During the First World War (1914-18) Canadian soldier Lieutenant-Colonel George Stephen Cantlie picked flowers from the fields and gardens of war-torn Europe, pressing and drying them within a book. Every day he sent one flower home along with a short, affectionate note to one of his children, including his one-year-old baby daughter Celia in Montreal so that, as she grew up, she would have something to remember him by in the event he didn’t survive to return home from that terrible war.
Flash-forward. A century has passed and with it all living memory of the First World War. But Cantlie’s letters and flowers have been saved and ultimately passed to his granddaughter, the late Elspeth Angus in Montreal, who lovingly preserved them in a special red box. Six years ago that’s where Canadian filmmaker Viveka Melki, to her utter amazement, first encountered them. They spoke to her from the past, and the germ of an idea was born in Melki’s mind.
Now, more than 100 years after he picked the flowers, Cantlie’s touching wartime ritual can be experienced anew in WAR Flowers – A Touring Art Exhibition.
WAR Flowers, developed by exhibition curator Viveka Melki and produced by Les Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens (Alexander Reford, director) in Grand-Métis, Quebec, is an art show presenting Cantlie’s original century-old preserved letters and flowers, but that’s only as the starting point. From that, Melki has created a multisensorial, emotionally involving vision of the effects of war on all who experience it personally. The exhibition provides visitors with a unique, immersive experience centred around Melki’s intense personal belief in the resilience of the human spirit. Melki has reinterpreted 10 of Cantlie’s flowers using floriography, a Victorian-era method of communicating meaning and emotion through flowers, to tell a larger story of human nature in the landscape of war.
Media inquiries: Jeanette Dotimas, Communications
Legislative Assembly of Alberta | 780.415.1839 |