A don’t-miss, do-good exhibition and auction

The Love School Project

Now through May 10th, Berlin’s Galerie Erstererster welcomes The Love School Project, an inspiring design exhibition and charitable auction featuring works created in collaboration with students at Berlin’s Universität der Künste and elementary age students at the Love School Center in Nairobi, Kenya.

Professor Susanne Stauch and designer-slash-teaching-assistant Anna Badur—one of Pamono’s favorite Berlin talents—proudly welcomed us to last night’s jam-packed opening, the culmination of a months-long, experimental international project, sharing the students’ designs and the beautiful story behind them. As Badur and Stauch explained, over the course of the past semester, UdK university students mentored school children in Kangemi, a slum in Nairobi, to help them craft design objects using locally available resources and tools—at times a very tall order in an area lacking electricity and running water. At the same time, the university students were tasked with creating their own designs, directly inspired by their communications with the Kenyan students. Auctioning the final pieces is part of a larger campaign to raise money for the purchase of the land on which the Love School Center stands, an area that is in danger of being cleared out due to speculation.

The students’ initial contacts took place via WhatsApp and Skype, but within the project’s very first week, it was clear they wished to collaborate in person.  So, one after the other, the UdK students made the decision to travel to Kenya—voluntarily, tapping into private reserves in order to make it happen—to do a hands-on workshop.

Rope bags by Louis Bindernagel Image courtesy of The Love School Project
 The resulting objects—now available for purchase through the Galerie and an online auction—are truly lovely; not just because of the collaborative spirit behind them, but also because of the innovation and creativity behind so many of the pieces. Take, for example, student Louis Bindernagel’s Ropery project, a collection of baskets and ropes that tackles the problem wasted plastic bags make in the environment. A rope machine was constructed on the ground in Kenya, and the Berlin students taught the school kids how to make rope from the plastic bags themselves. The kids were able to make a volleyball net, a basketball hoop, fix a sun shelter, and weave baskets and more—allowing the children to look at their environment differently and recognize the potential applications of overlooked waste to create beauty–and income.

Besides the financial support of the Kenyan school and the empowerment of the Kenyan students, the project’s also an experiment in international co-creation and offers the UdK students the chance to see their work in terms of both client-creative service roles and a larger, socio-economic context. According to Stauch, education is the key to real and lasting transformation. She says, “I truly believe in a not-so-utopian future where education helps us drop judgment and categories. Where we finally embrace the fact that humanity is connected and therefore only thrives in connection and on eye level. Where we support each other in growing and evolving into those human beings we are capable of becoming, once we respect and love ourselves as much as anybody else.” 

For her part, Badur notes that this project is really just the beginning. “Susanne brought together people that didn’t know each other but were all willing to set out on an exciting endeavor driven by openness, daring, and good will. I think I can speak for everyone that we somehow got infected by a similar vision—a vision of what is possible if you dare to step out of your comfort zone and do the first steps without exactly knowing where they will lead. Borders and barriers were broken, empowerment took place in all directions, and I am sure that for many of the project was just the beginning of a long, lasting relation[ship].”

The Love School Project is on view now through May 10th at Galerie Erstererster in Berlin. The online auction is live now at https://www.unitedcharity.de/Specials/The-Love-School-Project

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