A child’s game for a child’s life – “Mine Kafon”

Watch out for landmines

On a regular winter morning in good old Belgium I worry about when the sun will finally come back to brighten our days, whether or not I should eat that last piece of delicous Belgian chocolate (convincing myself I need the extra calories to pass the long, cold winter months) and if last year’s green sweater is still enough of an “it-item” to flaunt in 2013. Meanwhile on the other side of this always spinning, blue globe of ours, another 24 year old girl is wondering which way she should take to get to work today, or better, which way to avoid, so she wouldn’t risk losing a leg in a landmine. This girl couldn’t care less about the presence or absence of the sun, she might not even know the taste of Belgian chocolate and she certainly doesn’t mind if the garment she’s wearing today would be the fashionable orgasm of every fashionista or the worst nightmare of today’s couture-world. A simple comparison of two peers miles apart easily shows how everything is relative and how some of us could be considered far more lucky than others.

And still, even though we know we are one of those lucky few, we often don’t feel that way and certainly don’t act like it. While I was surfing the web, searching my way between luxurious ad campaigns and suggestions for Valentine gifts, in the midst of all the marketing-glam, I came across this marvellous invention: “Mind Kafon” by Afghan designer Massoud Hassani. In a flash I was reminded of how blessed I am to be living on this side of the world, the side where I don’t go to sleep to bombs crashing every night and don’t wake up to children crying at the break of dawn. How lucky I am to be born in a happy family where, yes every once in a while we have our issues, but overall we are doing pretty well. I often forget that…

Mine Kafon - Massoud HassaniMine Kafon

Massoud Hassani reminded me of how I should count my blessings every day with his graduation project for the Design Academy of Eindhoven. A project that, at least, could be considered innovative. I would even label it: world-changing. This strange looking object designed by Hassani might look like an extraterrestrial creature that accidentally landed on earth, but it certainly isn’t anything like that! It’s drawn out of one man’s mind, fruit from one man’s heart for his country and made by one man’s blood, sweat and tears to change a little piece of this world and (re)write history, to shed less of that “blood, sweat and tears”, to save at least one single life.

Landmine Hopscotch When man feels threatened, when life shows its dark colours and torments us, we start thinking differently. The lack or presence of a ray of sunlight doesn’t change much when you can’t go outside because of the dangers awaiting there; another extra calory from a bar of chocolate isn’t a life-dilemma when food is scarse; the colour green doesn’t look so much different from, Vogue-selected season fashion colour, yellow when all you care about is having a warm sweater, any sweater to protect from the cold during long, fearful winter nights. Just like a game, any game loses its playfulness and becomes life-threatening when with every step you take a landmine might “surprise” you…

On those landmine-filled grounds, on those soils far away from my little house in Belgium, children risk their lives every day playing “innocent” games. On one of those deadly territories Hassani grew up and, it might come as a paradox, but that ruined piece of land in a devastated country in Asia, served as a source of inspiration for this young designer.


“I grew up in Qasaba, Kabul. My family moved there when I was 5, and at the time there were several wars going on. When we were young we learned to make our own toys. One of my favourites was a small rolling object that was wind-powered. We used to race against the other kids on the fields around our neighbourhood. There was always a strong wind waving towards the mountains. While we were racing against each other, our toys rolled too fast and too far. Mostly they landed in areas where we couldn’t go rescue them because of landmines. I still remember those toys I’d made that we lost and watching them just beyond where we could go.”
Hassani explains.

Child - Landmine I cherish great admiration for and find inspiration in people who manage to extract the little positivity there might be in hopeless situations. These people are the real heroes of today. Those who manage to see the glass half full instead of half empty, those who are able to find opportunity in crisis, those who vision change. Those brave souls like Hassani…

Today all we can talk about is crisis, all we see is how our world is slowly spinning to its end. We chat about Apocalypses over wine and pity ourselves and the generations following us. Legendary Edith Piaf has stopped seeing “la vie en rose” a long time ago and young people seem to be doomed to live a jobless, happy-less life. Or at least that’s how the cynics like to picture our world today. The reality is far different from those doom-scenarios. Young creatives like Hassani prove that every single day! Even a strip of land full of landmines can be a source of inspiration and even the smallest of inventions can mean the biggest of change!

“Almost 20 years after playing in the Afghan fields, I went back to Qasaba and made my favourite wind-powerd toy again. That was my graduation project for the Design Academy Eindhoven (2011). I remade one, making it 20 times bigger as well as heavier and stronger. Powered by the wind, it’s meant for the same areas which were (and still are) full of mines. Now if it rolls over a mine and will destroy itself and the landmine in the same time. The “Mine Kafon” also has a GPS chip integrated in it. You can follow its movement on the website and see were it went, where are the safest paths to walk on and how many land mines are destroyed in that area. On paper, Afghanistan is said to have 10 million land mines. In truth there are far, far more. Every destroyed land mine means a saved life and every life counts.”

Signed for Life

A noble cause if you ask me, and certainly a great invention to heal war zones like the Hassani’s homeland. A source of inspiration for all of us lucky birds here in the West. While we, too often, worry about luxury problems, wondering how we could make our, already good lives, even better (and, of course, rightly so, one should always strive for the best!), others, even only a few miles away, wonder how they can make it through another night, how to give their children a life worth living, a single day of child’s play with innocent laughter and no risks of prematurely losing their young lives. Because we all deserve the same chances of a happy, careless life, whether we are born in a small, green town in Belgium and wake up to the sound of the neighbour’s rooster every morning or we saw our first daylight in the inhospitable mountains of Afghanistan where – one day, hopefully, soon – no-one should wake up to the sound of an exploding landmine bearing the image of a life lost too soon anymore…