Tagged: Olive

Pax Plantae

Nelumbo nucifera, or the lotus, is an aquatic plant known for its ability to grow from brackish, muddy swampland – and perhaps a little-known emblem for peace and purity in some regions of the world. It’s completely unrealistic, but the sentiment here is irresistible: ‘…According to Hindu philosophy, human beings ought to live like a lotus flower in this wily, unscrupulous world, completely detached and pure hearted, untouched by evil forces.’

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Lotus Flowers with A Landscape Painting in the Background. c. 1885-1900. Martin Johnson Heade, North Carolina Museum of Art

In many Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, the lotus is used repeatedly to represent inner peace and purity in much spiritual illustration. The idea that filth and pollution can be transcended and separated from earthly degeneration by meditating upon the lotus flower is seductive, although we all know purity and cleanliness are more likely to be achieved with graft and chemical karma: rivers of elbow grease, a giant lakesworth of Mr. Muscle (other cleaning products are available) and several reservoirs of bleach. The chemical angle doesn’t work for the mind, unfortunately. In Buddhism, the lotus is said to represent total purity of body, mind and speech: duck-like, its repellent qualities see water droplets slide from the smooth surface of the petals like mercury.

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The Hindu goddess Lakshmi holding & standing on a lotus, Raja Ravi Varma ‘Lotus (he 荷, lian 莲) The lotus is the flower of the sixth month and summer. It is a symbol of purity because it rises out of the mud to bloom. Lotus blossoms are often depicted as a throne for the Buddha, and the lotus is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism (ba jixiang 八吉祥).’

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Jiezi Yuan Huazhuan, Lotus Flowers (Mustard Seed Garden Painting Manual)

‘Legend has it that the 14th day of June in the Chinese lunar calendar is the lotus’s birthday, commonly known as the Lotus Festival. This custom originated in the Song Dynasty (960-1279)’

There is an annual lotus festival in Guangzhou, China: ‘Guangzhou’s Fanyu District is the ideal location for this picturesque outdoor event, with its many waterways, ponds and lakes… The Lotus Flower Festival showcases over 280 different varieties of lotuses, with a total of around 15,000 individual flowers on display.’

The lotus is not just vital to Indian and Chinese depictions of inner peace and purity, but was also central to ancient Egyptian culture and symbolism. Because the flower closes at night and reopens at dawn, it was used repeatedly in the applied arts to symbolise rebirth and regeneration – an archetypal Egyptian preoccupation.

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Egyptian Lotus Chalice, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD, USA

Probably a more universally recognised symbol of peace, the olive branch, inhabits the collective consciousness as a traditional peace offering.

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Olea europaea, Köhler’s Medizinal Pflanzen 229, by Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal Pflanzen

‘Early Christian art often depicts a dove flying and holding an olive branch in its beak. The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and it brings the olive branch (a symbol of peace) down to the people on Earth. Christian tradition also adds a dove carrying an olive branch to the story of Noah and his ark, a sign for Noah and his family that the flood and storm had finally ended after 40 days and 40 nights.’

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Olive Trees, Vincent Willem van Gogh

One of the oldest living olive specimens can be seen at the Garden of Gethsemane. Ironically, plumb in the middle of a religious conflict which has been going on for as long as I can remember.

One_of_the_oldest_olive_trees_in_the_Garden_of_Gethsemane.

One of the oldest olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem, by Bogdan Kosar

Art Spot

Pablo Picasso, Colombe de L’Avenir 1962, featuring a dove carrying an olive branch.
Picasso was an active member of the communist party from 1944 until his death in 1973 and a dedicated advocate for peace:

‘In 1944, after the liberation of Paris, Picasso joined the Communist Party and became an active participant of the Peace Movement. In 1949, the Paris World Peace Conference adopted a dove created by Picasso as the official symbol of the various peace movements. The USSR awarded Picasso the International Stalin Peace Prize twice…’ Therein lies yet more irony.

Bed For Peace‘, performance by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1969.
A useful article revisiting the impact of their performance can be found here.

Literary Corner

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

Architecture

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The Lotus Temple or Bahai House of Worship, New Delhi, designed by Fariborz Sahba

Blog Soundtrack

Imagine, by John Lennon

Organisations for Plants and Peace

Plant for Peace is an initiative designed specifically to assist rural communities and smallholder farmers in conflict and post conflict territories around the world to achieve food security and sustainable economic development thereby contributing to stability by empowering communities to become self sufficient through sustainable agriculture and trade.’

seedfreedom.info

Famous Pacifists

Ghandi
Sophie Scholl
Julia Ward Howe
Two Bobs – Dylan and Marley
Nelson Mandela
The Dalai Lama
Mother Teresa
Jesus
Leo Tolstoy
John Lennon & Yoko Ono
Pablo Picasso
Albert Einstein
St. Francis of Assissi
Linus Pauling
Jane Addams
Joan Baez

Sources

arthistoryarchive.com
metmuseum.org
britishmuseum.org
indiaexchange.org
artetpaix.net
chinaculture.org
chinahighlights.com
imaginepeace.com
nobelprize.org
All images Wikimedia Commons, with the exception of ‘Peace Signed Official’ Headline from the Pall Mall Gazette, below (Imperial War Museum Archive)

Pace Paix Pax say Peace in every language

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Placard for the Pall Mall Gazette. Refers to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
Imperial War Museum, London Art.IWM PST 12972

Notes: The Nobel Peace Prize, first awarded in 1901, is an invaluable resource for finding out more about individuals and organisations widely considered to have made outstanding contributions to world peace.