Originally, the path towards mamakan began with an intuitive wish to help women, especially mothers, through food. However, my research has grown to include a more universal idea. Alas the deep, deep yawning for (re)connecting with the mother of all, mother earth, through what and how we eat. How everything is interrelated. Or is it?
Inspired by the Gaia theory by a British Scientist and inventor, Dr. James Lovelock in the 1960's, I look a the paradoxes. Dr. Lovelock worked with NASA when they determined that there was probably no life on Mars. He went on to propose that Earth is fully alive and self-regulating, living organism interconnecting with inorganic environments. In 2015 NASA discovered water, and possible life on Mars. Is the living system of Earth similar to our own body? If so, how does the food that enters our body affect life on this planet?
The name, mamakan, is a new word inspired by various languages. In most Asia and Europe, mama means mother. Makan can be translated "to eat (consume)" in Bahasa Indonesia/Malay, in Swedish as "the wife" and in Hindu the place where you eat "house, home".
When Singapore got choked in toxic haze from forest fires in 2015, it became the spark that ignited her first large-scale interactive and edible art installation “Tree of Life” and the children's fairytale "Lali's Adventures in Sundaland".
In 2012, the idealism and creativity of Qi GLOBAL was deemed as a inspirational success, but a financial failure. To run an innovation platform around "Human Progress in Harmony with Nature" and several innovative projects, we needed a massive change. A few feel-good corporate sponsorships were simply not enough.
As a tired social entrepreneur, I was deeply frustrated about the superficial support of sustainability in the business world. Most people have good intentions, but most corporate cultures were - and still are - toxic towards both "Human Progress" and "Harmony with Nature". Perhaps it was time for me to take the bull by its horn and see if we could change the corporate culture itself? Away from the present greedy culture of anxiety, sameness, cynicism, impotence and selfishness.
Together with Marieke Van der Heijden, I went on a three-year journey into the heart and minds of corporate executives and CEO's. We were brave and enthusiastic. With a small team, we took on large change management assignments. We invented a whole range on new tools, ideas and methodologies, among them the iconic innovation culture canvas and The Innovator's Juice (Joy, Uniqueness, Intuition, Creativity, Empathy).
My love/hate affair with Borneo began around 2009 when I watched a documentary called "The Burning Season". It's a fascinating small-budget movie taking you from the palm oil farmer in Indonesia, to the money makers in London, across politicians and multinationals in the USA, ending with a UN conference in Bali. One of the main characters in the film, orangutang caretaker and fellow Dane, Lone Droscher Nielsen came to our launch of Qi Global in 2009 and later I got to know the director of The Burning Season, Dr. Cathy Henkel. We also hosted the first ever screening of the movie in Singapore in 2010.
Upon an invitation from Cathy, I went to Borneo in 2012 and travelled into the heart of the jungles. The outstanding beauty of the land still lingers in my heart. So do the Dayak tribes that hosted us in the long house. I especially recall an old woman, who looked like she could have been close to a hundred years old. Her face was full of stories of hardship, pain and commitment. Commitment to her tribe, history and to Nature. Her body was tattooed in black that had faded to a blue/grey colour. The tattoos serves a a torch or light on one's journey towards eternity. I especially recall her beautiful old wrinkled tattooed hands. For these tribes, tattoos on our hands symbolises a person who helps the tribe as healers.
I was inspired to create a symbol to connect modern urban eco-warriors with our indigenous brothers and sisters and their fight to live in harmony with nature. The symbol became the EW sign, with three vertical stripes (fingers) for the "E" and three horizontal stripes (fingers) for the "W". The EW connect us on a spiritual level through ancient history and an actionable level in the quest of fighting against deforestation.
A video interview with President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Jose Ramos-Horta kickstarted an idea of a new kind of coffee shop. One that would benefit the whole value chain, especially the impoverished Timorese coffee farmers while investing some of the country's oil revenue in international real estate.
After several study trips and long evenings after work with a group of volunteers, we came up with the an innovative business and creative concept for such a place: Cafe Timor-Leste. What really stood out then - and still does today - was the idea of a fourth place. Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, position his coffee shops as a third place, somewhere between home and work.
The fourth place is about bringing the farm closer to the consumer, literally, by screening live footage from the coffee plantation on the main walls in the cafe. Its the place between home, work and the farm. Imagine sitting in Singapore watching the sunrise in Timor-Leste, hearing the farmers chit chat as they return with their coffee bean harvest and - if you stay long enough - admire the sunset while tasting those beans.
Qi GLOBAL (2009-2012)
Elemental Experience Design (2006-2008)
Mood Consumers (2001-2006)
Sunbeam Children's Foundation (1997-2000)