Stories from Copenhagen
I’m Manilla Ghafuri, I’m born in Northern Afghanistan and I’m a refugee. At the moment I’m taking leave from my bachelor course in Danish while I’m leading a group for minority girls in Nørrebro and doing work as an activist and opinion leader. I’m also the leader of the organization Rapolitics.
I was seven years old when I came to Denmark. I walked from Afghanistan to Poland with my family and didn’t know where I would be in the next hour, if we would have enough food, if we would survive. Upon arrival to Europe my family was separated. My mum and some of my siblings ended up in Germany while I ended up in Denmark with my dad and other siblings. We were apart for 1,5 years. It is one of the hardest things I’ve experienced in my life.
SEEING OTHER REFUGEES HELPED ME FIND MY VOICE
It has taken a long time for me to turn my experiences into something I can use as strengths. Through elementary school and highschool I was just “tag-along-Manila”. I did everything I could to be accepted and fit in. I remember when I started my Danish degree, my fellow classmates had all these plans for their future but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I couldn’t feel myself. I had tucked myself away for so long that I couldn’t feel who I really was.
When I saw the Syrian refugees walking up the highway towards Denmark in 2015 I suddenly recognized myself. I realized that the suffering I had gone through was real. I felt frustrated and powerless when I heard the media describe the refugees as a financial burden coming to take from our society. It was such a dehumanizing debate and I knew that I needed to use my voice.
I could talk about how hard it is to be a refugee, and that it’s never a choice.
I took leave from my education and became part of the newspaper Information’s refugee paper where I told my story of being a child refugee. The job gave me the opportunity to set the agenda, which felt so empowering. I helped choose the stories for the paper, I called politicians and asked them questions.
OUR STORIES HAVE AN IMPACT
After the newspaper experience I asked to become part of the theater house, Contact. They were doing a tour of schools to talk about the destinies of young people. I met with their director to share my story, but I couldn’t get the words out. Tears just ran down my face. It was so heavy.
That process forced me to physically use my voice and I told my story at schools and conferences across the country. There I saw there the impact a story can have. People in the audience cried, they realized just how much you have to fight as a person on the run.
After that I got introduced to Rapolitics, where we do workshops at schools with Hip-Hop and rap connected with storytelling. I’m now the leader of the organization.
IF OTHERS QUESTION YOUR IDENTITY, YOU’LL START DOING IT TOO
We need to acknowledge that no matter who you are, your voice should be valued and accepted. When I say “Yes, I’m Danish”, you need to accept that and not challenge it. I very often experience that I and other minorities need to break extra barriers for people to see who I am, because of the colour of my skin. And the problem is: if others keep questioning your identity, you will start doing it too.
I have an example of this from the other day on the train. This young brown guy is there with his arm in a cast, and the ticket inspector comes to check his ticket. The guy says that he needs a little time to find the ticket because his arm is hurt. The second he says that, the inspector assumes he doesn’t have a ticket and calls the police who comes running and confronts the guy. I get up, stand up next to him and say that I feel uncomfortable about how the situation is developing. The guy is smiling at me, and I see that I’m making a difference. They ask the guy to give his name, it’s Jonas. The policeman immediately questions his answer, how can his name be Jonas, when he is brown? He couldn’t even be trusted to say his own name. Jonas was finally able to show his ticket and the situation deescalated. However, no one ever apologized.
It means so much that someone takes a stand for you. I remember that from my childhood. My entire family was thrown out from a store because of our skin color - no one said anything. I was accused of stealing in Aldi by a fellow customer, because “people like you steal” - no one said anything.
Young Manila would never have dared to stand up next to Jonas on the train, but things are different now because I’ve found my voice.
I WANT TO INSPIRE CHANGE
My experiences as a refugee have done a lot to me. That sensation of being a child on the run is still within me, and I wouldn’t respect myself if I didn’t do something to help others who’ve been through the same thing. I now organize fundraisers for victims of the war in Afghanistan, and it means the world to me when I hear that the people I help feel seen and heard. I get messages from civilians in Afghanistan telling me that what I did made a difference for whether they could survive or not.
I’m at a place now where I want to change history. It is not enough that people are moved by my story. Now it is important to me that people are proactive, initiate change and understand that their voices have weight. The step you take, when you activate your own voice, is big, and I love seeing this development in others. This one girl who is always commenting on my posts and encouraging my work, she is now writing a column in the newspaper. That is so cool.
I’M DRIVEN BY LOVE
Carrying kindness to me is connected with love. I’m driven by empathy and love, and the notion that love has no limits. In a way it is very far from what I work with every day - because those subjects can be very heavy - but they have made me aware how important it is to keep a sense of love close. Love is the ultimative belief that there is another person who believes in you 100%.
My name is Mads Emil Grove Møller, I’m a fashion and culture communicator, stylist and designer. I’ve worked in the music and fashion industry for more than 20 years, and I’ve always had the goal of making a living out of my passions. An important part of my joy of working has been spreading as much love as possible through my projects.
MY COLLECTION CREATES CHANGE
I have designed the Spread Love Collection with and for Kintobe. It was a dream project for me as it combined my joy of using bags with the opportunity to create cool products out of recycled materials. I like the thought that everyone can wear my collection with a clear conscience. I’m very happy with the final products and I can’t wait to see the bags being used in cities around the world.
In addition to the great bags, a special thing about my collaboration with Kintobe is the platform we have created together, which enables us to give back in many ways. 1% of all sales from the collection will go to select charities. We have also activated local strong leaders in our campaign, who each tell their story and work to make a positive change in their communities. I’ve always found great joy in surrounding myself with people, who use their voice and inspire us all to do better and make a change, be it big or small.
GIVING BACK IS KEY TO A JOYFUL LIFE
I was born on the island of Mauritius, but grew up mostly in Copenhagen, with
a small exception of 3,5 years in Tanzania. My roots and multicultural upbringing have always reminded me that giving back is key to a joyful life. Inside each bag in the collection I’ve added a quote that acts as a daily reminder of exactly that: “You make a life by what you give”.
I believe that even the smallest things, like smiling to people we pass in the street, donating to charities or helping a friend with their latest project or life obstacle, can mean much more than we think. They spread the love that we need. I really believe that giving to others and using energy to better the world may just be the secret to living a life that’s not only happier but also healthier, wealthier, more productive and meaningful.
I hope people will enjoy my collection and give the message of giving back and spreading love some extra thought as they wear the bags in daily life.
I’m Mia Holdgaard, I’m a DJ and stylist and I work in a shelter for young people. I’m also the mind behind the TV-documentary “How to survive a violent relationship”. I started the project, because I lived in an abusive relationship for almost 10 years.
AM I ONE OF THOSE WOMEN WHO GET ABUSED?
It is difficult to get out of an abusive relationship, and for me it took something really bad happening to finally get out. I ended up in the hospital in the Center for Sexual Assaults, and there a nurse told me, that I needed to flee to a women’s shelter. At first I was like: “Nope, I’ll deal with this myself. It’s not that bad’’.
I didn’t take the offer immediately because going to a shelter would make the abusive relationship real. It would make me part of the statistics, and it would make me part of my own prejudice. I felt so much shame. Was I really one of those women who get abused? I thought about it for two weeks and finally decided to go. I took the daughter I have with my ex with me.
IT’S PURE SURVIVAL
You might think that the bad things go away when you seek protection at a shelter, but it doesn’t. That’s when the hard part starts. My ex hacked my phone, and my bank account, he called day and night, told everybody that I had a mental illness and took me to court to fight for custody of our daughter. At the same time my case worker told me that I couldn’t stay at the shelter for too long. If I did my daughter would have to go live with my ex because a shelter isn’t appropriate for a kid. It was pure survival.
Part of the abuse goes on to this day. I have my car smashed, my bike cut up regularly with a knife, GPS trackers attached to my car, and I have to have an attack alarm. The shelter advised me to move abroad and disappear. They’d seen this behavior before and they know that people like my ex will never stop with the mental or physical abuse.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
When I went to the shelter I started talking to journalists about my situation. We ended up creating a TV series that features three women I got to know in the shelter. The series gives you practical advice on how to get out of an abusive relationship. For example, what to pack before leaving: Pack extra clothes, contact lenses, medicine and cash - cash is important. You live like a refugee.
Most importantly, the tv-series shows that this can happen to everybody. Personally, I didn’t think that other women like me experienced this. After my story came out I found out that a friend I’ve known since childhood was in a shelter for more than a year. And I found out that one of the women I worked with had been undercover for two years.
My hope is to reach some of all the women who don’t ask for help. Even though 40.000 women every year are exposed to violence only a fraction of those speak up and get help. I have received so many messages from people all over Denmark who identify with my story and want me to share how I deal with living like this. I hope they’ll know that they are not alone.
LISTEN AND BE AVAILABLE
You can do so much if a friend of yours is in an abusive relationship. First of all, never ask, “why didn’t you leave?”. Just listen, don’t judge. Be supportive, be available, and make space for their pain, even though it is difficult and other people’s conflicts are heavy.
I am Søren, 43 year old and the founder of the store Res-Res in Copenhagen. My mission is to
change the way the fashion industry thinks and acts. Our name Res-Res stands for Respect Resources, and this is our compass, as we navigate the industry.
I want to move the focus away from a volume driven business model to a timeless, long lasting and repairable model. No matter how organic or how much we use recycled materials, it will be the volume that is the problem of the fashion industry for the next many decades.
SELLING CLOTHES IS MY ACTIVISM
I opened Res-Res, because I felt it was the only right thing to do. After more than 25 years in the fashion industry, selling clothes is my toolbox, and these tools I use to create awareness and activism. Recently we opened up a space above the shop. Here we are hosting a vintage market, introducing new international designers, hosting network meetings and panel talks regarding the EU textile regulation. We are also setting up a small office community, where we can share ideas and inspire each other on this journey towards a more respectful relationship with the planet.
WE NEED TO CONSUME LESS
When we talk about creating positive change, we need to consider that we as human beings unfortunately don’t have the same starting point in the world. Creating positive change requires of me, a person from one of the richest countries in the world, to consume less and consume in a more respectful way. My clothing colleague from Bangladesh, who is underpaid, works 6-7 days a week, and doesn’t get to see his or her children - it’s really hard for me to see what we should demand from them. In my opinion we are already demanding way too much.
TREAT EACH OTHER AND RESOURCES WITH RESPECT
Carry kindness to me means that we have to treat all resources with respect, and take responsibility for our actions. No matter where you are, you can always act respectfully towards other human beings.
I’m Kate Kamil Camille, and I’ve run Kate’s Joint in Blågårdsgade for around 30 years. I grew up in Ishøj but spent most of my childhood in Copenhagen and Nørrebro, as my mum always had various shops in town. She had a grill/fast food takeaway joint where my restaurant is now. Back then the street was mostly filled with bodegas and the shop attracted a good mix of squatters, punks, local kids and bodega guests.
I was 17 when I opened the joint. I was tired of school and my mum told me that if I dropped out I had to do something else. Something bigger. I didn’t know how to cook, so my grandmother helped me. Every week I learned a new dish from her.
YOU EAT SOMETHING - AND IT FILLS YOU UP
In the beginning we only had three tables and six chairs. People didn’t have a lot of money and it wasn’t common to go out to eat. However, I quickly realized that there was a simple need for a plate of real, good, simple food: You eat it, and it fills you up. That also means that I feel really shitty about price increases. For example, there is no way that my dahl can cost more than 100 kroner. I just can’t live with that. I know how much that serving of hot, good food means to a lot of people.
THERE IS NO FACADE
Quickly a group of regular guests formed, and many of them still come. We humans need constants in our life. We need places where we can just come and be. In the joint you don’t need to jump on the latest food trends and be fancy with your avocado toast. You can just relax.
As a host my most important task is to create a space where people feel comfortable. I have a lot of customers coming in alone and they need to feel welcome and not in the way. When you walk into the joint you feel like you are in a home: Pots, pans, wires, tools and appliances are all showing. There is no facade hiding anything, and then you don’t have to put one up either.
REAL LIFE IS RIGHT OUTSIDE YOUR WINDOW
You’ll never get an Aperol Spritz in my place. I feel it’s an overcommercialized drink that makes people think they have the perfect life. I’d rather have them look out the window and see real life. It’s right there in Blågårdsgade. The poet Søren Ulrik Thomsen called it “The Blue Corridor” in one of his poems, because all the traffic from the other areas of Copenhagen passes right through. You’ll see all types of people here, you’ll see old ladies talking to gang members. Maybe we don’t agree about everything, but when we meet in the street, we need to have a truce. I like that.
PASS ON THE GOOD
Carrying kindness to me means passing on to others the good we have learned or understood.That’s how the joint started for me, thanks to my grandmother.
My name is Prince Henry Kwesi Asare, I’m 28 years old and I study sociology. I’m also an activist and I spend a lot of time sharing my story and talking about the conditions that minorities face in Denmark.
Injustice and discrimination, no matter who experiences it, is wrong. No matter if it is because of your disability, sexuality or skin color it dehumanizes you and diminishes your possibilities in society. It takes away your right to be who you are.
I KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO NOT HAVE A VOICE
When you’re a minority like me you can’t avoid experiencing things that no one should experience. I’ve experienced discrimination and racism since I was six years old. Back then I didn’t know that being bullied because of my skin color was racism. I just thought people didn’t like me.
Noone ever told me that my voice is worth anything. I had to figure that out for myself. When you’re a young person of color you stand out just for being you, so all you want is to fit in. That makes your own voice something you don’t dare listen to or use because you’re scared of having an extra spotlight put on you. I tried to talk about my experiences when I was very young, but every time my voice was ignored or quieted down. I think that is why my voice is so unruly now. I know what it’s like to not have a voice.
A lot of what I do is motivated by the things I didn’t have as a child. Today my voice stands with little Prince, if he is out there somewhere, and it stands with all the other people who are not being heard in society.
THE POINT OF NO RETURN
I went to folk high school (Højskole in Danish) as the only person of color in my class, and experienced racism. But no one cared about it. Not the teachers, not the leadership. I understood that I had to do something myself, so no one else would have to experience what I did and handle it alone.
I think that when you’ve experienced a lot of discrimination your whole life, you come to a point of no return. I had a feeling of just not being able to go on anymore. I had to do something to make sure that I didn’t experience racism in the communities I was part of anymore. That’s when I really found my voice.
THIS ENERGY TOOK OVER MY BODY
At the Højskole I found ways to talk to my peers about what I experienced. I showed a film about discrimination, and I invited students to do a demonstration for Black Lives Matter with me. I had never paticipated in a demonstration before but when I was handed the microphone and we started walking I felt this energy take over my body. I led the demonstration with battle cries that my peers started repeating back to me, I don’t know what got into me. I saw how people around us woke up: they came closer, cars were honking, parents started talking to their children about what the demonstration was about. I saw change at a local scale, and I think that is an important point to make: You don’t have to change the whole world. If you can change your own world, you’ve made a huge difference.
James Baldwin says something that I’m very inspired by: “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced”. We have to face things, recognize them and talk about them, before we can really change them.
NOW EVERYBODY CAN FEEL COMFORTABLE AT HØJSKOLE
After my stay at the Højskole I wrote a newspaper article about my experiences and how discrimination affected both minorities and the general well-being of students. Following the article I was contacted by the Højskole movement and asked to participate in a panel of students with minority backgrounds. Our experiences were translated into new recommendations on how to make Højskole a place where everybody feels comfortable and a place with a more meaningful and respectful culture. The final outcome was a report and a toolbox that each højskole can use to create more diversity and inclusion.
QUESTION YOUR OWN BELIEFS
It’s important to remember that no one is born to hate. It is something we have been taught, and it means that we can unlearn it through dialogue. You can start by having a dialogue with yourself. Stop and ask yourself, where does this belief come from? Why do I think the way I do about another person’s background, gender, etc. Then follow up with the question: How would I feel if anyone judged me in that way?
We need to understand that the way we experience the world, no matter who we are, is narrow because it is based on ourselves. Your world is not everybody’s world, it is defined by your perspective. The only way I can broaden my perspective is by talking to others that are different from me and listening to their stories.
UTILIZE YOUR TALENT TO CHANGE STATUS QUO
There are so many reasons to give up fighting: it’s tough, it takes your energy and change is happening very slowly. Sometimes I think I could use my energy on so many other things. But I can’t stop. I see that it makes a difference for me and others that I publicly take a stand and communicate what minorities experience.
When I started sharing my experiences, I never expected that my work would lead me where it has. I never expected that I’d organize a demonstration, that I’d create change in the Højskole community, that I’d change anything in society. You can create change by sharing your story and utilizing your talent to express what’s in your heart. Rap, write, act, do what your’re good at. You don’t have to do it to change the world. You can just do it, because you wish to do something differently than the status quo.
I’M NOT ALONE
Together we have the potential to be a generation of community. A generation that helps each other and shows each other respect and kindness. A generation where each and every one of us is a little less lonely in our individual battles. The most beautiful part of this journey has been experiencing just how many people are out there identify with the things I say. And realizing that I’m not alone.
My name is Xanthippi de Vito, I’m a health coach, end-of-life doula and grief support specialist. I work with understanding the needs of the dying and supporting families in a time of transition.
The most common thing I experience that’s preventing people from dying peacefully is unresolved relationships. It’s never about things, it’s about people, interactions and connections.
I’ve created a mental health facilitation studio named Post Service where I work to destigmatize discussions around mental health, death and grief. These are topics that everybody struggles with and they’re such a source of judgment in society. Social media has a lot to do with this problem. The way people present themselves is focused on stagnancy and the idea that you have to be an image. We’re rarely presented for people in motion, regarding their energy. And mental health is not like that. Mental health is complex, it’s beautiful and it’s dynamic.
YOU HAVE TO DIE IF YOU WANT TO LIVE
So get used to that and unpack it for yourself. What does it mean for you to live? And what does it mean for you to die? By looking closely at death, you’ll have a more intimate relationship with the quality of your life, and you’ll be better at living. Society is so busy telling people what’s important instead of asking them. But, how do you define success? How do you define quality of life? You know what is best for you, and I’m here to make space for you.
MOST PEOPLE DEAL WITH A PAST THAT HAS NEVER BEEN ADDRESSED
My parents died when I was young. My mum died from breast cancer when I was 13. My dad died when I was 25, two months after I gave birth to my daughter. My mum’s family tried to address her death with me, but they were very religious and it didn’t sit well with me. The whole “be strong, God never gives you more than you can handle”-conversation, I couldn’t handle that. There’s a taboo around these types of discussions, we don’t know how to talk about death. So when someone is grieving and you say “be strong” what you are really saying to them is: “Please fix this, because your pain is making me uncomfortable”.
I ended up spending a lot of time alone as a child trying to understand what it all meant, and I didn’t know what to do with my grief. So my grief became manic. I stole my mom’s car when I was 13. I drove it very fast down a dirt road, the bottom went out, the oil popped and I was stuck in the middle of the highway. I was completely out of sorts. I had no stability, I had no ground, I felt like I was jelly. All because my grief was not addressed.
Most people deal with a past that has never been addressed and there is a lot of pain in that. If only we were better at offering help to people, we would have a different society. People wouldn’t carry their wounds for so long, because they would be heard. There is an incorrect assumption that grief is linear. It is not - you fluctuate throughout your life. You are never healed.
BE CURIOUS ABOUT GRIEF
If someone close to you has lost someone or something they love, you can grieve the loss with them. You can ask permission to see and hear about their grief and be curious. People usually do the opposite; they make grief nice and pretty, wrap it up and put it in the closet. Instead, ask to see what it is like to be in pain. Look at the ugly stuff. And when they answer, do not give advice. Just hold space and let them talk.
Listening is a collective need right now. When you are listening, pay even more attention to the moment when you stop listening. That moment will tell you everything you need to know about why you need to listen.
MEET OTHERS WITH KINDNESS
Carrying kindness means remembering that everybody has a story you know nothing about. If you can carry that awareness with you, you will inherently meet someone with kindness. Because you have no idea what their struggles are, what they have lost in their life.
I’m Alin Stan, and I’m the festival director at Kune. Kune is a festival that celebrates Scandinavian underground culture and it’s hosted on a tiny island in Copenhagen.
MUSIC DICTATES MY PATH
Music is a great social filter in my life, always leading me to new friends and collaborations. It dictates my path, which became obvious when I moved to Copenhagen. In the dorm where I lived, I met Gunnar who had a big record collection. He taught me to play vinyls. I also met Stefan who had a massive club setup in his room: Smoke machine, lasers and huge speakers. It was like he slept on the dance floor! We became friends and in the summer of 2014 we did a small listening session on the lawn outside our dorm. During the session a guy named Anders came by on his rollerblades. He heard the music and came by to see what was happening. He asked if he could bring his records, and we became friends instantly. Another guy, Adonis, also joined the hangout. He was a bar manager at the student bar, and soon we hosted a series of parties together there.
We were all passionate about music but had no connections to the music scene. We were outsiders, but I’ve always believed that if you manifest your creativity, things will happen. And so they did! We started organizing events every month - in forests, basements, a fortress, a community center, on a rooftop. We started getting noticed and being hosted by clubs, and now we have our own festival.
THERE IS POWER IN HUMANITY, IF WE COME TOGETHER
The name Kune comes from the Esperanto language. It’s a language that was made for everyone in the world to understand each other. Kune means “together” and it fits so well with what we believe in and what we are doing. Because we came together we became able to do these parties, and our mission is to bring together the cultural workers in the Nordic region together to create new collaborations.
Art and festivals are powerfull when it comes to cultural development. Festivals have been going on since the time of the hunter-gatherers. Tribes of people who would not communicate or coexist, came together once a year and shared knowledge. And they built structures that are as big and monumental as stonehenge. There is power in humanity if we come together, and we’re able to change the world.
WE CAN DEFINE THE RULES OF SOCIETY
I believe in two things: the power of the individual + the power of collective action. When individuals are empowered they can participate to the maximum extent of their abilities in collective action. I wish for the guests of KUNE that they feel and experience a connection to their community when they visit the festival. And that they feel a connection to the artists. I hope this connection will make them realize how important their own actions are as part of a community. We are born with the rules of society around us. But we have a lot of impact on defining those rules. I don’t think society is doing enough to empower individuals so they know that they can change things if they want to.
ACCEPT THE OTHERNESS IN THE WORLD
For me carrying kindness means accepting that there is no one singular truth in life. Conflict in general arises from only listening to our own truth, but everybody has their own story.
Pause and have a buffer between your understanding and your reaction. One thing is to have thoughts. Another is to act on a thought.
My name is Rasa Rihana Diamond and I am from Lithuania. I have been studying various things - such as Visual Arts, Communication, Social Psychology and Sustainable Design & Business. I would consider myself as an explorer of human relationships and their social environments.
I feel that I have never become a real grown-up. Instead I’ve become an eternal student. I study the world through the lenses of art. I often look at my weird drawings or objects and laugh, thinking that I should probably find a proper job and stop ‘playing around’. But life is much more exciting with art. You can be funny or make critical points or beautiful vases. It’s a language to express yourself and open a dialogue with others.
But most of all I’m just a human being. As everyone else, with the same need to love, to relate and find some sort of belonging.
LIFE IS FOUND IN THE CONTRASTS
A recurring theme for me is the difficulty of being yourself in society: The conflict between who you are and who you are expected to be. Growing up as a girl you quickly understand that things are divided into “ugly” and “beautiful”. For example, it’s almost an unwritten rule that as a woman you have to be beautiful. But if you dig into ugliness, you’ll also find beauty there - and a much more interesting kind - because life exists in contrasts.
You’ll relate differently to the world, if you see how ugliness also talks about beauty and how pain also talks about love. You’ll understand how precious life is and how everything is important. If you realize this it means that you also have to accept and fully love yourself, and that’s hard because we’re taught to love things only if they’re beautiful or “good”. But things just are. The hardest task is to just “be” and be you.
UGLINESS NEEDS A VOICE
In our social media world that pressure to be the “beautiful” version of yourself is even bigger. I keep asking myself: who am I now? Why do I feel shame? Being a woman, being an Eastern European, having anxiety and mental issues, the perfect facade is hard to maintain. So I try to talk about ugly and painful things, because they need to be voiced.
Art opens up conversations with people who feel a similar pain. It connects people and makes them feel that they are not alone with that emotion. That they’re normal. Even though “normal” is also a dangerous concept.
WE NEED EACH OTHER
I believe that true peace lies in accepting ourselves and accepting others who are different from us. We are so independent, that we forget that we need each other and we need to relate to each other. The moment you step outside your apartment, you are responsible for the people around you. I think people are starting to acknowledge how important our own individual voices are. We need to speak up if we see things that are not right. We are responsible for each other’s happiness, health and wealth. We are one connected consciousness in the world.
PROGRESS IS COMMITTING EVERY DAY
Carrying kindness means understanding that nothing comes without effort. We have to put an effort into having critical conversations with ourselves and others. Accepting this is homework for all of us. True progress should not be measured in the perfect outcome, but in you trying your best and committing every day.
My name is Andrés Artiles Jerrik aka CopenhagenKid. I work as an image stylist and sustainable fashion designer, working with storytelling and sustainability through fashion, tv and social media.
My mission is to communicate sustainability at eye level with a young target group. I’m very interested in telling stories with secondhand fashion and creative sustainable solutions. My mission is to educate, entertain and hopefully inspire people. The content I create is made with that in mind.
UP-CYCLING BECAME A PURPOSE
As a young kid I developed a love for secondhand and sewing because I couldn’t afford the fashion I was inspired by online. I began up-cycling and re-designing at a young age without knowing that it would develop into a greater passion and purpose. Standing out has always been a key factor for me, and today I enjoy standing out while educating people about style, sustainability and personal expression.
TURN THE UGLY INTO SOMETHING SPECIAL
I’d love for people to be kinder to themselves. Many of us struggle with our mental health and I would love for people to open up more and share their journeys, and express it creatively like I do. For instance I often dress how I feel, therefore my style has evolved and changed through time. Today it’s one of the things I’m known for, so my hope and goal is that it can inspire people to do the same. Take the ugly and turn it into something special and beautiful.
WEAR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN
Carry kindness for me means to wear what you believe in. I wear secondhand clothes everyday to make sure that the mark I make on this earth is fashionable and expressive, but not harmful to the planet. Because I know that What I Do, Can Change The World.
My name is Marko Pocagar. I’ve created @_bodytalks on Instagram that shows different bodies and tells their story. I want to show the diversity in body, gender and sexuality and create a space where the body can be free of judgement and ideals.
How did Bodytalks start?
I was writing a book about shame and sexuality, and wanted to do an Instagram account to support the project. A friend took some photos of me naked for the project. I remember looking at a picture of my torso and suddenly I felt like I wasn’t looking at my own body. Like it had its own life. I think it had to do with the fact that I hadn’t taken the picture myself, and I didn’t have the same control of how my body was presented.
This outer view of my body made me feel a huge empathy for it. I saw it as a best friend that had treated me really well. My body is the reason I can breathe and carry myself in this world, but I rarely show it gratitude. Instead I demand more of it.
As I started exploring these thoughts I knew that the Instagram profile wasn’t going to be about the book, but about the body.
What is Bodytalks about?
Bodytalks is about letting go of evaluations and prejudices against the body and instead give room for the body’s own story.
We have a tendency to blame our bodies way too much. We take all the problems we have in life and project them onto our bodies and it’s specific traits – like our body size or shape, height, blemishes, scars, whatever. And we say, “That’s why! That’s why my life is shit”. Our bodies get all the blame for issues that have nothing to do with them.
When we for example look at stretch marks, body fat or body hair, we need to stop evaluating these traits and instead kindly ask: “What are these stretch marks expressing? What’s the story behind them? What has this body been through?”. I see the body as a canvas. And I’m interested in hearing why your canvas has the colors it has and how they came to be there. I’m not interested in judging whether the colors are nice or not.
I believe that marks on our body are a gateway to vulnerability and authenticity. They are a testimony of lived life. They are meant to remind us of what lessons we’ve learned throughout life, they’re not meant to be judged.
And Bodytalks is about ending our over-identification with the body. Our body is something we have. Not something we are. If you base your identity on your physical appearance it becomes a very fragile identity, because our bodies are organic and changeable things. The same is beauty standards.
Have you been unkind to your own body?
I’ve been fixated with flaws about myself. When I was 18-19 years old, I felt way too tall. It was a real complex. I drew a line on the wall and every morning and measured myself to see if I’d gotten taller. I felt like a monster. I couldn’t love myself. It got so bad that I went to a plastic surgeon and asked for a surgery to make me shorter. I was completely incapable of letting my body be something that worked with me and not against me.
It took time to get over it. It slowly went away as I moved away from home. As my perspective broadened. And I got busy living my life.
What have you learned from hearing other people’s body stories?
I’ve learned that we’re generally very hard on our own body. We constrain it, we don’t give it room to have its own life. We hold it down and try to manipulate it. We constantly want to change it. I’ve also learned that if we learn to let go of this constant judgement and act more friendly towards our bodies, it becomes a lot easier to exist.
How does a body live its best life?
The body lives its best life when it’s not controlled, manipulated and evaluated. When it doesn’t have to be scolded and listen to all the things it can’t do or needs to live up to.
How can we be better at treating our own and other bodies kindly?
- Have focus on the wisdom that the body carries and be less fixated on evaluating it. Let thoughts like “I feel fat today” or “I look ugly today” pass. Don’t hang on to them.
- Give other people a chance to show who they are or want to be. Don’t judge physical appearance. We have a tendency to tell half the story of a person based on how they look.
- Actively try and break taboos about body, sexuality and gender by sharing your own body story and talking to people about what has been difficult for you. Without openness shame lives. But as soon as we see others like us, and when we inspire each other with stories about the body and life lived, it goes away.
- Say hello to your body every day. Just sit and be alone with it quietly and create a moment where nothing else is disturbing the relationship with you and your body.
- Touch yourself with kindness every day.
What does carry kindness mean to you?
Keeping an open attitude when meeting other people. Putting prejudice aside and giving people a chance to make an impression based on their actions and not their physical appearance.
I’m Nagin Ravand, and I want to bring diversity into the sports world. My mission is changing the perception of the ideal football player. When I was 15 I started a football team of girls with a non-western background in Gellerupparken where I also live, it was such a success that I’ve been awarded for my work.
How did you start playing football?
My friend invited me to come to her football practise and that was my entry to the football world. When I was 15 I moved to Aarhus and started my own team, as there wasn’t a team where I lived. I worked as a volunteer there for five years and we went from 0 to 40 girls playing football. That was an important victory for me.
Why was there a need for a team of Middle-eastern girls?
Too many people get surprised when they are tackled by a girl wearing a scarf and pants on the pitch. Football has a great potential to build bridges between people. But today there are still people who judge each other based on looks. Why can’t I pass as an aggressive winger because I wear my scarf? Before I started wearing it I was perceived as super talented and hungry for victory. Today, in my scarf, I’m a “violent muslim” if I play the same way.
Many people think that the girls on my team have not been allowed to play by their parents. That’s not really an issue. The issue, as I see it, is girls not knowing what they are capable of. On TV you only see female football players with blond hair and short shorts. There aren't any girls wearing a scarf. It’s society’s responsibility to show a broad representation for everyone to feel comfortable engaging in different activities.
Is there still prejudice in football?
I’ve experienced being underestimated many times. Comments like, “Are they wearing a scarf?”. Referees looking at you an extra time, searching for reasons to put you on the bench. When people physically stand out it is easy to blame them.
Does what happens on the pitch translate into society?
I think so. As part of the football team I made a study cafe that a lot of the girls used to get advice. Like, “Nagin, I’m afraid to put my hand up at school”. I started encouraging these girls to yell “pass to me” on the field. Some of those girls came back a month later telling me that now they’d put up their hand. There is nothing more amazing than when my girls tell me about something they’ve improved at.
I tell my girls that they have the right to take their place on the field as well as their place in society. It doesn’t matter what you look like as long as you are contributing. Football consists of 11 different players. You don’t have two similar players in a team, and the same goes for society.
If we want to win at life, we need to have faith that we do so because we are different. It is people who are diverse that constitute a winning team. No one will win with 11 goalkeepers.
What can we do in everyday life to support diversity?
Take a stand! If you see anyone being intolerant, ask them to show respect. We’re often too worried about keeping up a nice atmosphere at the expense of calling out intolerant behavior. But sometimes the kindest thing you can do is to have enough integrity to dive straight into the conflict. A conflict doesn't always mean problems, it also means solutions. It’s easy to flee from difficult conversations, but we need people who are willing to deal with the challenges we are facing in the world, and the only way to figure out how to best respect each other is to start a dialogue.
What does carry kindness mean to you?
- Take someone for what and who they are, and expect the best from others instead of leaning into prejudices.
- What you have to give might not seem like a big deal to you, but it can make a huge difference for others. I’ve realized that when thinking about the journey I’ve been on with football: Something I’ve taken for granted my whole life, like playing football, has made a big difference for the girls who joined my team.
What’s your hope for the future?
I hope that there will be room for everybody on the football field. And the field is a metaphor for the world.
It was a success getting girls to play and now I’m hoping to do the same for women. I just became the leader of the female division at a local football club, and within a month I’ve already managed to get 15 grown women to come and play – which is a lot harder than recruiting girls. So that’s a little success, I’m celebrating these days.