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KZN ARTISTS TOPS (article first published : 2002-06-28)

South African floral artists shared emotional experiences ranging from gold medal success to dejection at the 7th World Flower Show at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow this week.

Of the 70 who took part in the week long Floramondi in this former European City of Culture, four were winners of coveted gold medals in their respective categories while others had to suffer the agonies of the loss of their flowers in transit from Johannesburg to the host city and were left agonising over what might have been.

Another seven South Africans won silver medals, four claimed bronze and eight others honourable mentions.

Those who kept the flag flying for South Africa in this global contest celebrated every three years - last held in 1999 in Durban were KZN floral artists Delia Ballantyne and Jane Matkovich as well as Leslie Brent of Eastern Cape and Debbie de Vries of Western Cape who were judged winners of their respective categories.

But for Westville's Di Wayne, winner of the 1999 Best in Show award, and Sandy Talbot months of planning and assembling of material for this summit meeting of nearly 700 floral artists representing 30 countries ended in total disaster when their boxes of flowers consigned from Johannesburg International Airport were lost in transit.

"To put it mildly," said Wayne, "we are totally devastated. "Expectations for me, in particular, were high as winner of the top award at the last show. "But, as it turned out, circumstances denied us the opportunity of competing against the world's best and we were virtually consigned to the sidelines."

As in Durban three years ago, crowds steadily streamed through the turnstiles in their thousands at the vast Conference Centre since its official opening by Princess Anne, despite the cold and rainy weather.

A special moment for the South African contingent was a meeting with Dame Julie Clements, world renowned floral artist and author of several books on flower arranging.

The South African gold medallists shared similar reactions on learning of their success - disbelief and bewilderment.

"Although I was quite satisfied with how my arrangement in the Network category turned out, I wasn't convinced that I had quite got what the judges would be looking for in their interpretation of it," said Ballantyne of Durban North who was a silver medallist in 1999. "I was absolutely overwhelmed when my friend Anna Schoultz told me there was a gold ribbon lying next to my arrangement after the judging."

Matkovich said: "I was initially shocked when I learned of my success as the allocated time was just not enough for me to sort out all the material they gave us in the Materials Matters imposed section and arrange it. "I was very rushed at the end to complete the task."

Former Durbanite Malcolm Kitt, now resident in Britain, was one of four male floral artists who won gold medals in one of the 35 categories.




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