A Third Impression of Kamepao, 7/29/99
Kamepao has yet to begin. The official sample Kampao begins on Sat. morning. Until now we have been preparing for the camp. Yesterday's demolition of the cardboard shelter was only to make way for the new one. The children that participated come to Agora once a week for two to three hours. This weekend's camp though, begins on Sat. morning and ends on Monday morning. Saturday, 25 children are expected to spend the day and the night at Agora, Sunday the same, but a different 25 children. During the day, some parents will also be present, but at night most parents, all but 3 or 4, will return to their homes, or travel to visit relatives, or simply get away.
Today, the Kamepao staff dismantled one of the plywood shelters assembled months before, and built a new one. The old shelter consisted of two shells, one over the other. We dismantled one, saved one, and rebuilt a new one. Tomorrow we may build one more. As you can tell from the pictures, the shelters are roughly designed after turtle shells. In the case of the constructed shellters (from now I'll use this spelling), there are now three, the new plywood structure, the old plywood structure, and the new steel structure on wheels. All of these shells could be taken as individual turtles, yet the metaphor seems to not be very strict. Whether the shellters become turtle heads, eggs, legs or shells really depends on the whimsy of the children. Although the design begins from turtle shells, the transformation is left to the children. Also taken into consideration in design is one more shell, the largest of them all, which is Agora itself, the studio in which Kamepao takes place. The studio building, with its ceramic tiled roof, serves as the fourth shellter.
Kamepao, as a name, doesn't refer to just the shellters. Kamepao is an activity, or a construction of a nonphysical space. The shellters simply become another physical tool for the children to use. Kamepao occurs not only in the studio, but it is the entire weekend. It is not a project to make turtles for kids to play in but is a construction of an atomosphere. The metaphor seems to creep away once the children begin their activities, yet at the same time, it has a steadfast and long life. The solidity of the design and concept of Kamepao allows for the freedom in which experimentation can take place.
The reports from this weekend will, hopefully, make clear to those who can't attend, what Kamepao really is. From then, we can find out what Kamepao can be. This weekend, like the previous Kamepaos held to date, will be a sample. With the kids spending the entire day and night, some whose parents participate, some whose take the opportunity to travel or otherwise spend the time privately, we should be able to see the potential of Kamepao as it may function in the "real" situation. Of course this weekend's Kamepao will be real for all of us involved. To separate between the sample and the real may be to force the issue. But we can safely say that, by way of this weekend, we may be able to at least navigate how Kamepao could function in the aftermath of a natural disaster. If kids can feel safe spending the day and night away from their homes, and away from their parents, and enjoy themselves in this situation, we can maybe imagine the possibilities that open for kids and parents alike in a more difficult situation.
This weekend will be the execution of Kamepao, but before execution there is conceptual planning. Since we are a few days before the execution, I'll take a closer look at the conception.
The conception and execution of Kamepao includes many phases which are distributed among the members. The members came up with the concept together as a result of visiting Kobe after the earthquake there in 1995. Kamepao exists on both a macro and micro level. The micro level is the activity itself, in the case of this weekend, the sample. On this level, the kids participate in a variety of activities organized by the members and use the shellters. The macro level is the spreading of information of Kamepao as a concept and as a tool for use anywhere in the world, by anyone. The macro level includes the website execution, the design of the shellters in terms of practicality and accessibility, and the concept at large in terms of making it accessible and understandable to the extent that it could be easily co-opted. The various members use their combined skills to complete the execution of Kamepao.
As members, although they each perform the tasks they are skilled at, they don't take individual credit for Kamepao: they are the Kamepao Project Team. At the same time, they don't take Kamepao as their own. They state in "About Kamepao" in Kamepao Web, "Kamepao is not only for the project team, and is not anyone's forever." Although they conceived Kamepao, they don't require or intend that they be given credit for it. Their policy, as copied above, which includes their notion that there is no copyright on Kamepao, includes the idea that they are members of a larger organization, which might be the world. Their individual credit is not what motivates them. If their ideas, projects, and trials can be useful to others, they freely offer them. No two people have the same skills and talents. Anyone could be a Kamepao Project Team member, and all skills could contribute. Therefore, it is not necessary that a group of individuals in, say Colombia, have the same skills as the members in Japan. Kamepao is made by those that execute it, which is further evidenced by the fact that the children themselves determine what Kamepao is and can be. The website of the Kamepao Project Team offers samples, trails and errors, illustrations, and diagrams. Whether people in other places use this information strictly or adapt it to their own needs is not a major concern to the members.
The following days should illustrate the merging of theory and practice. The time spent planning and reinforcing Kamepao as a concept will soon be put to the test.