master teacher from Japan. The quote I received was simply too much for us, and I could not ask our students to support my plan.

We had to change our approach. Rather than asking external support, we had to do whatever we could do to make this event an international festival. We organised talks, demos, workshops, markets, and performances. We aimed to show many aspects of ikebana to promote it.

As a result, we were featured in some important media such as 3MBS. Wadaiko Rindo came to show their support for our hard work. International Society of Ikebana Studies decided to co-host a conference with us regularly. Consequently, many of our events have been sold out.

I feel that bringing this Melbourne Ikebana Festival to life was almost a miracle. That miracle was due to the power of Ikebana and power of people who believe in the significance of this event.