maandag 20 december 2010
It was great to be part of TEDxWomen recently. Here's my speech. In Dutch.
TEDxWomen talk 8 december 2010.
Een artikel in NRC, ruim 5 jaar geleden. Over een dorp in Afrika, en hoe je daar leeft. Van 1 dollar per dag. Het raakte me. Ik wilde iets doen. Naast veel ben ik ook textielontwerper en ik startte een ontwerpproject. Met stylisten en ontwerpers hier, om iets nuttigs te maken voor de mensen daar. Vanwege het nut, en vanwege de verbinding.
Daarna werd ik door de schrijver van het artikel als bestuurslid van een nieuwe stichting gevraagd, en konden wij het geld besteden wat binnenstroomde vanwege het artikel.
Sindsdien zit ik er tot over mijn oren in de agrarische ondersteuning en ben ik inmiddels 2x afgereisd naar het afgelegen plattelandsgebied in Malawi. Naar Dickson, zo heet het dorp.
Het betekent veel praten, veel huisbezoeken afleggen en akkers bekijken. We logeren in het dorp. Ik in mijn piepkleine tentje, en mijn collega Dick Wittenberg met de tolk in iemands huisje.
We blijven een week, want na een week voel je eigenlijk teveel. Want zonder dat je het merkt heb je als gast een hele hofhouding achter je. Die voor je koken, je badwater verwarmen, je afwas doen en je afspraken regelen.
Ik nam de eerste keer wat breipennen en wol mee. Malawi is geen land van ambachten, 80% van de inwoners zijn boeren. Maar ik wilde het gewoon proberen.
Vrouwen hebben een nogal ondergeschikte positie in de samenleving, en het leek me goed en leuk om op een andere manier met hen in contact te komen.
De eerste breiles was op een middag dat het zachtjes regende. Vanwege de regen vond de les plaats in een tabaksschuur. Al snel zat de schuur vol.
Ik leerde ze steken opzetten, de eerste steken breien, en foutjes herstellen. Vrouwen van alle leeftijden sloten zich aan, hielpen elkaar en we hadden enorme pret. Toen er niet genoeg breipennen meer waren werden fietsspaken gehaald.
Gedurende mijn verdere verblijf was er elke dag op een andere plek een breiles; gewoon waar al wat vrouwen zaten. Ik sloot me aan, en dan sloten steeds meer vrouwen zich aan.
We zagen als we door het dorp liepen ook vrouwen samen zitten breien.
Dat samen, dat maakte me blij. Want wie in het dagelijks leven weleens met de nek wordt aangekeken omdat ze gescheiden is, of bij het armere deel van het dorp hoort, die zou je zomaar kunen leren hoe je steken op moet zetten. Allerlei standsverschillen vallen weg.
Tijdens het breien voeren we lange gesprekken. De tolk Chifumbi, in zijn dagelijks leven cathecheet, is een man, maar hij is zo’n kameleon dat de vrouwen gewoon openhartig kunnen zijn over vrouwenzaken en we werkelijk onze levens uit kunnen wisselen.
Bij vertrek de eerste keer beloofde ik dat ik voor wol en pennen zou zorgen, maar niet voor de rest van mijn leven. Dat zou ook niet goed zijn. Maar ik vroeg na thuiskomst aan alle mensen om mij heen om overgebleven bollen wol en breipennen. Het stroomde van alle kanten binnen. Enorme hoeveelheden, wat geweldig was dat! Ik stuurde alles op naar Willem, onze contactpersoon, een geweldige Witte Pater die al 39 jaar in Malawi woont. Ook stuurde ik basispatronen mee voor een vest, trui en muts.
Afgelopen voorjaar gingen we weer.
Het was fantastisch om terug te komen. Om mensen opnieuw te zien, om contacten uit te bouwen. Ik kreeg bij aankomst dit mutsje op mijn hoofd, wat de vrouwen voor mij hadden gebreid!
Het gaat goed met het dorp, en de dorpen in de omgeving. Door de ondersteuning zijn de oogsten verdubbeld, is de kennis toegenomen en kunnen er buffers worden opgebouwd voor magere tijden.
Er werd overal gebreid, en ik kreeg een modeshow met wat de vrouwen allemaal gemaakt hadden.
Het project is bijna klaar, na 5 jaar wilden wij overbodig zijn en dat lijkt te lukken. Het is een project geworden om trots op te zijn, mensen om trots op te zijn.
Maar die vrouwen, daarop ben ik nog het meest trots. Ze hebben elkaar geholpen, ze breien van alles wat ze niet van mij hebben, ze zijn bezig hun eigen kleine business op te zetten door in opdracht te breien, en ze maken zich als groep ook sterker.
Je plant zaadjes, je weet niet of ze tot wasdom komen, maar deze zijn in goede, Malawiaanse aarde gevallen, en ze hebben ook mij voorgoed veranderd.
woensdag 24 november 2010
dinsdag 16 november 2010
Last Sunday I read an astonishing article in the Observer. About the tough matter of our fashion habits and what's behind that.
We all like our own style, we like to change our look somewhat every season and change into brand new. Some people even buy clothes every week. Possible because of incredibly low prices. A cotton short sleeve t-shirt of € 4,95 at H&M is normal to most people. Let's buy 4 different colours, and just dump them after 4 washings!
But think about the route until it's in your closet:
Cotton has been seeded, grown and harvested. Then it's transported to a mill and prepared for spinning. Spun, dyed and transported to a clothes factory. Cut to the design, sewed into a dozen different sizes, labelled, packed and transported to the shops all over the world. Put on display in the shop and waiting to be sold. Still; the price is € 4,95!
Who is being mistreated, wrong out and underpayed?
First the cotton farmers. They are farming all over the world. The ones in the USA and Europe though are receiving millions of subsidies. This causes an enourmous overproduction, a rise of 'disposable 'fashion such as the t-shirts mentioned above and an artificial lowering of wholesale prices for cotton.
Now read the story from The Observer by Elizabeth Day:
From a distance, the cotton field appears to be a single patch of colour stretching to the horizon, its thickets of foliage merging into a dense blanket of green. It is only when you get closer that you notice the other colours: the brownish tangle of twigs and weeds and the balls of cotton ready for harvest.
As you walk to the edge of the field, you begin to make out the pickers: men in yellow overalls, shoulders stooped forward, plastic sacks hanging from their waistbands. They work silently, breaking off the buds by hand with smooth, quick efficiency as the afternoon sun beats down.
Closer still and you can see the tall silhouette of Moussa Doumbia, 45 years old, father of nine and a cotton farmer from the village of Mafélé in Mali, west Africa. He is bent over, wearing a dirty beige shirt, fingers snapping together as if keeping time with some syncopated, internal rhythm. After a while, he holds out his hand, revealing several balls of bright white fluff.
This is the cotton fibre that will be sent abroad to be processed, eventually ending up in the T-shirts, skirts and jackets that hang in our high street shops. But Moussa has no sense of pride in his work. "I don't want my children to be cotton farmers," he says, his voice emotionless. Why not? He gives a short, bitter laugh. "Because they will have no future."
Despite the fact that cotton prices are running at a 15-year high after crops in China and Pakistan were hit by floods earlier this year, Moussa lives on the brink of poverty, the victim of an iniquitous global trading system. There are some 16,000 cotton farmers like Moussa in Mali, a country so impoverished it is ranked 160th out of 169th in the United Nations Human Development Index. Life expectancy here is just 49.
A landlocked, semi-desert nation, Mali depends on cotton for its survival. Half of its export revenues come from cotton – it is the second-largest producer in Africa after Egypt – and it is estimated that more than 3.2 million Malians, 40% of the country's rural population, depend on the crop for their livelihoods.
Moussa, who started growing cotton 17 years ago, farms two hectares of land, which yield 500-800 kilos a year. Yet despite the quantity and quality of cotton he produces, he is barely able to feed his children.
"Sometimes, the young ones cry because they're so hungry," he says, his face impassive. "I become very angry when I'm not able to get enough food for my family. All the time, I feel sad." Last month, two of his youngest children contracted malaria and his three-year-old son almost died because Moussa couldn't afford to buy medicine. "That made me very afraid. It makes me feel ashamed because I am the chief of the family but I am not able to protect them. In our culture, this is unacceptable."
Moussa's life is being buffeted by forces beyond his control, put into motion by industrialised, wealthy nations thousands of miles from this dry, hot corner of Africa. In the United States, the scale of government support to 25,000 cotton farmers has thrown the international trading system out of kilter. The political lobby for cotton is one of the strongest in US agriculture, a legacy of the post-Depression, dust-bowl era, when embattled farmers had to be helped back on to their feet.
But while America's economic landscape has changed, the practice has remained: in 2008/2009, cotton producers were awarded $3.1bn (£1.9bn) in subsidies, which, astonishingly, exceeded the market price by around 30%. The EU and China award its farmers similar grants, albeit on a lesser scale.
The result has been overproduction, the rise of fast, disposable fashion and the artificial lowering of world cotton prices. The consequences are felt most deleteriously by the poorest farmers at the end of the supply chain, men such as Moussa, who battle each year to eke out an existence. The price of west African cotton has fallen every year since 2003 and despite the recent spike in prices, there has been a long-term decline in real terms since the 1950s. Today, Moussa sells one kilo of cotton for 185 Central African francs (CFA) – about 24p. That translates to a maximum annual income of just £200.
It has been left to the charitable sector to pick up the pieces. The Fairtrade Foundation has been working in west Africa for the past five years. It has introduced a minimum price for its growers that covers the cost of sustainable production plus a premium equivalent to 4p per kilogram, used to fund reinvestment and community projects, such as schools, clinics and wells.
But the organisation has struggled to make inroads in the UK. Fair trade cotton still makes up only 1-2% of the domestic retail market and last year sales actually dropped 35%. The recession is part of the problem; for years, Fairtrade has concentrated on T-shirts priced higher than most chain-store options, and with less money to spend, consumers are reluctant to pay extra. We have become used to disposable fashion and lazy in our habits. Corporate buyers are unwilling to commit to bulk orders where there is little demand. And farmers such as Moussa, at the bottom of the supply chain, have been horribly failed.
Now Fairtrade is encouraging up-and-coming designers to use fair trade cotton in higher-end clothes, which buyers expect to pay more for. "We've got to move on from the idea that fair trade cotton is all about the basic white T-shirt," says Rachel Hearson, head of Fairtrade's commercial relations team. "People in the UK are having a tough time, but perhaps they will begin to think, 'There's someone in the developing world having a tough time too.' It's about developing that feeling of affinity with the producer."
It is hard to ignore that sense of affinity when someone such as Moussa is standing in front of you. Moussa, who is not a fair trade farmer, did not even know that US subsidies existed. He greets the news with a despondent equanimity, as though he is accustomed to disappointment. "It's really unfair because we cannot get a good price for our cotton on the international market. Life is hard."
The injustice is exacerbated because the American economy does not rely on cotton to anything like the same extent. In Mali, cotton is such a valuable commodity it is known as "white gold". According to Vince Cable, the business secretary, the elimination of global subsidies would raise cotton farmers' incomes in sub-Saharan Africa by 30%. That would make a substantial difference to producers such as Moussa.
When the sun goes down, Moussa takes me back to his home, a mud hut overlooked by the sprawling branches of a large mango tree. A slow fire is burning in the makeshift stove outside his house. Inside, his wife is preparing dinner, pounding maize in a wooden bowl with a long-handled stick. Moussa's children stare at me silently, their mouths open, with uncertain expressions on their faces.
Sitting down on a low bench in front of the fire, Moussa takes a strip of paracetamol tablets from his shirt pocket. "I have a headache all the time," he explains. "Working with the pesticides makes you sick; it makes your head sore, your stomach ache." He tells me that a packet of eight paracetamol tablets costs him CFA400 (52p). So he has to sell two kilos of cotton to earn enough money to buy a single packet? Moussa nods. Why does he not become a fair-trade producer, I wonder, or start growing organic cotton, which fetches a higher price? "At the moment, I don't have enough manpower or time," he says. "It takes a lot of effort, a lot of commitment."
A small boy emerges from the shadows, his gait slightly unbalanced, wearing a pair of raggedy shorts. "This is the one who was sick last month," says Moussa, pushing him forward. "The one who almost died." The boy looks at me with big, doleful eyes, then turns away, scared, and hides behind his father's legs. Somewhere close by a baby starts to cry. Tomorrow, Moussa will get up with the sunrise and start his long day's work all over again.
Some 20 miles away, Daouda Samake sits in a metal-framed chair outside his family home in the tiny village of N'Tentou, Kouroulamini, his eyes squinting in the early morning sun. The ground around us is dry and dusty, the parched earth scattered with goat droppings and chicken feathers. In the background, his three youngest children are playing, rushing around in bare feet and hand-me-down clothes. His fourth child, he tells me proudly, is at school.
"I used to have a lot of problems," Daouda says, pushing up the sleeves of his checked white shirt and gesturing with his hands for emphasis. "I didn't have enough money to pay the fees to send my children to school or to buy them food. Now I can. That makes me proud." He gives a small smile, half-embarrassed by the confession.
Daouda is one of the luckier ones. The general secretary of an organic cotton farming co-operative based in the village of Madina, he has seen first-hand the benefits that come from working with fair trade. "We can work together to make the picking lighter and quicker in the field," he says. "We can help each other. I feel more like I am part of the community. It has really changed life in the village. Before, we didn't have any school or health centre or wells but since fair trade, we've been able to build all this."
The American subsidies, he says, are "really discouraging. Many of our cotton farmers have given up because they cannot get enough money for their crop". In fact, the Mali government estimates that 16,100 hectares of farmland were abandoned this year – almost double the amount in 2009.
"It makes me sad because it's unjust," Daouda continues. "Instead of giving these grants, why not take the time to get all the world's cotton producers together and discuss the problem?"
It is a fair question. But, depressingly, efforts to tackle these glaring inequalities have faltered. Next year marks 10 years since the launch of the World Trade Organisation's Doha Development Round, a process of talks held in the aftermath of 9/11 that were intended to lower trade barriers and reduce poverty, the seedbed of terrorism. At the time, the west African cotton farmers of Mali, Benin, Burkina Faso and Chad were held up as the most vivid example of trade injustice. But a decade later, the plight of the so-called "Cotton Four" continues to be ignored, despite the US subsidies being ruled discriminatory by the WTO in 2008.
When later I meet Ahmadou Abdoulaye Diallo, minister of industry, investment and commerce in his office in the capital, Bamako, he presses home the point that Mali's cotton farmers "are not asking for a favour. All we're asking for is an equal market for the whole world. We're asking that the rules be kept by both the weak and the strong. At the moment, the weak respect the rules and the strongest don't. That is unacceptable. We can't construct world peace while there is trade injustice."
Does he believe that the problems facing cotton producers and the existence of American subsidies will fuel resentment amongst Mali's rural poor? "If things don't change, people are finally going to do stupid things," he replies. In northern Mali, there are already pockets of radical Islamic activity connected to al-Qaida.
Then there are the threats posed to farmers such as Moussa and Daouda by climate change. Last year, Mali experienced a severe drought that stalled cotton production because, unlike the irrigated cotton fields of America or Europe, Malian producers depend entirely on natural rainfall.
"It is a big problem," says Daouda. "The change in climate makes us worried because it can lead to unexpected results: you never know what kind of crop you will get, whether you will get rain. If it continues this way, farmers will be poorer and poorer."
As a result, cotton production in Mali has dropped sharply in recent years – from 620,600 tonnes in 2004 to 232,947 tonnes in 2009 – which has a knock-on effect: an individual farmer with a decreasing income cannot scrabble together enough money to buy medicines or to send his children to school and communities begin to collapse. If children are not educated, they, too, will end up toiling in the cotton fields; in fact, many of them already do.
One cotton farmer I meet, Daouda Diamara, 38, has at least six children under the age of 10 working in his fields – some of them are his own; some are the offspring of his father's second marriage. As we talk, the children emerge sporadically from a field scattered with white buds, hoisting full sacks of cotton on to a rudimentary scale rigged up to a nearby tree. When they return to the picking, their heads disappear from view – many are too short to be able to see above the plants.
"I want this to change," the farmer says, arms crossed, head bowed as he talks. He has patches sewn on to his threadbare trousers and his shoes are falling apart at the soles. "I am going to start growing organic because then I can get a better price and then I can look after my family."
Next year, he says, he hopes to become one of the 1,600 fair trade cotton producers in Mali. Fair trade co-operatives have sprouted up in rural areas, providing farmers with access to loans, technical advice and agricultural training. Although the Fairtrade Foundation does not insist on organic production, it does encourage more sustainable methods, which brings long-term benefits both to the quality of the soil and the health of the farmer. There are more tangible advantages too: in 2007, the fair-trade price for a kilo of cotton was, on average, 46% higher than the norm.
The fair trade premium is then ploughed back into the local community. In the hamlet of Soron, a new well provides fresh water. In the village of Brian, the school now has textbooks, chairs and desks. In Mafélé, where the women used to give birth in their huts by the light of an electric torch, there is now a maternity clinic. "More babies survive now and fewer women die in childbirth," says the midwife, Solona Bagayoko, whose salary is paid using fair-trade profits. "We give vaccinations for polio, measles, yellow fever and meningitis. This clinic has changed women's lives."
More women, too, are becoming cotton farmers under the fair trade initiative, because they do not rely on pesticides and fertilisers, the sale of which is controlled by men. Out of 220 producers in the Madina co-operative, 100 are women.
Bandia Doumbia, a 36-year-old mother of six, is one of them. A tall, thin woman with a ready smile and wearing a purple printed sarong, Bandia remembers a time before she started growing organic fair trade cotton, when she did not have enough money to take her sick child to hospital. "There was no clean water when the pumps broke down in the village because there was no money to repair them," she says. "It was also difficult to get enough money for clothes. I couldn't look after my family. I was very poor."
Now, things have improved. "My children are in school, I get a good price for my cotton and I've also learned a lot of skills. I have become very happy – so much so, that next year, I am going to grow a bigger crop."
Yet despite the good it does, fair trade attracts its share of criticism. In the past, it has been accused of skewing free-market forces and, earlier this month, the Institute of Economic Affairs suggested the fair-trade premium was of negligible value for the world's poorest. But in Mali, it is hard not to feel such arguments are crudely abstract. After all, American subsidies already make a mockery of the idea of a "free market" and speaking to people such as Daouda or Bandia, you rapidly realise the gains that come from fair trade are not only the kind that can be drawn up on a balance sheet of profit and loss.
There is something in both Daouda and Bandia's manner that is lacking from Moussa's worn-down demeanour. It is there in the smallest actions: the slight straightening of the shoulders, the smallest curve of a smile or the fact that they look you in the eye as they speak. It feels as though Daouda and Bandia believe in their future. By contrast, what I see in Moussa is the absence of hope, a lack of faith that anything will ever change or that he will one day be able to shape his own future.
"I have to believe that God will find a solution," he says as I leave his village, shaking his hand for the final time. The sun has set and the silhouette of his mud hut is barely visible through the thickening darkness. As he walks back towards the flickering embers of the fire, he turns and adds, almost as an afterthought: "Who else will?"
...images from www.fairtrade.net/home.html
dinsdag 26 oktober 2010
An alarming article today in P+. 50% Of the plastic that's collected separate is not being recycled at all. It ends up in German ovens and is burned. The substance of the plastic is too different to use it properly as raw material for a new lifecycle. The CEO of Gansewinkel, one of the biggest waste-processing firms in Europe, suggests chips so that the reusable plastic can be recognized by the machines.
That's stunning. Finally people are willing to make the effort to separate their household and company waste, and realise how much plastic we produce and try to reduce that; and is it all fruitless?
Producers of plastic should be forced to only produce plastic that's recyclable. It's shocking that half of it can't be used. Chips to separate for different purposes is fine, but we must make sure that all plastic is reusable. What to do now with the enormous amounts of plastic we collect. Just dump it in the bin? Or keep it separate so that at least half of it is recycled? But the burning; that can't be good for the environment. A deposit on plastic is an option too. But that needs strong agreements with companies and governments. Companies should take their responsibilities and act quick. Now.
Meanwhile I collect my plastic separate.
zondag 24 oktober 2010
A great book has been published about Royal Tichelaar in Makkum. Their history, their philosophy and their wonderful designs. The design of the book is by Irma Boom. This company is everything a contemporary company should be. Taking a rich history to the future, valueing the crafts and skills not just of the designers but also of the makers, and creating an environment with a wonderful atmosphere in their shop and their corporate identity.
The book is called 'RePresent', and there is a Dutch and an English version.
donderdag 21 oktober 2010
Last week I was in Scotland. The westcoast; source of inspiration for my textile collection. Yet again, it struck me. The sheep everywhere, the wind-resilient flowers, the views, the peacefulness. Even the foam on the ocean west of Barra was like my wild wool beads. I was able to collect wild wool again, for new beads!
For those who want to see them: on sale in the Textile Museum in Tilburg.
woensdag 20 oktober 2010
An astonishing article in the newspaper of the 19th of October. The Dutch Centre for International Cooperation and Sustainable Development (NCDO) published the results of a survey in The Netherlands. 45% Of the Dutch population wants to reduce the budget for development cooperation.
The believe our own economy should come first.
Today I read an article that consumption in The Netherlands, especially of of electronic consumer goods, has raised again.
Now what is the matter? The budget for development cooperation is only 0,8% of the governments' budget anyway!
Have we become so selfish? Do people really understand what the world outside looks like? Is the NCDO insufficient in its information task? Is scepticism and cynicism taking over? Are people tired of 'the others'?
The world is one, it is in peril and we can't stay rich if we don't change our attitude. Towards people and towards the planet.
Our new government wants military aid to be included in the budget, they gave up the Government Minister for Development Cooperation, so I'm afraid this all leads to a disguised budget cut.
Innovation is needed, clearly, but no reduction!
_images taken in Dickson, Malawi_
dinsdag 21 september 2010
Last Friday I attended the 1 % event in Amsterdam. Fighting poverty is the 1 % club's main goal. Simultaniously 2 small events were held in Cameroon and Kenia. With both groups was a lifestream contact. Wow!
It was my first time, and I really enjoyed being there. 2 Inspiring stories of what can be done. Open sessions to work on cases and get input, brilliant failures to learn from, even an award, speed dating with world connectors, co-creation on specific cases and jus getting acquainted with people. I initiated an open space session about 'setting up small business for women in remote rural Malawi'. That is the area that I know quite well. So much to be done there. It was good to get confronting questions, facts to think about and a good laugh. The whole event was cheerful anyway, and that was a good energy. More to come!
dinsdag 7 september 2010
In the film below we see and hear Gerda Verburg, our government minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Security. She's showing all good plans; let's hope this conference will add to solving major problems, mainly in Sub Sahara Africa and South East Asia. Most images in this small film look like they are of well fertilised crops in European glasshouses. But especially African arable land looks much poorer. For making these plots more fertile and producing higher yields we need smart, sustainable solutions. Also to improve people's daily lives as small farmers. Good examples are the biogas cookers in Rwanda, solar cookers, organic manure and irrigation.
Also in Malawi we are working on these matters, in coöperation with Izaak Kazinga, a local specialist.To be continued!
woensdag 25 augustus 2010
On the website of 'WorldChanging' I found this creative little film by graffiti artist Hans Hansen. www.vimeo.com/14006371
About the urge to bring CO2 levels down. We can't do enough to spread that message. Serious measurements have to be taken by governments and companies and we will have to make a real change ourselves as individuals as well. Cycle as much as possible, use public transport if possible rather than drive our own car, bring our own bag, eat locally grown food if possible, buy fair, clean and well produced stuff with longevity rather than easy-to-throw-away stuff and reuse, reduce, recycle. I'm curious which paint Hansen uses for his graffiti. Water based hopefully? What does he do with the empty bottles? Does he refill them? Is the spraying gas pollutive? Or is it just oxygen? Taking serious measurements does influence every step we take. Not always convenient, but a challenge and at least something to think about! Enjoy this lovely, entertaining collection of wonderful wall drawings.......
zaterdag 3 juli 2010
Last night I cycled home. It was a warm, silent evening after an incredibly mad afternoon with football victory by many.
Almost home, near the Muziekgebouw a man asked me to stop for a question. I stopped, for not everyone who wants to ask something is a creep. It was a tall, dark man, neatly dressed, with fear in his eyes. He started to explain me in very good Dutch about his situation. He was from Sudan. Just left the asylum centre, for he was about to be transported the next morning to Schiphol Oost. Then back to Sudan. His 2 daughters, aged 7 and 9, were in Belgium. He wanted to go to them for a DNA-test. To proof he is their real father. The only option for family reunion. And a permit to stay in Belgium.
Here his case was lost. Also at High Court. They say Sudan is safe. At first I was reluctant, for he wanted money. For the train. Of course, always money; that what I thought at first. But as I kept asking him more, he kept on telling me facts that were stunning, and nobody who is not in that situation could make up these facts for a 'sad story to get money through empathy'. My dad is quite involved in such cases, so through him I got to know quite a bit as well. So: case closed today, tomorrow transport to the asylum prison at the airport, and after that back to Sudan and his daugters maybe lost for ever, no official way to help him get to his daugters, his lawyer advised him to leave the asylum centre instantly, 11pm. He wished him luck. I still had no idea how to help him, had no money on me and would the money really help him at this hour, and feeling very ashamed I cycled on. Feeling terrible. So I decided to cycle to the bank and get money for him. All this in a sudden hurry. On my way I called a friend, asked her if it was wise what I did. She said yes. If his story is not true, it's only 50 €. If his story is true, and you seem to feel it is, than you help him a great deal. I cycled at full speed to try and find him. Only a 100 metres from where I left him I saw him standing, talking to someone on a bike. So I stopped, and said "I came back, with some money'. Just at that moment the man on the bike also gave him money. I said 'Let's share' and gave him half. The Sudanese man was so glad and grateful. We both wished him a reunion with his daughters, and cycled home. He was Willem. From The Netherlands but living in Denmark. We chatted, until our ways splitted. Back home, having a calming tea on my balcony I kept thinking about the case. I think he was genuine. These things happen. In this country. If the case for asylum is closed you are just being treated as if you are a criminal. You are a case. Out of many. You are not a man who has a chance to be reunited with his family. No official way to give you that chance. It's so shameful.
This week there was an interview in Trouw with Anton van Kalmthout, retiring professor in immigration laws. He said: "Our idea of refugees is so negative. With an atrocity in Haiti everyone wants to adopt a child, but with 20 years of civil war in Rwanda or Somalia we keep our borders closed. These people are a bother, and their human rights are unwelcome costs and cause inconvenience."
He is right. And I hope the Sudanese man is in Belgium today, with his daughters, and that they can build a future together. Save and welcome.
dinsdag 15 juni 2010
The last two weeks I've been in Malawi. With Dick Wittenberg. And Chifumbi, our most needed and wonderful translator. Without him we would have had no ears, no mouth. We've been working on a development project on agriculture for small farmers in 6 villages in the rural area west of the capital Lilongwe. People who belong to the 'bottom billion' as economist Paul Collier calls this group. Less than a dollar a day. 80% of the population in Malawi is farmer. People in this area mainly grow maize, tobacco, vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, mustard, pumpkin, chinese cabbage and sugarcane. This project aims to assist them with knowledge and skills about irrigation, provide treadle pumps and input such as fertilizer and seeds. Isaac Kazinga, a young ambitious dedicated local specialist, is the project manager. The main objective is to provide food security and make them independent. This is about to be the last year of our 5-years project, initiated by 'The Friends of Dickson'. So we have also looked back. We've monitored the development of the project, discussed what needs to be done in the near future and talked to many people. We've seen progress, we've heared harvests have increased, we've felt optimism. We've also seen problems such as neglect, misuse and greed which need to be solved. By the people of the villages themselves. But mainly we've seen increased strength. The project has become local ownership, which is the only way to improve. Development 3.0!
I feel very privileged to have stayed again with the people in the village of Dickson. Lived as they do, in their rhythm, with their habits, rituals and friendship. 'Umodzi' is one of the most wonderful words in Chichewa, the main language in Malawi, I've learned. It means 'we're together, we're one'. That's a base most needed for anyone, anywhere in the world. I feel 'umodzi' with the people I know in this area, they must feel 'umodzi' among each other as well. For everybody must have the chance for improvement in their lives.
This story will be continued.
maandag 17 mei 2010
This cute little film is made by my students at the Design Academy 'Man & Humanity. A workshop to learn from each other and share skills and fun. One day of designing the story and images - all hand-made-, one day of editing. Hurray!
Watch it, you'll smile....
maandag 3 mei 2010
Great community, more and more worldwide. Reduce your energy emissions by 10% in 2010. Schools, companies and individuals are involved. If we all do our own small bit, together we can do a lot, that's the idea. Clever, easy, great!
donderdag 22 april 2010
donderdag 8 april 2010
This information graphic appeared in my beloved newspaper Trouw last Tuesday. Their graphic designer Michel van Elk is really good. It's a stunning image about our water footprint. A simple way of showing the impact of our current lifestyle. To make us conscious about our choices and think before we decide. Knowing all this doesn't make life easier, and it could make us feel guilty about everything we do, buy, eat etcetera. Don't feel guilty, just realise that your choice CAN make a difference and act like that!
dinsdag 6 april 2010
Knitting with different types of fibre is a real challenge. I've experienced linen, rope, grass, seaweed and different types of wool; hand-spun, thick, thin, smooth and sticky. One of the most challenging is the original Harris Tweed yarn. Made for weaving rather than knitting, and very sticky. It comes on big cones in melanges of blues and browns. I sometimes also use it on the machine, and that's even harder. It breaks easily. But the result is always beautiful. The rich natural colours and the structure of the yarn make an interesting fabric. In the latest issue of Bloom is this article about natural and special fibres used by Nanna van Blaaderen. She's also inspired by naturals, just as I am. She works with hand-knits for clothing and protecting, I use the techniques and yarns for objects we collect around us. It's great to experiment with sizes and surfaces, and to make objects that matter and are wished for.
dinsdag 30 maart 2010
Last Sunday I went to park Frankendael. Every last Sunday of the coming months there will be a market. Lovely atmosphere, wonderful products, tasty, beautiful and special. We bought good bread, vegetables, home-made jam, a funny hand-made brush, had a good coffee and watched the cute merry-go-round for children. So good to see so many people involved in sustainable quality!
donderdag 25 maart 2010
Here are two of my favourite books at the moment. '6 Billion Others' by Yann Arthus Bertrand is about everyone else on earth. Questions about life, death, love, fear, care, happiness, ideas. Questions we could ask ourselves and the people around us. To get to know each other better. For real understanding. It's remarkable that many questions are answered similarly, whether the person lives in Mali, Israel or The USA. Other answers are striking, for life experiences are not the same everywhere. Reading and browsing the book shows and inspires with a deep love for humanity.
The other book is 'How To Be An Explorer Of The World' by Keri Smith. She is amazing. A book that can really be used. Over and over. To give ideas,to ask yourself silly questions and make you see the world around you with different eyes.
I use both books when working with my current masterstudents at the Design Academy Eindhoven | Man&Humanity , for I believe both books can make us more conscious. About the world we live in, and what we do to the world. In a positive way and that's what's needed. Fresh, funny, deeply moving and beautiful!
Joop, a friend, sent me an article from the NYTblog, with a hilarious production about a men's tea party. With recipes from Nigel Slater and great photo's shot by Susanna Howe. Prop styling by Pam Morris. Food styling by Heidi Johannsen Stewart and Sara Neumeier. I like the style which is rough but also conscious and dedicated to pleasure, longevity and quality. I wonder what will come out of the knitting...
dinsdag 23 maart 2010
woensdag 24 februari 2010
I'm very glad that I found time again to work on my textile collection recently. A new flock of hand-mades will get to two of the shops again:
Tichelaar: www.tichelaar.nl and Textile Museum: www.textielmuseum.nl . New shops will follow soon. My woollies are very dear to me, and to the people who buy them. Also to Barbara, who does a lot of the knitting for me which is fabulous. And really; each lamb has his own personality.
While being too busy to actually work on the knitting, I did find time to research some new wool. I'm very happy to work just with organic wool from now on. That suits the concept of the collection really well. I call it 'slow textiles'.
Making something takes time, and effort. While doing so, it gives a soul to the object. A sense of personality. Objects must add to our lives in a sustainable way. We should be able to love what we have around us, to really relate to what we have. Longevity. Beauty. Personality. Don't buy anything that doesn't comply with at least one of these aspects. Better to have less than rubbish. That's what it's all about. My collection is made to add to this.