Meet artist Ana Kuni and florist Alwijn Burger of BLOMBOY
A Love Affair with Flowers
SA’s king of blooms, Alwijn Burger of BLOMBOY, talks to us about his floristry work. ‘Flowers should never be given or created to impress—if so, you are missing the point’
How did you get into flowers?
I was born in Bedford—a charming little village in the Eastern Cape—now famous for its October Garden Festival. I went to school in Grahamstown but spent my weekends in our glorious pastorie garden. This is where my love affair with flowers began.
And your time in the UK?
At the tender age of 18 I was very confident in my abilities and my self-taught skills in floristry, but I upped and went to the UK where I ended up working for two well established floral firms—both Royal Appointment businesses.
What was that like?
At these firms, I received a conservative, but invaluable schooling in traditional floristry. The fact that the same people who taught me the basics were responsible for Princess Diana’s wedding bouquet still blows my mind.
Tell us how BLOMBOY began?
I refer to BLOMBOY as my nom de plume—a nickname and passion project that became a brand. It was a very organic process, born from a need to make flowers a bigger part of my diverse creative output.
What’s your advice for turning a passion into a business?
Do what you love, fight for it, fail at it, and keep doing it.
What keeps you motivated?
My ambition is to play a role in making the world a more beautiful place. I used that line long before Miss America did.
What do you do when you’re not focused on flowers?
I am never not focused on flowers—in fact, I dream in flowers. I concentrate on defining, improving and reinventing concepts, spaces, and happenings. Flowers are my favourite medium in which to do so.
If you could do a flower creation for anyone—who would it be, and why?
That would be my friend’s six-year-old daughter, Rood. She still believes in magic and has the purest appreciation of flowers. Flowers should never be given or created to impress—if you do so you are missing the point.
Anything exciting in the pipeline?
Yes. Always. Keep ’em guessing is what I say…
Any flower trends you can predict?
The flower industry is sadly not a very green industry at the moment. Rethinking sustainability and our petal footprint will, I believe, cause a shift in our creativity and the creations we produce. Much like the food industry, florists need to redefine their offerings according to local, preferably regional, and seasonal produce.
Tell us something about yourself that would surprise our readers?
I only started working as a florist in the UK because I was fired from three waitering jobs in one month. I never waitered again, but I did do flowers for Queen Elizabeth II soon after that. Who’s laughing now?
All About Ana
Ukrainian artist, Ana Kuni shares how she came to be one of the Mother City’s most-loved artists.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in post-Soviet Ukraine, in an industrial city with grey buildings and streets. I was scouted to join a modelling agency at 15—and in few months I was on my way to Tokyo where my modelling career started. Japan has always been a major inspiration for me. It has helped me shape my artistic style—enhancing it with gentle subtlety.
So how did you end up in Cape Town?
I came to Cape Town for a modelling job about 12 years ago and never left. I fell in love with the place. The mountains, the ocean, the sunsets, the food, the people …I just love this city.
How did you come to be interested in art?
As far back as I can remember I would always draw and paint. I started art school when I was six. Since then I’ve always travelled with pencil and paper. It means I can sketch wherever I am … on a plane, a train or in my hotel room.
How did you turn a hobby into a business?
I had a very quiet season in Paris while modelling and I spent most of my time walking around galleries. I felt inspired so I bought watercolour paints and started painting—and it was magic for me. It was so satisfying. From that moment I knew this was what I wanted to do full-time.
How did things go in the beginning?
It was not easy to make a career out of a hobby. But I kept being true to myself, telling the story of a Warrior Woman, and people seemed to like it. The response I got through social media gave me the confidence to do my first show. Thankfully, a snowball effect followed.
Tell us about Warrior Woman?
Warrior Woman features in most of my paintings. She is a conscious, creative, compassionate being, living in harmony with her inner and outer world. She is gentle but fierce, wild and undiscovered.
How do you stay inspired?
Inspiration comes from anywhere, but nature is my unlimited source of stimulation. I also like to go back to Power of Now and New Earth by Ekchart Tolle—to remind myself of the importance of being present.
Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
This year I will continue collaboration with my art partner, photographer Linnea Frank. We’ve exhibited together in Cape Town and Sweden and are planning new projects in Zanzibar and Namibia for our KuniFrank Season 3 Exhibition. I also have a few private and public mural projects to do in the next few months, in London and Paris. Can’t say too much, but stay tuned to my Instagram page.
Best advice you'd give a young artist?
Enjoy every moment of your life. It will not get better. It is perfect right here, right now. Try new things. Oh, and wear a protective mask and clothes if using spray paint.
Ayeh Khalatbari - Our Photographer
Our cover was shot by the very talented Ayeh Khalatbari, a self-taught Persian photographer, who arrived in Cape Town to study and decided to stay forever. Ayeh believes the key to a good photograph is the ability to see beauty in imperfections.
What do you like most about your job?
I can do it from the heart. The most challenging? The light! What’s your secret? I guess capturing real emotions. And anyone with honest eyes.