Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon – Winnie the Pooh
For Christmas my ma, sis and I gave each other subscriptions to our favourite magazines. This way we would be spoilt every month for an entire year. Catching up on the latest fashion, stories from around the world, health and exercise news, make-up tips and generally indulging in all things girly. I received a subscription to Marie-Claire South Africa and I LOVE it. In the March 2012 issue I read an article called Bhutan: Gross National Happiness: An artist measures Himalayan inhabitants wellbeing and it struck a chord with me. I have an obsession with balloons (all my girlfriends know exactly how I want to be proposed to one day – hint hint nudge nudge it involves hundreds of these bright and colourful plastic inflatable smiles).
The idea behind the project is simple. Instead of using the usual measurement of “Gross National Product” to measure socio-economic prosperity Bhutan uses “Gross National Happiness” – organizing its national agenda around the basic tenets of Buddhism. The artist Jonathan Harris spent two weeks in Bhutan, interviewing people about different aspects of happiness. They were asked to rate their ‘level of happiness’ between 1 and 10 and would then inflate that number of balloons. A very happy person would be given 10 balloons and a sad person only one.
He also asked each person to make a wish and then wrote that wish on a balloon of their favorite color.
In a beautiful final presentation of Jonathan’s project, all 117 wish balloons were re-inflated and strung up at a sacred mountain pass called Dochula swaying in the winds amidst thousands of strands of prayer flags.
Where would you rank yourself on the “happiness scale”? How many balloons would you choose to hold? What is the one wish that you would write down?
Jonathan Harris’s work can be viewed on his website: www.number27.orgClick on images to view larger versions.