Blowing in the Wind, Massoud Hassani’s Mine Clearer

 

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.

The Mine Kafon constructed in the Morocco desert.

 

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.

Hassani constructing the Mine Kafon in Morocco

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.

Exploding the Mine Kafon in Morocco

 

Success.

Almost 20 years later, I went back to Qasaba and made those toys again. That was my graduation project for the Design Academy Eindhoven. I remade one, making it 20 times bigger as well as heaver and stronger. Powered by the wind, it’s meant for the same areas which were (and still are) full of mines.

Testing the Mine Kafon in the Netherlands

Now if it rolls over a mine, the toy, now a Mine Kafon, will destroy itself and the landmine in the same time. Made from bamboo and biodegradable plastics, the Mine Kafon also has a GPS chip integrated in it. You can follow its movement on the website and see were it went, where are the safest paths to walk on and how many land mines are destroyed in that area. On paper, Afghanistan is said to have 10 million land mines. In truth there are far, far more. Every destroyed land mine means a saved life and every life counts. You can read more on Hassani here.

 

Now Hassani is working on a stronger model.

About Jennifer Kabat

A recent finalist for Notting Hill Editions’ Essay Prize, Jennifer Kabat (@jenkabat) is working on a book called Growing Up Modern, exploring art, ideology and the landscape from the modernist suburb where she grew up to the Western Catskills where she lives now. She’s been awarded a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for her criticism and teaches at NYU. She contributes to BOMB, The Believer and Frieze and was once an editor at the legendary style magazine The Face in London.
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