Peace Blooms: Cattle, Conflict and the Roses of Lake Naivasha at Hoxton Gallery
One thing that most Londoners have on their to-do list this week is buying a bunch of roses: the classic and indisputable favourite gift for Valentine’s Day. Most of these flowers, 70 per cent to be precise, are being shipped to the UK all the way from Kenya. The photo exhibition Peace Blooms: Cattle, Conflict and the Roses of Lake Naivasha at Hoxton Gallery puts the country’s flower industry into a broader context. It’s also hosting a pop-up flower shop between 10th and 15th February, selling these very roses.
Upon entering the gallery, visitors see pictures of rose farms and their employees on the left-hand side, a representation of modern Kenya. On the right-hand side are pictures of Maasai pastoralists and their cattle, depicting Kenya’s traditional way of living. Both worlds, opposing as they may be, are connected: they depend on Lake Naivasha. The industry needs water for the plants, the Maasai need it for their cattle. For the communities living by the lake, it’s a source of life, but a reason for sorrow and dispute at the same time.
Peace Blooms, organised by NGO International Alert, aims to illustrate the relationship between water, conflict and peace in the country. It strikingly illustrates human dependancy on this fundamental resource, and its vulnerability. Lake Naivasha is threatened by over-farming, climate change and contamination, which consequently threatens the peaceful coexistence of communities that depend on it.
Peace Blooms does not have a negative message. International Altert combined the exhibition with the launch of its first Peace Audit, an assesment of the chances for peace in Kenya; instead of focusing on risks and the drivers for conflict, they point out the strengths of the East African country. This makes for an exhibition that breaks away from a Western narrative of Kenya, and Africa in general, as a place where one crisis is inevitably followed by the next. Viewers are invited to see the possibilities for prosperity and peace through the stories of rose farmers and pastoralists.
Photos: Rosie Yang
Peace Blooms: Cattle, Conflict and the Roses of Lake Naivasha is at Hoxton Gallery until 15th February 2015, for further information visit here.