The Japanese treasure their cherry blossoms, the English their daffodils and oak trees. They ooh and aah about the autumn leaves in Connecticut and cowboys sing of lonesome pines and prairies. World culture is rife with reference to landscape, and some countries even export it- there’s a huge Matsuri festival in Brooklyn every year to celebrate the cherry blossom and the Christmas tree that began its cultural life in Germany now also lines Orchard road in Singapore every year in December.
What of our Malaysian landscape?
Who will write a poem of the Tembusu tree?
or paint the Lallang swaying in the breeze?
or the moon in a Durian Orchard?
Sadly, many local trees, flowers and plants don’t even get the time of day here usurped by more showy South American species like Heliconias and Bougainvillea. Many of our botanical treasures are unidentified in plant nurseries, ignored on roadsides and uninvited into our gardens.
Johor Green is launching an intitative to treasure ‘Our Green Heritage’. We kick off this initiative by painting the Tembusu at sunset, lallang swaying in the breeze and the moon in a durian orchard and more — we have 20 artworks of familiar and not so familiar Malaysian Flora that we have for sale as posters, notebooks and cards.
But that is not all we want to do. We want to use this material to start a conversation about our landscape. We plan to organize talks in local schools and evangelize the idea of knowing the names of our Malaysian flora and to recognize the beauty and breadth of our botanic diversity and also of a rich history of local ethnobotanic traditions using plants to make everything from food colouring to furniture. We also want to spark an interest with the creative community to look to local flora and landscape themes and to build a local knowledge map of this ‘green heritage’- more about that later.
Why are we doing this? Here’s our reasoning. Maybe if we loved our landscape more we might not be so indifferent to its destruction or disappearance. If children were asked to name the trees that they drive by each day, maybe when they grow up they will not let those trees be cut down to build a shopping mall. When they grow up and remember the sunset through the Casuarina trees on Danga Bay maybe this is what will call them home when they have finished their studies abroad.
Our landscape is not only our heritage it is the essence of home. To treasure it is to make it of such value that we will not be able to bear leaving or losing it. Who knows we may even end up exporting it — instead of importing someone elses.