A few weeks ago I travelled out to India to continue the research and thinking that I started with my project Waste Makers. Waste Makers is a series of making kits set in a hypothetical post apocalyptic world. The entire project was based on the idea that, by proposing a scenario in which ordinary people have nothing, they will become more resourceful and this will lead to a more sustainable world. Travelling to India was an opportunity for me to see how people design, make and repair when they have actually do have very little.
“Design is fundamental human activity.” – MP Ranjan
Before I went, I read some of the work of MP Ranjan, in particular his blog Design For India in which he discusses the potential for design design in this up-and-coming country. He explains that “design is fundamental human activity”, everybody is a designer, it’s not something just for those who’ve studied it. Upon arriving in India this became immediately obvious. On every single street were dozens of making and repair shops of all kinds and almost everything in between had been put together by hand too.
People in general do not seem to see a product as a unified object but a collection of components. These components are free to be replaced, upgraded or given new purpose in a new object. It really felt like nothing at all was wasted.
One object which embodies this in a very visual way, is the street carts. It seems that that the very basic form of wheels and a flat surface can be bought and then anything that the owner requires built on top. These are used by street vendors to sell anything from mobile street food kitchens requiring inbuilt stoves, gifts needing to be covered by the rain, or even night time stalls requiring generators.
Even in the boat building yard we visited, amongst all the beautiful new ships being built were old ones being taken apart for their valuable metal components and anything else that could be of use.
To me the idea of getting more people making and doing in the UK as in India means more empowered citizens. When you can fix something yourself, you have the means to take yourself out of a system of dependency. Empowered citizens will not only fix objects that are broken but also fix problems in their local community and understand their role in creating the world they want.
Sadly, this situation in India has been created through necessity not by design… Can we still encourage resourcefulness like this back in the UK where we have so much?