Bountiful balloons

Balloons of Bhutan is a project that visually represents the last Himalayan kingdom's Gross National Happiness, using colourful balloons.

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is the only country in the world with a “happiness index”. Since 1972 the nation’s well-being, or Gross National Happiness, has been used to measure it’s socio-economic prosperity and so organising itself around the basic principles of Buddhism.

In 2007 artist Jonathan Harris travelled to the country for two weeks to explore this happiness phenomenon and documented the story in a multimedia presentation.

Balloons of Bhutan is a fun look at the topic of happiness, which, ironically, in Bhutan is addressed with a great deal of seriousness.

In Bhutan Harris handed out balloons to 117  people and asked them  five questions relating to happiness. The questions were: what makes them happy, what is their happiest memory, what is their favourite joke, what is their level of happiness between 1 and 10 and if they could make one wish, what would it be.

Based on each person’s level of happiness, Harris then inflated a number of balloons. Some people received 10 inflated balloons, while others (sadly) received only one. Harris also wrote every person’s wish onto a balloon of their favourite colour.

On the final night of Harris’s project all 117 balloons were released into the air at Dochula, a sacred mountain pass, where they were left to float in the air like “strands of prayer flags”, Harris says.

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