Hobbyist attends first International Bonsai Conference

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by Kathy Tinney from Eastern Bonsai Society

ABC5 Bonsai Convention is an international convention hosted by the South African Bonsai Association. The Spanish Rafael Torres, American Robert Mahler and Italian Maura Stemberger bonsai masters all demonstrated bonsai techniques at the convention. The audience watched as an overgrown olive trunk was shaped, carved, clipped, wired and finally positioned to make a magnificent bonsai, ‘not for today but for tomorrow’. The demonstrators provided hobbyists with in-depth knowledge of olives and azaleas. 

Mauro Stemberger working on a multi trunk Olive.
Completed tree which has been carved, trimmed and wired.

The event was held at the Pretoria Safari Garden Centre, in October 2019. The Garden Centre is located on the slopes of Lynnwood. The African style buildings extend over the large site. This environment is a challenge to people with physical difficulties, like myself, who have mobility challenges due to multiple sclerosis disease. The accessible brick pathways permitted people who use assistance devices, for example, walking sticks, wheelchairs and me on a mobility scooter to have unimpeded access from the entrance to the large rondavel shaped conference room. An assistive device is a tool to help the disabled person be independent and for example attend the ABC5 Bonsai Convention and pursue their creative bonsai passion.

While there are stairs for able bodied users, there was also an alternate pathway to get to the Exhibition Hall, so I was able to view the best of South African Bonsai Stylists trees on exhibition. The exhibited trees are perfect examples of visual excellence achieved through decades of care, styling and fertilizing which the bonsai hobbyists long to match.

Hannes Fritz‘s 60 year old privet was awarded the winning bonsai on exhibition, as judged by the international judges.
Luggie mobility scooter transported easily in Qashqai boot. 

Each bonsai enthusiast left the convention with a head full of new ideas and skills ready to try out. The admiration for the bonsai masters, who travel the world teaching people about the art of bonsai, will always be held in high regard.

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