It’s their only chance out …

… says Vini (alias Shyamendra Singh), the owner of Ken River Lodge in Panna, talking about the children in Panna, a small town in Madhya Pradesh. Ken River Lodge is my home when I am in Khajuraho or Panna. I know Vini for more than 2 years now and I am very happy that he embraced our idea of building the we_school skatepark in Panna. In this short little video clip he explains life in Panna and why it is important for the children to get something like a skatepark:

A bit outside Panna is the land where we build the skatepark. It is provided by Sanjay Tawari, a business man in Panna and father of two children. He is very much engaged in the social development of his hometown. It’s a beautiful piece of land – just so typical of Madhya Pradesh. Some huge trees at the Western border of the land and surrounded by villages where Adivasi live. A school is near by, they say 160 children go there.

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During our meeting yesterday – overlooking Ken River – Sanjay and I discussed the items needed to build the skatepark, we went over the materail list which was provided by our German partner skate-aid, the NGO which is supervising the construction process.
Special thanks goes to Rahul from Khajuraho our translator; and thanks to Google translator which really helped well in finding some specific construction expressions in Hindi.

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Sanjay on my left, Rahul on my right

The idea is not only to build a skatepark on this land but also a small we-lab with laptop computers, a cafeteria and 2,3 rooms where people can stay. The cafeteria and the rooms will be build by Sanjay and Vini, the rest we’ll do. The we-lab will be equipped with laptops which again will be provided by nextpractice … the program which combines skateboarding and learning will be designed by skate-aid and Nicola Claire. Can’t wait o see this entire thing taking of …

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So the next steps will be to find the right guy to build the park – skate-aid is already looking for this person – and we at we-school are looking for more funds (another ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD auction is on its way) and in addition we will raise money on social crowd funding platforms. But we have enough to start …

And here again a small chapter why we are doing this and why we think it is a good thing (by Nicola Claire):

The idea of combining fun with learning is not new, indeed, it is fundamentally the way children learn. We are taking this concept and constructing an environment which intrinsically combines an activity that is fun, but at the same time requires acquired skill, knowledge and practise, with a learning environment which provides that skill and knowledge. The young people will also have the opportunity to develop and extend their learning at a we-school hub on the same site. The young people who come to the skate-park will find everything that they need, from building their skateboard to becoming proficient users. Through the process they will learn English and maths. They will gain an understanding of force, balance and weight. They will experiment with art, colours, styles and design. They will discover body and muscle control, healthy eating and life-style choices. Above all, they will find ways to take what they have learnt back to their families and communities to support and enhance the quality of daily living.

For a better tomorrow …

… is the aim of the Samarpan School for underprivileged children in Kishangarh, Delhi. The school was started in April 2007 with 40 children in the mornings, providing informal education. Today it has 160 children aged five to fifteen from nursery to class 5 studying from prescribed CBSE textbooks. Children leaving from class 5 are helped to get admission in senior secondary schools. A computer center was set up in February 2011 with ten computers and two teachers. Classes run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Children receive a breakfast including cereal and milk, a snack during break and rice, dal, a green vegetable, roti and salad for lunch; egg, soy nuggets, banana and a seasonal fruit once a week (read more about the school and its achievements here).

Bronwyn, a charity worker from Australia who is living in India for more than 30 years, introduced me to the school and to Sherna Waida, the principal. I first went there a year ago to see the classroom they’ve build out of plastic bottles filled with sand (youtube video here). Somehow we’ve kept in touch.

When the idea of our ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD project came up one of the options where to build the skatepark was Samarpan School. Unfortunately the land situation in Kishangarh is a bit tricky and many uncertainties would have been involved, so we decided not to build there. But it brought me back to Sherna and the needs of her school. High on Sherna’s priority list were laptops. One laptop per classroom would allow them to teach the kids in a modern and new way.

With the help of nextpractice, a company I freelance for in Germany, namely Andreas Greve and Peter Kruse, we could make Sherna’s dream come true. nextpractice provided six laptops for Samarpan! Thank you so much!

When I went back to Germany last week I packed the laptops into the biggest suitcase I had. 36 kg (!) – it was a real job to get them to the airport. As you can see the suitcase was almost bursting;-) At the Lufthansa check in a nice surprise was waiting for me. First of all they didn’t charge anything for the extra kg and on top of that they upgraded me and I could comfortably fly in the upper deck in their new 747-800. Nice!

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I arrived early Monday morning in Delhi, it was 1 am when the captain announced that the temperature in Delhi is still 36 degree! Monday afternoon – during the heat of the day – I delivered the laptops to Sherna:

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Sherna Waida, principal of Samarpan School, and one of the teachers storage the laptops in their computer room.

In this interview Sherna gives an overview of what Samarpan School is all about.

And to see more kids getting great results from Samarpan School we will try to get more books for their library …

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… and we are planning to build at least a small ramp for skateboarding in their school yard!

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And this story had a beautiful and surprising side effect: when I posted my fully packed suitcase on facebook and gave the glimpse of the story, Frank Roebers, CEO of Synaxon AG, contacted me and told me he had an idea how to support me;-) After a brief facebook chat I have 2000 Euro more in my pockets which help me to continue my work in incredible India. Thank you Frank!

He cold it a social media success story;-)
Indeed it is.

Happy Birthday OUBEY and thank you for your ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD

I’ve heard about OUBEY and the MINDKISS project just before its website was launched a few years ago. I was introduced to Dagmar Woyde-Koehler – the woman “behind” MINDKISS. I immediately fell in love with the concept – it was and still is a unique way to present art outside the artificial art world;-)

And since then Dagmar and I frequently meet and discuss MINDKISS’ latest developments.

But first things first.
What am I talking about?

On its website the project is described as follows:

Persistent and uncompromising, dedicated solely to his own artistic vision – this was how OUBEY, voluntarily isolated from the public, created an unmistakable, multifaceted and incomparable oeuvre over the course of 25 years. Uninfluenced by the art business, OUBEY created over 1000 pictures with an astonishing, creative force in the greatest possible inner and external freedom.

When OUBEY started thinking about an exhibition again for the first time in a long time, he lost his life in a traffic accident in August 2004 at the age of 46.

The project MINDKISS posthumously realizes his plan, now opening a door for the first time, five years after OUBEY’s early and untimely death, to the hidden treasure he created and left behind. The book MINDKISS, the experience film OUBEY, and the web site OUBEY.com are the first steps along the way to a long-term goal. This goal consists of presenting the originals of OUBEY’s pictures permanently in an exhibition, in which the mental context in which this art was created can be understood and experienced at the same time.

And one tiny little piece within the bigger MINDKISS puzzle is this ARTBOARD. “Highly original and full of zest” is how Dagmar describes the drawing OUBEY made in 1981 which she selected as her contribution to ARTBOARD / SKATEBOARD. It’s a genuine rarity given the fact that the original work will never be put on sale. “I hope the new owner has lots of fun with this board,” she says!

So please take your chance ….

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A big THANK YOU to the OUBEY community who really helped to let OUBEY’S ARTBOARD take off today!
I assume Oubey would be more than happy to observe all this on his birthday!
Happy birthday Oubey!

Not sure what else to say …. just please keep on bidding;-)
The kids will love you for this!

The MAATI Way – ARTBOARDS/SKATEBOARDS from Local Indian Artists

MAATI (which means earth) is a small boutique in South Delhi’s trendy and hipster Hauz Khas Village. For almost two years I always passed by this shop, because from what I saw in the windows it seemed to be just another tourist trap.

But I was wrong!

One day my host in Hauz Khas introduced me to Aniruddha Saha, the guy who runs MAATI together with his wife Swati. Only then I had a closer look on what they are doing. And it turned out to be amazing;-)

Here is an interview I did with them a few month ago.

They describe themselves as follows: “MAATI promotes artists of many disciplines. In its quest for classical art forms, team MAATI travels to the remotest areas of the subcontinent in search of heirs and heroes of these art forms, who have or are in the process of foregoing their legacy of generations for lack of support in a materialistic world.”

MAATI guides and trains the artists, offers medical and educational assistance to their tribal and rural artisan families and shows them a way to make their living. What ever the artists “produce” in their studio close to Hauz Khas Village, MAATI sells online or in their boutique: hand painted T-shirts, frames, bags, jewelery … you name it!

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Together with Kanhaiya Prasad Singh, Mithun Ray and Aniruddha (from left to right) at their studio

So when we started the ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD project I immediately went to see Aniruddha and I asked him if they would design an ARTBOARD. And they did … actually the hand painted four outstanding pieces of art – which for me are so much INDIAN. I simply love the colors and the design … but please have a look on your own!!!

They are on auction NOW!!! So please go and bid for them!

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Mithun Ray painted this motorbike ARTBOARD – it is almost 3D. You need to feel it;-)

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Kanhaiya Prasad Singh used to paint movie posters. No wonder his ARTBOARD shows various scenes from a very famous Indian Bollywood movie!

The following two ARTBOARDS were painted by Chanchal Mitral.

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The Learning Experience – A different way to school …

This post was sent to me by Nicola Claire, who is running a school in Istanbul and advises we_school. With Nicola I share my thoughts on how to build a “matrix curriculum” for we_school. Traditional curriculum combined with “out of school” ways of learning re-integrated into it. This is her second post on the ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD project.

Take a group of rural Indian children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, who have no formal schooling, and present them with a project-based learning scenario. You might expect to get at the very least blank faces, and at worst some not very polite language.

But not when the project is to build your very own skateboard!

From the get go you have their attention. And then, when you go on to explain that you have no resources to give them, and they have to go and find everything they need themselves, an excited discussion ensues.

But, first things first…

  • What exactly is a skateboard?
  • To what uses could it be put apart from skating?
  • How big/small could it be to still work?
  • How heavy does it need to be to stop it tipping constantly?
  • How big do the wheels needs to be and what happens if you put more or less than four wheels on?

By now the group is totally engaged and coming up with many more questions.
As a group they discuss and generate ways to solve the problems, and chalkstone on a wall serves for a design space. Some of the suggestions are:

  • Recycling for materials
  • Extra wheels
  • Large wheels
  • Dog powered
  • Two skateboards strapped together to provide a wide carrying platform

And many more are discussed.

After the discussion, there is the making, engaging with maths, hand-working, crafting and constructing. Before, finally, the finishing artwork, personal logo and then the testing.
The group of young people have worked their way through a project-based learning that any teacher would be happy to put their name to.

Sure, they had the guidance of a teacher, but she kept her input to a minimum, encouraging the young people to be constantly challenging themselves for answers.
The project might last anything from a week, if the group turn-up every day, to a month or more if they are only meeting together a couple of times a week.

The learning they have made is a secure lifelong learning across a range of subjects, with measurable outcomes and an end goal that is functional and fun.

Children in very different environments and circumstances require learning that is relevant to them and their lives. Often this is not building based, white western European and aimed at university entrance, but local, community based and aimed at improving their, and their communities’ lives.

ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD: The Children of Jodhpur, Rajasthan

Last year in October I went to Jodhpur in Rajasthan, a tiny little village 3,5 hours away from South Delhi. We did a painting/skateboarding workshop there. I wrote about it on this blog. During these four days the children painted three ARTBOARDS and many pictures, of which we selected five and which we then framed.

For both you can bid on our ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD auction which will start tomorrow – March 20! Those are the kids who will benefit from the auction – for them we will build the skatepark!

Their boards (see below) you can only auction in the triple package, minimum bid – as for all the other boards – is 300 EURO.

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Same is true for the pictures they’ve been drawing. You can only auction ALL FIVE together – a colorful potpourri giving you a glimpse of Indian design, form and expression. And think about – these kids NEVER EVER painted before!

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And this is how I’ve framed all of them:

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When we left the village in October I promised the kids to bring those to Delhi, who painted best. So last week end four boys came to see me in Delhi – we’ve had a wonderful time at Delhi’s first indoor skatepark “freemotion” – and we showed them around in the city. What a lovely experience for all of us … they’ve never been to the city before! In April the girls will come!

Below you can see the boys getting their instructions for the skatepark …

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Here comes the next ARTBOARD: Monika Fleischmann und Wolfgang Strauss

10 years ago I contacted Monika and Wolfgang – these days both of them were working at Fraunhofer, one of Germany’s finest addresses when we talk about research. As digital multimedia artists they were working at the intersection of arts, business and technology. Exactly what I needed for realizing my “once in a lifetime” book dream: digitale transformationen (sorry, only available in German).

Financially the book almost ruined me – but I would do it all over again. “digitale transformationen” deals with the fundamental transformations in business, culture and science driven by digital technologies. It quickly became a benchmark and with the help of Monika and Wolfgang I was able to get the right people for the right topics.

When I asked them to design an ARTBOARD for our auction they immediately agreed and send a file;-) It was a bit tricky to get it on the board, but with the help of an excellent printing studio in Berlin it worked out beautifully – as you can see! The surface of the skateboard is like a navigation system. It can travel in any direction and always gets there. The growth rings of a tree seem like the plan for an archetypal city.

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So, if you like this one, start bidding on March 20!
The only chance to get a hold of it;-)

Today Monika and Wolfgang run their own independent research unit, the MARS – Exploratory Media Lab in which they work on topics such as media aesthetics, knowledge media and fluid architecture. In their research on interactivity and interaction design they develop participatory experiences. For their “Home of the Brain”, the first art virtual reality installation to be walked through with datagloves and data glasses, they received the 1992 Golden Nica of Prix Ars Electronica. Just recently they’ve been nominated again for Ars Electronica, this time in the new category: Visionary Pioneers of Media Art.

ARTBOARD / SKATEBOARD designed by Axel Pfennigschmidt

I’ve met Axel Pfennigschmidt a few years ago when he just started the agency INTERNATIONAL in Kreuzberg. INTERNATIONAL became famous because they brought an international Coca Cola to Germany – made in Kreuzberg. Over the years we became friends.

Axel worked for many years in some of the world’s leading advertising agencies in Hamburg, New York and London. He now lives and works in Berlin. I like Axel’s photography a lot. I even bought 2 photos from him – Spring Street in New York City and one Marrakech pict. So it was pretty obvious that I would ask Axel to “design” an ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD for our auction to build a skatepark in rural India. And he did;-)

For his skateboard he has chosen an image which he found on a wall in the medina of Marrakech – fragments of several posters photographed close up and not been digitally edited are transformed into a collage-like, pictorial motif. This is the result:

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The nice thing about this experiment of designing this ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD was that Axel is now thinking about presenting more of his photographies on skateboards;-)

So if you LIKE this skateboard …. it can be yours soon!
Auction will start on March 2014!
All the details are here!

Learning through engagement

This post was sent to me by Nicola Claire, who is running a school in Istanbul and advises we_school. With Nicola I share my thoughts on how to build a “matrix curriculum” for we_school. Traditional curriculum combined with “out of school” ways of learning re-integrated into it.

Here is her take on our ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD project:

artboard_skateboard_03An auction of skateboards – persuade artists from around the world to decorate a skateboard for free and then auction them off to raise a great deal of money.

You get a one-off original piece of art work and we get …….  well what exactly do we get?

Actually we get nothing, but children in a poor region of rural India get the opportunity to learn a skill, develop a social network, have a great deal of fun and get an education.  Quite a lot from an auction of art-worked skate-boards you might think – but this is what you will set in motion by bidding for one of the amazing boards.

So, how does a skate-board auction turn into an education for village children in rural India?

Education is a concept that everyone has a different interpretation of. Mostly however, it revolves around buildings, books, exams, timetables  and decontextualised learning.

The we_school in Khajuraho will be none of these. Simply put, it will be the opportunity for children to acquire knowledge, skills and understanding through the activities which they engage in every day.

Take the skateboards – from the decision about which woods to use, to the final stroke of the decorative paintbrush this learning journey is the acquisition of knowledge and learning of skills and the understanding of application. It is also a great deal of fun. And the knowledge, skills and understanding have life-long credit and fully transferability by the way.