Full Circle

Though we knew that we may find it tough to ship several of the objects, our registrars and exhibitions department have had to make extraordinary efforts to make arrangements to bring objects from remote areas around the world. In the beginning of March we received an email from Nigeria. Mohammed Bah Abba, the designer of the Pot-in-Pot Cooler, had planned to send us several of his low-cost refrigeration systems. He was working in war-torn Chad and was no longer sure whether he could meet our approaching deadline. He told us he had “limited time to round up and get out.” Worried for his safety we wondered whether we should try to find the pots from another source or place a label in the exhibit explaining the dilemma—it was the type of circumstances many of the users of the exhibition objects find themselves in.

Scrambling to find an alternate source we contacted Practical Action, the organization founded by the economist E.F. Schumacher in 1966. His design philosophy, “small is beautiful,” calls for more appropriate uses of technology to help people out of poverty. This approach continues to influence many of the designers working in the area of humanitarian design today; creating low-cost local solutions that help people and communities overcome poverty. It seemed only right that we would find the alternate source for the pots from the very group that started this design movement.

I heard from Mohammed this week. Because of the hot season the demand for his pots far outpaced his supply. We had not heard from him because he has been working around the clock seven days in a week traveling between his Cameroon and Niger factories in an attempt to meet these demands.

photo credit: © 2000 Tomas Bertelsen