ReThink Festival in proud collaboration with COMSA and La Finca Humana

Posted by Runa Juhanisdotter

This year’s ReThink Festival, on July 1 in Prinzessinnengärten, will be in dynamic collaboration with COMSA (Café Orgánico Marcala S.A., Honduras) and the themes will be coffee and education.

On June 25, eleven representatives from COMSA Fairtrade Coffee Co-op and International School arrive and will be our guests in Berlin. You will have the opportunity to meet them in person, hear their inspiring story, learn about their philosophy and successful methods, and enjoy their exquisite coffee. After Berlin, we will travel on to Hamburg, Veilje (Denmark) and Gothenburg plus Borås (Sweden).


In February, Ela Roth, Angelica Vehmas and I went over to meet with Brian Olson – our ReThink team member and director of the film ‘La Finca Humana’ – and some very special coffee farmers and teachers. It was amazing to step right into the film and talk to all the people in real life and see all the places with our own eyes.

 


The trip was mindblowing! In the heart of a country rich of natural resources and breathtaking landscapes, but brutally ravaged by corruption, gang violence and poverty, grows a solid, peaceful movements for change. Our friends at COMSA run a very impressive operation and are determined to plant a new society in Honduras. The scale of the operation, their history, the work behind it and the vision are very impressive and we are excited to be able to host COMSA at the ReThink Festival and share La Finca Humana with you.

Meanwhile here’s an introduction…

 

”It all started with an idea, a big vision and four determined farmers getting together to talk in a garage.”

The garage-meetings led to the foundation of COMSA in 2001. A constellation of 60 farmers (12 women and 48 men,) with the mission to empower small farmers in the La Paz region, to earn a dependable income through sound business and sustainable agricultural practices. Today 1200 members are registered.

It happend as a reaction to the impossible conditions and a doubt towards conventional, chemical farming. At that time coffee was sold to local middle-hands, often at prices that did not even cover the farmers production costs. One of the primary founding objectives of COMSA was to seek out and promote new ways of thinking – both in production, moving from conventional to organic production; and in markets, moving from commercial to specialty buyers.


The transition from conventional to organic farming, as well as moving from commercial to specialty buyers, was hard for some farmers and many of the initial members dropped out of the cooperative. COMSA came to understand that they would need to recover the life in the soils that they had previoulsy been killing with toxic pesticides and fertilizers, before they could expect improvements in organic production, and began experimenting with micro-organisms.

Successes with micro-organisms encouraged the members to be more open to innovative organic practices, and led to the application of micro-organisms in compost, exploring the use of minerals, and the production of fermented live molecules.

Organic farming is at the heart of COMSA’s core values, consistent with their holistic vision:

“To be a competitive company, viable and known for quality coffee, managed with total transparency, gender equality and harmony with nature contributing to the improvement of living conditions of our members and their families.”

The heart and brain of the operation is the demonstration farm Finca La Fortaleza. It is a living, breathing model of how a coffee farmer can create closed loop systems to fully sustain their families through agriculture.

On the large, beautiful property there is coffee thriving under the shade of fruit trees, a coffee plant nursery, a fish pond, an animal farm, vegetable garden and green house, a facility for producing fertilizers and a chromatography lab to create organic fungicides and pesticides. Local farmers can bring in soil samples for analysis, and learn exactly what inputs their land needs to be optimally productive. There is an office, a hostel, a self-sustained restaurant and a lecture room where COMSA technicians educates farmers and school teachers from all over Latin America.


COMSA also runs their own bank and a store located in the town of Marcala. The store provides the COMSA community with a place to sell coffee, produce, warm lunches, treats, craft and various organic compost materials. They operate their own wet mill – where the coffee beans are separated from the cherries, washed and dried on flatbeds – a dry mill – where beans are dried mechanically – and a roastery and cupping facility – where the coffees are tested and scored. But their mission goes way beyond running a self-sustainable coffee cooperative and producting excellent coffee. It’s a movement.


The movement is rooted in the philosophy of Emilio Sanchez La Finca Humana (The Human Farm) that advocates a shift in how we use our brains, and how we raise and educate our children. In order to plant a new society, we humans need to start observing, reflecting and thinking for ourselves. Not blindly repeating and copying. We need to learn how to collaborate and share instead of competing, and to avoid getting stuck in negative patterns and think positively and forward.

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COMSA talks about the necessary 5 M’s – the organic MatterMicro-organisms, Minerals, fermented live Molecules and the gray Matter – the human brain. This is where the changes needed are located. This is why they speak of organic agriculture as The Human Farm.

Firstly, COMSA wants to achieve changes in the producer, and to help them understand that they need to cultivate themselves.

“We realized and understood that organic agriculture was not just a coffee farm. To not only produce with organic soil, but that we had to have an attitude change. We had to intend to take care of the environment, the nature, the rivers, the trees, the forests, the birds, the animals.”

“First, we need to plant the seed in the human mind and then in the farm.”

Planting a new society, means giving children hope and opportunities to create and be innovative, to learn to think and collaborate. Since September 2016, COMSA runs their own bi-lingual school, where the children are in the center and everybody is learning in their own pace. Everybody is equal, values is on the schedule (honesty, solidarity, love, diversity, respect) and progressive methods like Glenn Doman’s flashcards are put into practice. Creative and innovative problem-solving and team work, open-air lessons, movement, art, music, play, positive thinking, sharing and hands-on gardening classes are key elements in the education.


The atmosphere in the class rooms is happy and filled with love, curiosity and trust. Children that cannot afford to enroll are sponsored with scholarships. COMSA supports other smaller social school initiatives in the La Paz Valley, like the outdoor kindergarten in Santa Cruz. Here children create art with flower petals, while listening to poetry, opera and music in foreign languages, and learn how to read with flashcards.

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COMSA is also empowering families in impoverished and dangerous neighborhoods in the cities, by creating educational programs and giving them hope of a different future than joining a gang.

“When you put positive into the earth, you get positive in return. When you put negative into the earth, you get negative in return.”

Links:
www.comsa.hn
www.comsaschool.com

La Finca Humana – Trailer

ReThink Festival Facebook Event

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ReThink Festival in proud collaboration with COMSA and La Finca Humana

River of Light – an inclusive art project with focus on children’s rights

Posted by Runa Juhanisdotter
(Text in Swedish below.)

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Image from River of Light 2016. Photo credit: Saria Dalain

Last Sunday in Gothenburg, I participated in a very special workshop facilitated by local artists at Akademin Valand, and met with organizers Behjat Omer Abdulla and Denise Langridge Mellion. Together with a happy mix of people of various ages and origin, I created a paper lantern for “River of Light”, a processsion that will take place in central Gothenburg on UN’s World Day of Social Justice, February 20, 2017.

The project is a social meeting point for unaccompanied minors, young people, families and art enthusiasts in Gothenburg, supported by Akademin Valand, B-Arts Staffordshire, A-venue and Göteborgs Stad. This is the second year it’s organized. The idea is to bring different cultures together and create a carnival feeling.

Gothenburg is a segregated city and Behjat and Denise see a need for informal meeting places in the city center to break isolation and create a spirit of community. Creative spots where people can connect and talk while working.

For Behjat, who came to Europe as a refugee some 16 years ago, art became a way to meet people, to get acquainted with the culture and enter society. ”It’s the small things that make you part of the community, nuances you can only learn from talking to other people”, he says. He hopes that ”River of Light” will bring newcomers and locals together.

During a string of workshop sessions leading up to the event, each participant will learn how to create their own lantern, which they can then carry on February 20. The procession will begin (at 16.30) and end at Akademin Valand (Vasagatan 50) and conclude with music, food and celebration. The workshops will also be hosted at Akademin Valand.

The event is free and open to the public. No previous knowledge is required, everyone can participate. If you want to be part of this wonderful procession, get the workshops dates here:
http://akademinvaland.gu.se/english/news/e/?eventId=70124300130

Facebook event:
https://www.facebook.com/events/354499364906253/?active_tab=about

Watch the video from last year’s beautiful manifestation:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZd8cR7NwJ8

 

River of Light – ett inkluderande konstprojekt med fokus på barns rättigheter


I söndags var jag i Göteborg och deltog i en mycket speciell workshop ledd av en grupp lokala konstnärer på Akademin Valand, där jag också träffade och pratade med de arrangörerna Behjat Omer Abdulla and Denise Langridge Mellion. Tillsammans med ett glatt och brokigt gäng människor i olika åldrar, från olika hörn av världen, gjorde jag en papperslykta för ”River of Light” (Flod av ljus), ett fackeltåg som äger rum på väldsdagen för social rättvisa i Göteborg den 20 februari, 2017.

Projektet är en mötesplats för ensamkommande barn, ungdomar, familjer och konstintresserade i Göteborg, och stöds av Akademin Valand, B-Arts Staffordshire, A-venue and Göteborgs Stad. Projektet arrangeras för andra året i rad och tanken är att föra ihop olika kulturer och skapa en känsla av karneval.

Göteborg är en segregerad stad. För att bryta segregationen och skapa gemenskap och en känsla av sammanhang måste man skapa mötesplatser i centrum, menar Behjat och Denise. Kreativa, informella mötesplatser där människor kan mötas och prata samtidigt som man arbetar.

För Behjat, som kom till Europa för 16 år sedan, blev konsten ett sätt att möta människor och komma in i samhället.”Det är de små sakerna som gör att du blir en del av gemenskapen, att du lär känna kulturen och tar dig vidare i samhället. Sådant kan man inte lära sig på annat sätt än genom att prata med andra människor”, säger han. Han hoppas att ”River of Light” ska fungera på samma sätt för de som är nya i Sverige idag.

Under flera workshoptillfällen, kommer varje deltagare att få möjlighet att skapa en lykta som hen sedan kan bära i fackeltåget. Tåget startar på Akademin Valand (Vasagatan 50) kl. 16.30 och avslutas på samma ställe med mat, musik och firande. Workshopparna kommer även de att äga rum på Akademin Valand.

Evenemanget är kostnadsfritt och öppet för alla. Inga förkunskaper behövs, alla kan delta. Vill vara en del av detta fantastiska fackeltåg?
Info och alla datum här:
http://akademinvaland.gu.se/english/news/e/?eventId=70124300130

Facebook event:
https://www.facebook.com/events/354499364906253/?active_tab=about

Video från förra årets vackra manifestation:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZd8cR7NwJ8

River of Light – an inclusive art project with focus on children’s rights

Maria Lucrezia inspires people to “rethink” food as a revolutionary, powerful tool, which not only feeds us, but can also be used to communicate, to share, to create, to take political action and to make the world a better place.

Interview by Runa Juhanisdotter

Berlin is host to a vibrant, international scene of underground culture, social entrepreneurships, innovative startups, alternative stylism, food culture and activism. One passionate light on this scene is Maria Lucrezia. Last summer she and her food enterprise Pastamadre (that she runs together with partner Akis) joined the ReThink Festival to show us the art of mindful cooking and eating.

Who are you?

I’m a food educator. I share my philosophy of life by teaching how to make good, simple, homemade food.

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What’s your mission?

I truly believe food is a dynamic force which interacts with humans on different levels: what and how we eat holds the keys to physical, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Our food choices do not concern only our private lives anymore, but they also effect the local/global economy and the environment. That’s why I would like to inspire people to “rethink” food as a revolutionary, powerful tool, which not only feeds us, but it can be also used to communicate, to share, to create, to take a political action and to make the world a better place.

So how do you do practically do that?

I organize and run workshops where I share my skills, experience, passion and creativity. I come from a great southern family who taught me to enjoy and to practise the Italian cooking tradition paying specific attention to home-made food. They taught me how one of the best things about the Mediterranean diet, especially Southern Italian food, aside from being delicious, is that it’s so simple! You need just few ingredients: flour, water, tomatoes, garlic, salt and olive oil to prepare a plate of homemade pasta, but what makes it so special is the quality of those few ingredients and your love, passion and creativity making it. I think is a great metaphor of our life, we don’t really need so much to be happy, just few things well mixed with love, passion and creativity.

Everytime I teach to shape a small piece of pasta dough or how to knead a sourdough bread I’m teaching how to make a little sculpture or to mould a piece of art, because if you take it seriously, it requires the same effort and dedication. What I practically do is to give people a foundation for scientific and nutritional knowledge combined with a hands-on application, in order to enable each individual to feel free and confident to cook, experiment and experience the real, natural food on their own.

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During the workshops I like to stress the importance of making homemade food as a way to express yourself, to enjoy your time, to relax, to have fun, to feel, to love, to create!

Why are you doing this? Name a couple of serious problems in society and how we can tackle them in everyday life.

Nowadays we see an alarming increasing incidence of disease, as diabetes and obesity, that are related to unhealthy diet. Childhood obesity has become a public health crisis, especially in western and industrialized countries. How could we practically make a real change?

First of all, I don’t think it should be considered as a “medical problem” but as a “cultural problem”.

I truly believe that the only effective way is not “to push” children to eat healthy food, but to educate them to a genuine connection with what they eat by teaching the joy to make healthy food by their own!

A little girl who came to one of my pasta workshops, after trying a plate of freshly homemade pasta with a simple tomato sauce, asked me really surprised: Warum sind diese Nudeln so lecker? (Why is this pasta so delicious?) The answer was easy: Weil du es gemacht hast! (Because you made it!)

Everytime you take time to cook your food with love and to share it with your children, you are teaching them that food is something important, something to take care of. If you are able to connect healthy food with positive emotions as joy, fun, affection, you are growing a future healthy adult.

Another problem I’m really concerned about is food waste. Wasting food is not only an ethical and economic issue but it also depletes the environment of limited natural resources. As a consumers, maybe we are the last link of the food chain, from those who produce and process foods to those who make foods available for consumption, but I’m sure we have anyway a role to play in preventing and reducing food waste. Becoming aware of how much food we throw away, is the first step to become a smarter consumer: think about what you are buying and when it will be eaten. Plan meals and use a shopping list. Become a mindful eater. If you cook your own food, you invest time, effort and feelings and make it worth saving leftovers. Save your leftover food, save your money, save the environment!

I don’t think that to solve big problems we need to make big changes in everyday life. Small changes are more easily accomplished and can have an effective impact on our life and other’s, just by becoming part of daily routine and so, little by little, we can make a big difference.

Finally, what would you say to the people that say that pasta makes you fat?

Pasta doesn’t make you fat, is an unbalanced diet that makes you fat!
Pasta is very rich in carbohydrates, which are an important source of energy for our body, but of course, if you eat a diet which is composed mostly of simple carbohydrates you could be prone to get weight. But for example, if you eat pasta combined with plenty of seasonal vegetables and legumes, that give you other precious nutrients and make you feel full just by adding few calories, you are having a really healthy and balanced meal!
Nowadays we tend to demonize or glorify one food rather than the other one. I truly believe there’s no single food; there’s no single beverage that will harm you or will perform miracles!
I mean, what we really need to be healthy and thin, is just a proper well-balanced diet composed of a variety of different foods, mainly vegetables, fruits, cereals, legumes, and just small amounts of meat, seafood and dairy in order to provide our body with all the macro and micro nutrients it requires to work efficiently.
And if you eat healthy and balanced everyday, is not a big deal if you occasionally allow yourself to make an exception!!

For more visit:
www.pastamadre.de
https://www.facebook.com/www.pastamadre.de/
https://www.instagram.com/pastamadre_in_berlin/

Maria Lucrezia brings us an important message. To take our time, to make it simple and balanced, to appreciate, enjoy and love our food and each other. We have a lot to learn from the Southern Italian kitchen! On a personal note, I’d like to add that it was when I lived in Italy for some time in the nineties that I discovered food. I grew up in Sweden and in my experience food is not so important in Sweden, at least not back then. We’re diligent workers and we just need to eat, that’s it. I painfully remember my school lunches. We were forced to eat dishes that tasted nothing or bad. They were pre-cooked in a central kitchen and then reheated. The potatoes in particular were awful, they were pre-peeled, stonehard and sometimes green. We often had to eat raw cabbage mixed with industrialized, very sweet jam. It wasn’t nutricious, tasty food, it was what we in Swedish call ‘bukfylla’ which means tummy fill. I remember talking to an Italian friend about crappy school meals, and he looked at me with that wonderfully expressive Italian face – a big questionmark all over it. He had no idea what I was talking about. Of course not, he’s Italian! There was no such thing as crappy food in his world. Anyway, to sum it up, in Italy I learned to appreciate slow food; to go to the market to get fresh, good produce, to take your time to cook, eat and enjoy your delicious meals with friends and family. I discovered a thousand and one dishes of homemade fresh pasta and my life would now not be complete without pasta on my plate. 

Maria Lucrezia inspires people to “rethink” food as a revolutionary, powerful tool, which not only feeds us, but can also be used to communicate, to share, to create, to take political action and to make the world a better place.

Artist and water activist Jeanette Schäring invites us to discover the beauty, mystery and importance of water

Interview by Runa Juhanisdotter

I met with environmental artist Jeanette Schäring at her exhibition “H₂O – Whose water are you?” and discussed water, art, science, activism and our fragile eco system. [Exhibition is open from Oct 15 – Nov 13 at Konsthallen, Blå Stället, Angered, Sweden.]


Can you describe your exhibition in less than twenty words? 

It is a living water installation, that shows how sensitive our eco system is and how sensitive we are.

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The water in the exhibition is collected from many different sources in Angered and surroundings. Biochemical colour processes have started, completely naturally, with a plant material. The exhibition is changing with time, depending on among other things the water’s different elements, bacteria, chemical composition and water organisms, but also on the light, temperature, room, sound and human interaction. The exhibition is a laboratory, a continous experimental process – an existance of ‘Natural-cultural colouring processes’. It asks questions about our impact on the environment we live in and are a part of.

Humanity has affected earth so that everything – sea, water, trees, air and earth crust – has changed forever.

 

Describe yourself, who are you?

I’m an environmental artist. I seek to blur boundaries between disciplines and use art to raise awareness, share knowledge, create learning processes, involve the public, environmental scientists and institutions to create dialogue.

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Why are you doing this? 

My responsibility and passion as an artist is to help serve a more compassionate, empathic, collaborative and beautiful, life-sustaining world.

I want us to be in touch emotionally and understand how serious the water situation is. It’s time to wake up. According to the UN, 40% of the world’s population will soon not have enough or no access at all to clean water.

Lack of water or clean water creates famine and conflicts that force people into flight.

 

What can a person do to help protect water and make sure there is safe, fresh water accessible to everyone in the future?

We can be aware of how much water we use and not waste it. Understand where the tap water comes from. Stop buying bottled water. Water will soon become a scarcity even here in Sweden. Water is a limited resource and cannot be perpetually purified over and over again. A Swedish person uses on average 180 liters per day and person, of which only 10 liters are used for cooking and drinking. A lot of drinking water is unnecessarily wasted.

We can stop pouring toxins into our water and think about what materials we use and how often we need to wash our clothes. We can buy organic, environmentally friendly textiles, instead of clothes containing heavy metals, chemical dyes and synthetic microfibers that poison the water both when produced and when washed. And buy less and high quality that lasts longer, since a lot of water is needed in the production aswell.

Water is a mysterious substance that we often take for granted. It is the most misunderstood and abused element on our planet. Water is alive and the blood of our earth. It is the life nerve; water has it’s own living energy, and if water dies, so does our earth. Water constitutes 60-70 % of our bodies. Minerals, proteins, sugar and other substances dissolve in this living water, that form colloids and carry a subtle electric charge. Water provides the electrical life force in all living matter.

Water floats through you and me and turns into blood, plasma and urine. It flows through our brains and we are formed in chemical compounds. Water has many shapes. Our brain and our spine are surrounded by water; water with almost the same salinity as seawater. Our lives start, floating in our own little sea of amniotic fluid, until the moment we demand to breath. Water changes constantly, it’s shapes and variations are endless.

Jeanette is a core member of ReFashionReFood’s Creative Board and Artivist Team. Visit her web site for more information: jeanettescharing.net



I quietly leave the beautiful exhibition, and the airy, high-ceilinged space, where an armada of glas bottles, containing various living and changing waters, seem to float and buzz quitley in the air. Some of them filled with clear, fresh looking water, some of them suspisciously unhealthy and yucky looking. I can’t stop thinking about how much precious, drinking water we waste without really noticing. I take out my calculator to run some figures.

Suppose that the price we paid for public water corresponded with the price on the private market. A liter of bottled drinking water costs ca. 15 kronor, so let’s calculate with 15 kr or 1.5 euros. Then every swede would spend 180 x 15  = 2700 kr / 270 euros a day on water. That adds up to 985 500 kronor (98 550 euros) a year. A family of four would then spend a total of 3 942 000 kronor alltogether, that is almost four million kronor / 400 000 euros for a year’s supply of fresh water. Who would be able to afford that? Even if we got it down to 15 liters, for cooking, drinking and cleaning, we would still spend a lot.  82 125 kronor / 8212,50 euros per person and year.

Wow! Let’s not waste water AND let’s make sure it stays public and clean. We can filter our tap water, stop using hazardous chemicals and products containing plastic microbeads (only use healthy, organic schampoos, soap and cleaning detergents) and bring our own water containers along. Besides, disposable plastic bottles are bad both for our health and the environment.

Also, should we really flush out precious excrement with precious water and not upcycle it? Double waste. Should we not keep it in the loop and turn it into fertile soil!? But that’s a different blog post. We’ll cover terra preta, eco toilets and beyond… further up the time line!

Artist and water activist Jeanette Schäring invites us to discover the beauty, mystery and importance of water