Monday, 20 April 2009

Third world wisdom gives us a second chance

Fundi is a South African word meaning expert or guru but its meaning goes far deeper than that. It denotes wisdom and ‘doing the right thing’, something that we all strive to do but don’t always succeed at.

Recycling and reusing things that might otherwise be thrown away is also about doing the right thing and it’s a philosophy that is gaining real momentum these days.

The current economic climate seems to have added practical purpose to what was often previously seen as a theoretical option: ‘I’d like to fix this if only I had the time but instead I’ll just have to buy a new one.’ Today it’s more likely to be: ‘I can’t afford to throw this away.’

The Make it and Mend it website is also about developing and venerating the skills that allow us to breath new life into old and broken things and relearn the skills that would be been second nature to our grandparents. All of which brings me back to Fundi.

While the West may have forgotten how to make and mend, countries in Africa and Asia have elevated it to an art form. While we’ve banged on about third world debt and, let’s face it, felt mighty smug about our ability to lend money to countries less well off than ourselves, people in these countries have developed skills that we now need - desperately.

Not only do they mend broken things with incredible ingenuity but they upcycle our growing mountain of disposable objects, giving them new purpose.

Their upcycling is driven by practical purpose. While it’s nice to make sculpture out of recycled egg boxes it doesn’t really make us any wiser environmentally. But use Styrofoam egg boxes to insulate your attic and you’ve taken you first tiny step to being a Fundi. (Attach the paper egg boxes to walls to create great sound insulation – useful if you have a teenage son with an electric guitar.)

That’s not to say you can have fun recycling and upcycling but don’t stop at fun. It’s time we all got serious and became a society that keeps rather than throws away. The so-called ‘third word’ is the place to learn.

Which is why, from today, Make it and Mend it will be looking further than our grannies for our inspiration. >>See what we’ve found out so far...

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