Dang Thi Minh Thu, art director of Kidstallation, a playground launched in Viet Nam by Tohe Social Enterprise, speaks to Nguyen Thuy Binh about her involvement with an international initiative to rethink the priorities of childhood.
Inner Sanctum: You were Elevate StartWell's Vietnamese winner selected to attend the Creative Camp in Japan this February. Can you tell us something about your experiences at the camp?
Kidstallation is not a personal programme or project. Its founder is Nguyen Dinh Nguyen.
I was very pleased to represent Tohe Social Enterprise in bringing Kidstallation to the Elevate Startwell Challenge. Actually, this challenge is still in process. We are working on our final proposal. We have two more interviews next week. We do not consider ourselves "the winner" because Elevate is not a competition.
Kidstallation is an installation art programme made for kids and by kids. It opens a playground for children to come, play and install the daily materials to make changes to the entire space.
We hope that everyone who comes to Kidstallation will have the chance to play as a child, always remain curious and always be free to explore their imagination as well as accept differences and the otherness. Kidstallation hopes to pass on a passion for art to the children.
I had a wonderful time in Japan with 12 Elevate fellows. We came from different backgrounds and art related fields. There were plenty of cultural differences. We had the chance to experience and learn more about innovation and creativity by visiting various kinds of playgrounds in Tokyo and Yamaguchi and by exchanging experiences and information on each other's projects.
Inner Sanctum: How were you drawn to the Elevate StartWell Challenge?
I have been developing Kidstallation as a playground for children and communities in Ha Noi since the beginning of 2014. When I read the announcement on the British Council website, I found similar purposes between Kidstallation and Elevate Challenge. Both focus on children and the community, especially in a fun and creative way.
I thought it would be a great opportunity to seek potential partners and connect to creative people and organisations who share a passion for sharing creative ideas for social change.
Inner Sanctum: After attending the camp, will you make changes to your project?
We wish to explore Kidstallation without changing it. We'll keep it as a playground, where children, even adults come to play, and enjoy it as a child. The Tohe team and I always want to collaborate with artists to explore the art programme for more ideas.
Next, Kidstallation will be organised during various events and explored in a series of workshops that will be held more frequently. We'll collaborate with schools as well as the public in doing this.
Inner Sanctum: What are Kidstallation's future aims in Viet Nam?
We are looking for more locations, such as modern buildings and public spaces to organise Kidstallation so that more children can take part in it. At the moment, it has only happened in Ha Noi. We are looking for ways to take it to HCM City and later, hopefully, to more and more locations in the country.
Inner Sanctum: Can you share with us something interesting and surprising that you found in the camp?
There were two brilliant things about the camp: Emerging science and innovation, and the power of collaboration. First, I had the opportunity to visit Miraikan - the National Museum of Emerging Science & Innovation in Tokyo. Then I had the chance to see different ideas of Elevate fellows in action.
They really apply advanced technology in daily life and help us explore the world in the beautiful ways. I was also able to see the strength of an idea carried to its conclusion by collaborating with others at the Elevate workshop in Yamaguchi.
Inner Sanctum: You say that you have experience in teaching fine arts to children and at art cultural events. Were you taught art when you were small?
I went to a public art class when I was four. Then, for a few years later, I took private classes as well.
Inner Sanctum: Share with us something funny that happened in your work with children.
I have a lot of memories about children's imagination. Last year, in a drawing class, I asked a child where she wanted to go in the summer. She said nowhere, she just wanted to sit and eat ice-cream.
Then she drew a picture with a smile on her face, chilling in the cold breeze that blew from the ice-cream. The wind was in the same flow as waves in the ocean.
Parents are usually proud of the knowledge that children show, but for me, imagination is more important. Knowledge can be learnt by heart, imagination comes from the heart. Imagination can ignite a passion for knowledge, a passion for exploring the world. — VNS