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At a time when politics is utter chaos, the environment is littered with plastic and the world is literally burning as a result of climate change, the Museum of Human Kindness is here to remind us there’s still a glimmer of hope for humanity.
There’s no denying both global and local news is often more bleak than it is joyous. I’m sure I don’t need to provide examples, and I don’t mean to get off to a miserable start here, but it’s just a fact that pretty much every day we see headlines reporting on death, disasters, attacks and the destruction of our lovely planet.
It’s enough to make anyone feel disheartened, and the lack of positive stories can create the impression the world is very rapidly turning into a completely helpless place.
So whenever we actually are greeted with uplifting tales and heartwarming news, it should be celebrated. This is where the Museum of Human Kindness comes in.
The museum’s co-founder, Kazz Morohashi, described the concept to UNILAD as ‘a place where random acts of kindness from strangers are celebrated through stories and art.’ It exists permanently online, though Kazz and co-founder Ralph Paprzycki also do pop-up exhibitions to showcase the goodness of humans.
The Museum of Human Kindness collects stories of good deeds and uplifting acts that have proved memorable to the storytellers. Through the project, the founders want to help people ‘tap into the emotional world of others and make their own decisions about being kind’.
One submission, for example, came from a woman named Bee who described how she took a photo of her mother on the beach in the early 1980s, before the days of selfies. However, when the pair left the beach, Bee realised her camera was missing.
She reported the loss to the police and learned a man walking on the beach that day had seen the mother and daughter in the distance, ‘messing about playfully’. He later spotted the forgotten camera and retrieved it before handing it in to the police.
The tide would have otherwise come in and taken it away. He could have kept this valuable item, but he didn’t.
Thirty years later… my speechless, immobilised mum went into a nursing home after a huge stroke.
We emptied the house and brought her favourite pictures she had kept in her bedroom. There was the glamour photo I’d taken but forgotten about, her favourite view of herself, still vibrant, playful, happy.
If that very kind stranger had not made the effort to walk along and fetch my camera… the shared enjoyment we had would have been lost. To her, and to me too.
The grateful woman spoke of how the man’s good deed affected her, explaining since then she’s made an effort to return any lost cameras she stumbles upon.
Each time, it’s not just the hardware, the dreary monetary value, but the thought of the lost images that stirred the desire to find the owner.
Kazz, a Japanese-American designer originally from Los Angeles, selected Bee’s story as one of her favourites as it illustrates how a simple act of kindness can affect lives many decades later.
The founder told UNILAD:
Stories like this remind me that kindness is enduring and timeless. It can have unexpected ripple effects that last for years and years.
The idea to create the Museum of Human Kindness came about as a way to ‘creatively counter the increasing prevalence of polarising narratives in the media’.
It started when the founders were feeling ‘disheartened’ by news and events reflecting a growing ‘us versus them’ mentality around the time of the EU referendum in the UK and the US presidential election in 2016.
Though for many these big, impactful events were casting a shadow of doom, Kazz and Ralph noted their everyday experiences actually weren’t reflective of this negativity.
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What to do on a rainy November day? Come for a heart warming time at the Museum of Human Kindness 💓 at @anterosarts Museum of Human Kindness exhibition 12-23 Nov: Exhibition @anterosarts. Thurs 14 Nov, 6-8pm: Private view (all welcome) Sat 16 Nov, 2-3:30: Artist talks Sat 23 Nov 10-4pm: series of family friendly workshops (see @anterosarts web for [email protected]) . . . . @museumkindness #creativekindness #storiesofkindness #cityofstories #norwich #artexhibition #kindnessmatters @_bilos_ @gerry.ormanova @saraalfonzo @tahlsart @graymgjordan @_crill @__hiedra__ @helenoghenegwekeart @nicola.hockley @rafail_kokkinos @kazzmorohashi #lucyedwards @eastangliaartfund #norfolkccsupported @rsa_events @v21artspace
The designer explained:
For most of us, our everyday experience is marked by kindness not only from family and friends, but also from complete strangers.
Tired of being armchair activists, we thought, ‘Why don’t we do something about this and celebrate random acts of kindness, especially those from strangers?’
Inspired by her love of museums and a radio show where listeners called in to express their gratitude to generous humans, Kazz decided The Museum of Human Kindness could be the medium through which she and Ralph could share good stories.
Co-founder and husband Ralph came up with the name of the project after deciding he wanted to link the idea of kindness with the Museum of Mankind, a branch of the British Museum that operated between 1970-1997.
The name aims to be reminiscent of ‘humankind’, while also connecting kindness. Kazz depicted the title as the ‘Museum of Hu/Man/Kind/ness’.
The founders ask for story submissions, no matter how big or small, which display the generosity of humans and inspire others.
When it came to presenting the stories, the designer wondered whether ‘new conversations on kindness’ could be ‘sparked’ by transforming stories into works of art.
In the summer of 2018, Kazz and Ralph recruited four former art university friends to form a small team, and began raising money and looking for venues to hold a pop-up physical exhibition.
This November, the team held their first event at Anteros Arts Foundation in Norwich, featuring 12 artists who each chose one submitted story to bring to life.
Those involved ranged from street artists to natural pigment makers, graphic designers, illustrators, textile artists and sculptors, resulting in a range of creations that capture the essence of the stories. As well as being displayed at the pop-up museum, the artwork is available to see online.
Kazz described the reaction to the exhibition as ‘overwhelming and positive’, with visitors describing how the stories and accompanying art made them realise they had ‘unlearned’ to be kind as adults as we can fear rejection or being seen as a nuisance when we attempt to help others.
Speaking of the pop-up, the founder told UNILAD:
The stories illustrate that kindness comes in all shapes and sizes, from small gestures to life-changing acts of generosity, and visitors said they came away feeling inspired and felt like they could certainly start with small acts of kindness themselves!
Kindness transcended culture, language and religion. The exhibition had so many moments where the theme of kindness was creating these beautiful connections that we didn’t expect.
The physical exhibition demonstrated that kindness is something we can certainly nurture and develop—like a muscle: a kindness muscle. And a project like this was like going to the gym!
As well as being an uplifting experience for visitors, The Museum of Human Kindness is cathartic to those who submit stories, as it offers a way to express the impact good gestures have had.
Some story donors say they feel relieved after sharing the story, as the circumstances were such that they never got to say thank you to the actual person who helped them.
The creators hope to have ‘bigger and more dynamic exhibitions in major cities around the world’ in the future, and they already have two pop-ups lined up for 2020; one in Great Yarmouth and one in North Norfolk.
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John (by Sara from Norwich) Andy used to work with a guy called John. John went through a messy divorce, lost his job and eventually found himself sleeping rough on the streets of Norwich. One Friday he approached the manager of a local restaurant and told him the story. The manager invited him back the following Monday for a trial shift in the restaurant’s kitchen. The trial shift eventually lead to a full time position for John. The manager of the restaurant also gave John some money to enable him to find shelter for a couple of nights before the trial shift, and to be able to buy some news clothes. Art by @graymgjordan Artist’s response Although I do think kindness is wired into us, there are times when being kind involves taking a risk and often our society does not encourage that. In the story ‘John’, the kindness was between men and involved a business situation and those are two areas where society encourages fierce competition and can be the least tolerant of taking risks to be kind. I have a profound respect for two individuals who placed decency and hope over fear. About the artist Gray Jordan is a painter and conceptual artist who investigates the relationship between identity and place in pieces created using natural and, whenever possible, locally sourced plant and earth based pigments and materials. Her aim is to allow a reconsideration of the role of consumerism in personal narratives and to explore the alternatives including community, ritual and relationships with the natural world. . . . . . @museumkindness #creativekindness #storiesofkindness #cityofstories #norwich #artexhibition #kindnessmatters @_bilos_ @gerry.ormanova @saraalfonzo @tahlsart @graymgjordan @_crill @__hiedra__ @helenoghenegwekeart @nicola.hockley @rafail_kokkinos @kazzmorohashi #lucyedwards @eastangliaartfund #norfolkccsupported @rsa_events @v21artspace
To fill the exhibitions, Kazz, Ralph and the team are looking for more stories to turn into artwork so people around the world ‘feel that kindness isn’t just a soft, fluffy idea, but a real and powerful force that can elevate us beyond the rhetoric of fear and hatred’.
At a time when the world can feel so divided, it’s nice to be reminded of the small, everyday acts that can bring us together.
You can submit your stories to the Museum of Human Kindness here.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
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