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Exploring A Nation’s Happiness By Handing Out Balloons

Artist and storyteller Jonathan Harris travelled to Bhutan to explore the country's philosophy and ask its people about their wishes.

Emma Hutchings
Emma Hutchings on November 8, 2011.

Jonathan Harris‘ 2007 project, ‘Balloons of Bhutan‘ documents the happiness of people from the small Himalayan country. Bhutan uses the concept of Gross National Happiness rather than Gross National Product to measure their quality of life, so Harris spent two weeks there, exploring their culture. He spoke to 117 people of different ages and occupations, asking them five questions about happiness: what makes them happy, their happiest memory, their favorite joke, their level of happiness between 1 and 10, and one wish they have.

Exploring A Nation's Happiness By Handing Out Balloons

Based on their level of happiness, he inflated that number of balloons and photographed the person. Then he wrote each person’s wish onto a balloon of their favorite color and strung them up at the sacred mountain pass Dochula, next to thousands of colorful prayer flags. Balloons of Bhutan is now online as an interactive website and you can find out more about those involved, including statistical breakdowns by age, occupation, favorite color and level of happiness.

Exploring A Nation's Happiness By Handing Out Balloons

Balloons of Bhutan

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