Photo Challenge: Where in your world do you see braiding?

Let’s try an activity to explore what we might mean by braiding at the OEGlobal 2023 conference.

I find one of the best ways of sharing and connecting is via photos… okay, I just love sharing photos, like our colleague @bdelosarcos runs every Open Education Week for TUDelft (did you notice the braiding techniques of mentioning an OEG Connect user by name and also hyperlinking?)

ropes and braids flickr photo by lovefibre shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Okay, here is the challenge. Look around your home, work place, neighbourhood and take a photo of something that looks or is braided. Find this in the world around you, not just be searching the web for other people’s photos.

Now, click that reply button below, and use the file upload button upload button to insert the photo into your reply (on a computer you can simply drag and drop a photo file into the editor).

In your reply, let us know:

  • why you chose that item as something braided?
  • what is the material?
  • what function does braiding perform?
  • what, if anything, is it part of?

And also, very important, be sure to attribute your photo with how you wish to be credited, and under what Creative Commons license you are sharing under.

Are you ready? Go look for something braided in your world, and share here.

Hopefully soon this is not just me replying to me! But perhaps an example might help. You are welcome to pick anything to photograph, there is no right or wrong approach here. I chose something maybe less typical of what one might think of as being braided (hair or rope/fiber).

Top of straw bale with strands overlapping and intertwined, plus bailing wire that holds it together. A peak of a red barn is visible in background
Straw Bale as Braid photo by Alan Levine shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY) license.

On my walk today around our rural property I notice the thick thatched texture at the top of a bale of straw. It’s not exactly braided neatly, but I like the intertwined texture, and also that it is held together with the green baling net. But also, what’s meaningful to me, is that this is for use in our vegetable garden. My wife and I learned about a no till gardening approach where the straw provides a mulch for both suppressing weeds but also for keeping the soil more healthy in a natural way.

That’s my photo, yours is next!

1 Like

I can resist everything, except… a photo challenge! :heart_eyes:

Here is my contribution; it’s not a photo I took, but one that was just shared with me by a colleague to upload to We Like Sharing:

Entangled by José Hekkens shared under CC BY

Some of these threads and pieces of string are loosely braided, some a bit tighter, all entangled in a wonderful mess. What I like about it is how, to me at least, represents connections in the making, how they are now maybe not as strong as they will be, and also the potential of connections that haven’t been made yet. What happens when you pull and follow one of these threads? I dare you to do it!

And I’m so busy at work at the moment that this is also how my head feels :crazy_face:

Thanks, Alan!

1 Like

Sorry, I’m going to cheat a bit and post a book cover. It was the first thing I saw. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer is a wonderful book that describes how to interweave Indigenous and Western approaches to science. It’s been a great guide and source of inspiration for our conference planning. Highly recommended!


Alan, Bea and Robert - thanks for sharing…

My braiding concept shows the caning grasses woven together in this beautiful chair, a gift from a dear friend who reconnected with her long ago divorced husband and moved away, downsizing and needed a home for this lovely chair. Her story - after nearly 50 years of being divorced they are back together - a Taylor Swift kinda love story - and it speaks to how their lives were braided long ago through 4 children, and now again braided again through grown children and grandchildren. If you look closely you might notice that some of the caning is broken, yet overall the pattern beautiful and strong. I encourage you to think about how the strands are woven in and out, with patience, knowledge and effort. Cheers, Connie


I love all these photos of braiding. @rlawson780 has posted his book about the teachings of plants and interweaving of approaches. My photo from a rainy Sunday afternoon in Milton Keynes, UK, is also of a plant. I’ve been sitting our conservatory and this is my view from the sofa.

It’s a strelitzia, which is indigenous to South Africa, and also called a Bird of Paradise flower.

When it flowers (during a cold English winter), it throws out amazing orange flowers like this:

There is much excitement in the house when a flower is coming!

This plant is an example of braiding for us, as it is symbolic of the interweaving of our lives and history between South Africa and the UK (I am British, and my husband is South African).

Like the idea of time unfolding and possible formation of future connections posted by @bdelosarcos, the strelitzia shows the past intertwined history of our lives and the promise of the future to come. It has grown from the tiny plant we bought when we returned to the UK, and took years to produce its first flower. We love Milton Keynes as it has SA indigenous plants throughout its shopping centre!!

I also love the idea of imperfection, and that things braided together, perhaps over time, can be very strong even when there are imperfections or breaks in the individual threads.

Photos freely shared :slightly_smiling_face: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 .

1 Like

Oh this is a wonder string of braiding, by flowers. I’ve seen Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise) in Arizona, as well this one in Melbourne, Australia

Bird as in Paradise flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

Also thinking of Kniphofia also from South Africa I believe, which grew where I lived before in Arizona and knew as “Red Hot Poker”

Braids can go in so many directions.

1 Like

Lovely, @cogdog. And yes absolutely, we also know Red Hot Pokers from South Africa. It is incredible that the strelitzia gradually throws out its orange petals two by two, together with one of the black points (someone might be able to tell us what they are!)

So it’s good to think of the passing of time with our braiding analogies, which also relates to indigenous values and two-eyed seeing. What has come before, what is now and what is to come. If this makes sense, I think a ‘becoming’ research ontology has so much to offer, to complement predominately ‘being’ or ‘static’ Western research philosophies :thinking:.

I will make new topic to try experimenting with an ‘unpresentation’ as you suggested, relating my research to braiding and using the ‘becoming’ ontology. Then gradually sharing more and building in the idea of open theory building which I would have presented. Hopefully this might help co-invent ways of participating remotely!

1 Like

@cogdog, @rlawson780 I’m really liking the way you are bringing braiding and two eyed seeing into the upcoming conference. The examples being posted are great and I’m definitely going to read Braiding Sweetgrass. I’ve been taking photos of things in my neighbourhood but nothhing special has yet emerged. Breaking @cogdog’s rules (I’m a rule breaker :slightly_smiling_face:) I also looked on the web and came across this photo of braided garlic, which I really liked:

Artsy Garlic Braids by David Goehring CC BY

I like the way braids are weaving together a harvest. I expect the OEGlobal Conference to similarly be a harvest, not of garlic, but of knowledge and relationship. I think it’s wonderful to consider how we might braid those together in person in Edmonton and online.


When I heard about the concept of braiding, it immediately made me think of ecology, aka the interrelationship of organisms and their environments. During the pandemic, I rediscovered the joy of growing things and started growing vegetables. My gardening style is purposely a little messy. I built a trellis out of bamboo poles and twine for the beans, but I didn’t want to grow just beans in this bed. I also planted flowers to attract pollinators (and let some volunteer plants bloom). Also in the bed (but not the photo) is a small composting basket inspired by the design of a Keyhole garden - Wikipedia which originated in originated in Lesotho. This thread just keeps going back to southern Africa. @lesleyboyd

Braiding w/beans, by Liz Yata is licensed Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International — CC BY-SA 4.0

1 Like

Look how this braiding is braiding, especially with an ongoing plant theme, including Paul’s garlic (you break all the rules you want!).

I went back and found a photo I took when I noticed how water tricking out of a downspout and flowing out the edge of a pipe was flowing in a braid like pattern. Here the braiding are not fixed, but a natural consequence of volume of water, rate of flow, and maybe the dimensions of the pipe (?, I do not remember my fluid dynamics well).

2013/365/46 Braided Flow flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

And thinking of braids in water flow leads me to my field of study (Geology) where one learns of braided streams, where water flow moves across multiple channels and deposits much gravel, rather than a fixed bed like a river. Look! Here is a great OER summary from LibreTexts – which, because I cannot help but appreciate the marvelous work they did, is machine translated to Ukranian – so learn about braiding or Плетені річки

Bring on more braids!

1 Like

What fascinating story about keyhole gardens @LizYata ! Thinking about southern Africa and our time living there, I remember being so inspired by the African Ubuntu philosophy and value system. I particularly remember the writings of Lovemore Mbigi in his book Ubuntu: The Spirit of African Transformation Management. Wikipedia tells us that Barack Obama said this at Nelson Mandela’s funeral: 'There is a word in South Africa – Ubuntu – a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us’. I’m sure our SA friends could tell us lots more.

Fab picture @cogdog. Flowing water is a brilliant analogy for ‘becoming’ research. Reality is understood exactly as it is, as a continuously unfolding and emerging process flow, rather than relatively static entities to which change might happen. So we have knowing instead of knowledge, and express things as verbs or gerunds (with ‘ing’ at the end), instead of nouns.

There is a term in the management and organisation studies discipline called prehensive, which means research carried out from within, as an intrinsic part of a situation instead from-the-outside as a separated observer, and in-the-flow, instead of retrospective or after-the-fact research which looks to explain things, how things happened, or how the researcher interprets them (Langley and Tsoukas, 2016, p.8). This is pretty profound and I think resonates with indigenous value systems and ways of acting and thinking. It is also very mutually respectful and interrelated, and a different and more open way of thinking about research which sets out to improve situations. Just some thoughts about ‘becoming’.