Kenyan Roses for the Kingdom

Sonya Schoenberger

During a residency in London in 2019, I developed a research and artistic project around the cut rose industry in Kenya. This was linked to on the one hand to the biography of wildlife activist Joan Root and on the other to past British colonial entanglements that are nevertheless still valid and problematic until today.

Kenya is by now the world’s third largest exporter of cut flowers. Roughly half of Kenya’s 127 flower farms are concentrated around a sweetwater-lake called Naivasha 90 kilometres northwest of Nairobi. Most of the roses that are available between £3 and £20 in British supermarkets such as Waitrose, M&S, TESCO and Aldi as well as in any other European country were grown in Kenya and imported for the market here. This research tries to shed light on the history and development of this enormous market and the impacts, the industry has on ecological and social exploitations in East Africa.


Kenyan Roses for the Kingdom from Sonya Schoenberger on Vimeo.


This is part of FIELDS, a section of The Learned Pig devoted to exploring fields as natural and (agri)cultural, invisible and visible, poor and productive, created and creators. FIELDS is conceived and edited by Marloe Mens.


The Learned Pig


Sonya Schönberger

Sonya Schönberger combines her studies of Social Anthropology and Experimental Media Design in her artistic practice. She built up a long-term archive for which she conducted private conversations in various countries with witnesses of the Second World War. With the help of this she examines the effects of a nation’s traumas on future generations. She also works with existing archives like the estate of German journalist André Müller or the finds from an archeological dig on Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin, uncovering the remnants of a former prisoner of war camp. Most recently she started shifting her focus by looking at plants that have been violated under colonial expansion and the impacts of this up until today. She consciously and depending on the project uses different media such as photography, theater, film, installation or audio formats.