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Photo of the Month - exploring the Story behind the Image...

Flower Petals on Water

Flower Petals on Water

Year: 2011, Month: August

Kenya > Nairobi Area > Nairobi

I went to an African wedding whilst I was in Nairobi. The seating and area for the service were cleverly set outdoors around a swimming pool, and an assortment of petals had been scattered on the surface of the water for effect. Although the bride, dressed in white with a blue and white bouquet, and groom, dressed in a smart grey suit with 2 rather prominent blue and white pens in his breast pocket, were suitably stunning, and the subject of many photographs, it was the effect of the petals on the water that particularly caught my eye, so if you were hoping for pictures of the happy couple you will be disappointed, for the moment at least.

I haven't much to say about this photograph. The colors work well, and its a pleasing composition. I'd go so far as to say that its a beautiful image. I'm certainly very proud of it, and wanted to share it with my readers, but that's all I really want to say for now, so instead I'll chat about the wedding. Most Kenyans are Christian, and the various denominations represent some 90% of the population, so it was not surprising that this was a Christian wedding. As mentioned above, it was set around a swimming pool, and it was a touch of genius to cover the water with flower petals that diverted the eye from an otherwise empty expanse of water. I guess it discouraged people from jumping in as well. The guests, officials and wedding party were fashionably late, and I was beginning to think that my watch had stopped when the families started arriving and the chairs around the pool soon filled up. As if by magic, the wedding party then arrived and seated themselves at the head of the pool, just in time for the happy couple to drive up in a smart grey Mercedes. They were also led to the head of the pool, at which point the guests settled down, the page boys were told to stop fidgeting, and the ceremony commenced.

There were plenty of present ministers for the ceremony, which was a surprise to me. Two of them conducted the service, and at least another five were added later on during the final blessing of the couple. A further one was there for the singing. It wasn't clear which of the main ministers had priority - it seemed to be generally decided by which one had the microphone. Possession is nine tenths of the law, I've heard, and possession of the microphone is not a thing to give up lightly. Whilst one gave the sermon, the other could be seen wondering if he would indeed get the microphone back. Even ministers can be guilty of microphone-envy, but all proceeded amicably, and there were no fisticuffs between them.

A bevy of photographers (is there a collective noun for photographers? 'bevy' seems the most apposite External link opens a new Browser window) scampered around, generally blocking the view of the proceedings for the seated guests, who no doubt were looking forward to the moment that they could purchase the DVD at the end of the ceremony to see what had actually taken place. It was lucky for the guests that the happy couple had been positioned right at the edge of the swimming pool as this stopped an ever increasing number of photographers from blocking the view completely. Surprisingly, no one had thought of positioning a frogman with waterproof camera in the water, where he could have obtained some most interesting images from his unique vantage point.

The minister in current possesion of the microphone rushed along with a lively sermon full of allegory. He missed out, to my mind, an obvious avenue of conjecture by overlooking that the prospective newlyweds were standing at the swimming pools 'deep end' - a most suitable message on the future of matrimony in my mind, but covered the various pitfalls and pleasures of prospective union in great detail. He gave the couple a large number of opportunities to back out from their intended marriage contract. At each moment, as the question hung in the balance, there was a noticeable hush from the assembled guests, but as is usual in these instances, an easy way out of future responsibility was discarded and the couple rushed into their future bondage, if not with alacrity then with the stoicism of rabbits caught in the headlights of an approaching car.

The minister had quite a surprising choice of story to include in his sermon, as he recounted a tale of how a newly-wedded couple and the groom's mother found themselves alone in a lifeboat after an accident at sea. Some days and nights had passed since the ship had sunk, and the small party found themselves running out of food and water. It became apparent, the minister told us, that one of the party would have to leave the lifeboat to enable the remaining voyagers to have a chance of survival. But which one should this be, the minister asked, and then repeated in a loud voice 'Which One Should This Be?'. There are, of course, arguments in favour and against each of the members doing the decent deed and leaving the other two to a safer future, but the minister did not give us any clues, and left the question hanging in the air. You could have heard a pin drop. The microphone changed hands, the five other ministers hurried up to finish proceedings, and the happy couple were blessed and chained in the manner that no man shall split asunder.

The congregation, still hushed by the question of who should really have left the lifeboat, now stood up and eagerly joined in with the singing, led by an eighth and younger minister who hadn't taken part in proceedings so far. The singing was in the Kenyan traditional style, accompanied by an electronic organ and eveyone enjoyed it. The page boys, in their smart grey waistcoats, clapped in time to the music, and the singing went on for some considerable time as overhead the clouds rolled in and the sky got darker. At this point the cermony ended, the guests made their way to the marquees on the lawn below, and the main participants in the wedding ceremony grouped themselves to have the official photographs taken. The heavens, who had been holding off until this point, opened with a vengeance, the sun disappeared, and it started to pour with heavy rain.

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