Tropical Ikebana

Lila Hendra with her dramatic arrangement
Ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arrangement, may have its origins in temperate Japan but the theme, “Tropical Ikebana” was picked to commemorate the 21st anniversary of Johor Baru’s Chapter of Ikebana International (IIJB).  

Members were challenged to create arrangements from flowers and foliage found in the tropics and the results were simply stunning.  Some 30 exhibits were displayed for public viewing at KSL City Mall for 3 days up to 24 May 2012, after a private reception that featured a demonstration by Andy Djati Utomo, an award-winning Professional Floral Artist from Indonesia.

Datin Ong Kid Ching with her Spring Garden
There are several schools of ikebana that follow a particular set of rules and arrangement techniques with the more prominent and popular schools of ikebana like Ikenobo, Ohara, Sogetsu, Koryu and Ichiyo. 

To the uninitiated, ikebana may appear stark and strange but in its basic form, an ikebana arrangement follows a fixed pattern of a triangle with three points that represent Heaven, Earth and Man.  The key consideration in ikebana is to use as few plant materials as possible to compose an elegant arrangement.  The emphasis is on linear perfection, colour, harmony, space and form, and the choice of plant materials is guided by the artist’s desire to create harmony between the materials and the vessels.

Datin Ong Kid Ching, Past President, a charter member of IIJB and ikebana instructor, who is also skilled in pottery, created an arrangement which she calls, “Spring Garden” that used vessels she made.  She describes ikebana arrangements as “fine art – like a Picasso painting made with flowers” to express the artist’s sentiments. 

Andy Djati Utomo with his installation
created with mix of artifical and natural material
“This is the third time we are showcasing our arrangements in a mall,” said Ong as this is one of the ways to introduce the art of ikebana to the public.  At the moment IIJB has 42 members who are actively involved in the study of ikebana and have the opportunity to learn from experienced instructors as well as visiting flower masters.

Andy Djati Utomo, who has more than 18 years experience in floral design and ikebana, demonstrated 6 different arrangements designed in the various schools of ikebana.  Using classic bonze vases, he deftly completed two elegant arrangements in the school of Ikenobo.  In other arrangements designed in the school of Ohara and free-style, he demonstrated the full play of his creativity.  Then he wowed the audience with his final arrangement of a Sogetsu school installation that combined the use of artificial materials with natural foliage.

“The Consul Office will continue to have a cordial working relationship with your Chapter,” said Tetsumi Murata, the Consul of Japan to Johor, in his speech.  He also congratulated IIJB for more than two decades of promoting the traditional art of ikebana in Johor Baru and hoped that the Chapter will continue to do so in the coming years.

Serena Chew [Left] with Tunku Shahariah and her
IIJB President, Serena Chew graciously acknowledged the generous contributions of sponsors and the hard work of the Chapter’s Board members who made the event a beautiful success.  Also present were IIJB Charter President, Tunku Shahariah bte Almarhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Tunku Abu Bakar bin Tunku Abdul Rahman, Gusti Retno Astrini, members and guests.  

Membership in Ikebana International Johor Baru is open to anyone who is interested in the art of flower arrangement.  For membership enquiries, email:

Tetsumi Murata, Consul of Japan to Johor [3rd from Right] with IIJB Board members

Margaret Liew with her arrangement

Clare Liew with her arrangement
Thanam Visvanathan Suresh with her arrangement
Alex Kee [Left], Lisa Shedd [Centre] with Chris Parry and his arrangement
Arrangement by Chris Parry, the only male member of IIJB

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 4 June 2012

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