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Luca Ramacciotti – Sogetsu Concentus Study Group

La nostra allieva Fiammetta Martegani, antropologa e curatrice al Museo Eretz  Israel di Tel Aviv, tempo fa mi parlò di un libro di ikebana che aveva trovato al Mercato delle pulci di Jaffo, la città vecchia di Tel Aviv. Ha rintracciato Ilan, il figlio della maestra di ikebana che aveva scritto il libro e mi ha inviato le impressioni che questa arte suscita in lei e il suo percorso svolto. Lascio a lei la parola e la ringrazio per questo prezioso ed emozionante contributo.

The most accurate translation of the Japanese word Ikebana is “the way of flowers”.

For every student, Ikebana is always the beginning of a journey, and not necessarily in Japan. I started my journey in Australia in 2006, where I spent six sabbatical months between the end of my MA and the beginning of my Ph.D in Anthropology. In Sydney, one of my flatmates used to practice Ikebana. Every week, she would bring home a beautiful “Japanese flower arrangement”, sparkling joy in the entire apartment.

As an Italian, arriving from the country of the Renaissance, I immediately recognized in this “flower composition” a piece of art, a “creation”.  Not surprisingly, the word “Ikebana” is combined with hana, “flower”, and ikeru, a verb that can be translated as “life”, “to live”, “to give birth”, “to create”. Hence, from this meaning, every artwork is also a creative act in itself. As an anthropologist, I immediately realized that I wanted to explore and dive much deeper into the world of Ikebana. 

Luckily, once I came back to Milan, my hometown, I found a Japanese Ikebana Sensei (“Master”), Keiko Ando Mei. She introduced me to the fascinating world of Ikebana, together with a deep study of the most celebrated Japanese poets: Basho, Kenko, Ryokan. According to Keiko, the best attitude to discover the “way of flowers” was through a literary journey. This was how I discovered Japan, many years before my first visit to the Land of the Rising Sun.

However, this was just the beginning of my journey because, three years later, my postdoctoral program brought me to Israel, where I have lived ever since. Once I arrived in Israel, I immediately looked for an Ikebana Master – her name was Erika Shomrony. In 1947, shortly after the end of World War II, she escaped to Israel from Austria. Erika passed away in 2018 at 100, still practicing Ikebana. She wrote the first, and so far the only, book in Hebrew about Ikebana, entitled “Arranging Flowers”, published in 1974. The book is a beautiful tribute to the Japanese art of flower arrangement with particular attention to Israeli nature and environment.

Following her passing, I approached the Japanese Embassy in Tel Aviv. This is when I discovered that I was currently the sole Ikebana expert in the country. Hence, the journey brought me to another level. I started to learn more about Japanese aesthetic and harmony in general as this is the very essence of Ikebana, a natural, asymmetrical, and humble flower arrangement, created to bring nature and harmony in your own home.

These are the three words that I always use to describe the feeling of practicing Ikebana: beauty, nature and harmony. This last word in particular, wa, in Japanese, is also a philosophy of life. Thus, once you discover the core principles of Ikebana’s aesthetic, you can easily apply it to every aspect of your life from home to family, as well as from your desktop to your entire company.

Practicing Ikebana daily is also a wonderful way to meditate and be more focused in every aspect of our lives, just as the Samurais used to do. As in every other Japanese Zen practice and arts, including martial arts, the main purpose is not the final result, but the process itself. In other words, it is not about what to do, but how to do it. And this is, to me, the most fascinating part of the journey because it is never ending.

Eventually, I made the real journey to Japan and after this I started to study the Japanese language. This led me to discover another art, shodo, “the way of calligraphy”. During my studies, I realized that Ikebana and Shodo are deeply connected and intertwined with one other. Sofu Teshigara, the “Picasso of Japan”, used to practice them both and successfully combined them together. He was the founder of the Sogetsu School, one of the most avant-garde schools of Ikebana. I belong to this School and am currently studying, under the supervision of the masters Lucio Farinelli and Luca Ramacciotti, in order to become the first official Sogetsu Master in Israel, an extraordinary country where different cultures, religions and traditions live next to each other. Like the art of Ikebana, which is born from the encounter between nature and humans: it can be practiced anywhere and by anyone, with no national or ethnic boundaries. It crosses borders and brings us back to our original roots in nature, since the purpose of practicing Ikebana is to create in the flower vase the same harmony that we need in our minds.

This is why, after travelling all around the world, I feel that only when practicing Ikebana I can be deeply connected to the place where I live. Ikebana makes me feel grounded and connected with life.

To me, this is the essence of practicing Ikebana. A beautiful and never ending journey: “the way of flowers”.

Concentus Study Group

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