Daughter of the Soil: OH! Emerald Hill, Openhouse, Singapore
An art installation inspired by the story of Agnes Joaquim, a Singapore born Armenian woman, born on the 7th of April, 1854.
While the legacies of the white men of colonialism (think Sir Stamford Raffles) have been glorified, the story of Agnes Joaquim and her botanical achievements has been contested, questioned or simply ignored.
This art installation tells her story in three layers.
The first layer is made of ‘soiled’ lace work. The lace work is 'soiled' with soil that Mamakan dug out from where Agnes’ original garden used to be in Tanjong Pagar. The lace was soaked with the soil for 24 hours and then dried under the hot sun. It's estimated that the women creating the lace work spent more than 2,000 hours. It is believed that Agnes worked years to cross-breed one orchid.
The second layer is the flower trail, inspired by her great legacy. Some of the flowers used are chrysanthemums, roses and orchids, just some of the award winning plants amongst Agnes’ numerous horticultural awards. The flowers merge to shape a map of Agnes’ country of birth and an outline of her proudest creation, the Papilionanthe ‘Vanda’ Miss Joaquim orchid, that 82 years after her death became the national flower of Singapore.
The third layer is a black crinoline. A crinoline is what 19th century women used to wear underneath their dresses. The crinoline here serves as a symbol of ‘the cage’ of a 19th century woman. Agnes was probably kept away from public speaking, higher education, business, paid work, travel and politics. However, the crinoline is partly exposed. Agnes somewhat managed to break free of her cage. She never married and enjoyed her independence. She researched botany and worked tirelessly in her garden.
This daughter of the soil became the first woman in the world to ever cross-breed orchids.
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