TAKE BAMBOO POLES and plastic discs stuck into a sphere and you get something that looks like a giant clocking dandelion, the seeds about to blow in the wind. But they don’t, they roll. They are designed to be carried by the wind, yes, but instead they tumbled over the ground, specifically over minefields. Detonating mines. The Mine Kafon or deminer was Massoud Hassani’s graduation project from the Design Academy in Eindhoven. Modeled on his childhood toys, the design is both lyrical and lovely – and it works better than you might expect. GPS tracks its path so you can see where it’s been and what it has cleared.
Hassani grew up in Afghanistan in north Kabul, near the airport. As a kid, he and his brother made their toys. They’d inevitably blow away – and onto a mine field. Living near the airport and the mountains many of the fields and much of the land nearby was mined. He’d be stuck watching his toys disappear just beyond his reach, just over the point of danger.
He fled Afghanistan when he was a teen. His mother sent him with smuggler, alone, at 14. He lived in Pakistan and Russia and made his way to the Netherlands. He also had a peripatetic path to design, working as a security guard and in event planning. Because he needed a degree to go to the Design Academy he did a cram course in bookkeeping. Now, he explains that his country has more mines than people while the BBC reported last year that land mine use is at its highest since 2004. Removing them is expensive and deadly, which is where Hassani’s design based on his toys comes in. It works, but instead of clearing an entire field, one or two mines destroys the Mine Kafon. He’s working on a more durable version. But in the meantime his concept was nominated for London’s Design Museum’s Design of the Year award and the Mine Kafon will soon take its place in MoMA’s permanent collection.
Hassani’s artist’s statement: I grew up in Qasaba, Kabul. My family moved there when I was 5, and at the time there were several wars going on. My brother Mahmud and I we played every day on the fields surrounded with the highest mountains in our neighborhood.
When we were young we learned to make our own toys. One of my favorites was a small rolling object that was wind-powered. We used to race against the other kids on the fields around our neighborhood. There was always a strong wind waving towards the mountains. While we were racing against each other, our toys rolled too fast and too far. Mostly they landed in areas where we couldn’t go rescue them because of landmines. I still remember those toys I’d made that we lost and watching them just beyond where we could go.