The Royal Botanical Gardens (popularly called Kew Gardens) at Kew, in London, invited BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha to mark the celebratory re-opening of the refurbished Marianne North Gallery on Sunday 11 October 2009. Drawing inspiration from her paintings, BAPS volunteers created traditional Indian designs (rangolis) and conducted henna painting workshops to contribute to the occasion.

Marianne North Gallery is a Grade II listed building in Kew Gardens’ UNESCO World Heritage Site. It houses a collection of over 800 botanical paintings created by one woman in the 19th century. It is the only gallery in Britain dedicated solely to the work of one female artist.

Marianne North (1830-1890) travelled extensively around the world and painted plants in their natural environment. She spent about 15 months travelling and painting all across India. Among over 200 paintings she produced in the Indian subcontinent is a collection of plants with significant cultural and religious values.

Supported partly by The Heritage Lottery Fund, the newly refurbished gallery now houses 832 paintings of Marianne North. New interpretations reveal stories of environmental change and show Marianne as a pioneering woman at a time of great discovery and scientific enquiry.

Approximately 200 people attended the re-opening from various community voluntary organisations, with many participating in the rangoli and henna workshops conducted by BAPS. During the workshops, BAPS volunteers also informed visitors about the cultural and traditional significance of plants and flowers in the Hindu faith.

Visitors also enjoyed the re-created rangoli of the “Water Lily” from Marianne North’s painting during her travels to India. In particular, visitors appreciated the volunteerism and warm community spirit of the eighteen BAPS volunteers who were on hand to help at the event. A spokesperson from Kew Gardens also stated that they “would love to continue fostering community relations with BAPS.”

Click on the respective links to learn more about the Royal Botanical Gardens (Kew Gardens) and the Marianne North Gallery.

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