The most popular forms of protest usually include marching, bullhorns and shouted messages of defiance. And for participants, those can be cathartic and empowering. No matter the cause—same-sex marriage, equal pay, climate change—a good old-fashioned angry protest can give a voice to those who otherwise feel ignored.
But there’s also another kind of protest—a quieter kind, that’s perhaps a little more elegant in its approach, but no less effective. The Pansy Project is among the latter category, and despite it being more subdued than bullhorns and shouting, the project is no less moving for those lucky enough to witness it.
Started by artist Paul Harfleet several years ago, The Pansy Project plants a flower at any site where homophobic abuse has occurred.
Harfleet was inspired to start the project some years ago after he heard the word “fag***” shouted at him a handful of times in a single day.
He explained to FastCo.Exist, “Roadside memorials were becoming popular at the time, and I liked the way they made you think about what had happened at that location,” he says. “Planting pansies was more gentle and low-key than an actual memorial. I liked the idea of queering the street, in some way.”
After photographing his plants, he places the pictures on his website, usually titled with words related to the specific act of abuse that flower represents, such as “'I think he’s a queer, let’s kill him' in St Ann’s Street in Manchester.”
"Queer!" Hill Street, Belfast, for Vincent
Since its beginning, Harfleet estimates he’s planted over 10,000 flowers in the names of people who were verbally or physically abused for being gay. Though he started in his native U.K., Harfleet has since left his pansy stamp on streets in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.
Liverpool, for Michael Causer (a gay teen who was murdered)
What seems especially poignant about the project is that the artist doesn’t ask permission to plant his flowers in these public spaces, but simply finds an innocuous spot of dirt nearby, plants the pansy and photographs it. It’s still an act of defiance, but a particularly touching one, as evidenced by his pictures.
"What the fu** are you looking at? Fa**ot!" Upper Brook Street, Manchester
Now that the project is gaining in popularity, Harfleet’s hope is that others will start planting the flowers on their own and sending him pictures to add to the collection.
If you'd like Harfleet to plant a flower in the name of someone who's experienced homophobic abuse, he often takes requests through the Pansy Project Facebook page. And to view more of his previous memorials, feel free to visit his website.
Do you think quiet protests like the ones from The Pansy Project are as effective in calling attention to social issues? Let us know in the Comments.
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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a webeditor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com