My name is Mamakan. “Mama" stands for Mother Nature. "Makan" means to eat. This is my story.
Memories of a Danish Childhood
I was born as "Mette Kristine" in Aarhus, Denmark in 1971.
My first memories are of my mother, Britta, practicing ceramic art in our garden full of fruit trees and bushes of hazelnut. I remember my mom’s friends coming to our house, sometimes to chat, sometimes to paint, creating a buzzing atmosphere of arts and crafts. The friends were the kind of parents who put their kids into the local Waldorf Steiner school, wore fluffy, purple pants and baked their own bread.
My father, Niels, preferred to mingle with the business and entrepreneurial crowd. He was - and still is - a natural networker and member of every single business network and men’s club in town. Their marriage did not last.
My father kept our beloved family home, and with my little brother in tow, my mom went on a wander. I think that we moved 7 or 8 times in 3 years and lived on very little money. I was introverted and lonely, especially during those poor, nomadic years.
Finding My Passion
When I was 12 years old, we got to grow a few roots in a little, yellow house close to the beach.
Very much an dreamer, I took up drawing, painting, graphic design and gobbled up newspapers and politics instead of doing school homework. I fell in love with old style black and white photography and set up a photographic dark chamber at my grandparents house. I dreamt of becoming someone who would explore and influence the state of the world through art.
Little did I know, that it would take an untraditional journey of 30 years to make this dream sort of come true. My journey would take me from Brazil to Europe to Asia, back to Europe and then back to Asia and today, New Zealand.
I would work my way through the fashion and luxury industry, the world of charity and social entrepreneurship, from trend forecasting to management consulting. And only after three decades of detouring, I have come back to my teenage dream.
Years of Wanderings
In education, the challenge was to choose between my heart and my head. While my heart was in the arts, my head said “go for something that will provide a living and financial independence”. Instead of following my mother's creative, but financially poor path, I went with the paternal footsteps of my family and pursued a career in the business world. It was a foolhardy decision driven by fear, rather than love.
I graduated in International Business & Marketing while working at a boyfriend's small fashion start-up, before moving to Hong Kong for the global lifestyle brand DIESEL in 1996. Fed up with the fashion business, I found an outlet in designing and hosting fundraising events for the Chinese children's charity Sunbeam. But charity did not pay the rent, so I moved on. First to Italy and then France.
In 2001, after a doomed Italian romance and a failed job with a 32 million euros fashion-technology start-up in Nice, I became an accidental entrepreneur and co-founder of the French/Chinese trend agency Style-Vision with three other female co-founders. Working out of my apartment in Nice, we worked hard to set up a trend consultancy for luxury brands. It paid of.
Before co-creation and and crowdsourcing became buzzwords, we initiated events to decipher future mega trends together with clients and competitors. We invented new methodologies to create meaningful experiences for consumers. It all got global brands - and the press - listening. We soon moved into a proper office with money in the bank. I travelled the world and was even appointed “Goodwill Ambassador of Copenhagen”. After a few years, I got a boyfriend and became a mother to two wonderful girls, Sofia and Coco.
Moving Back to Asia
Life was good, but something was missing under the beautiful Mediterranean sunshine of Cote d'Azur. I felt miserable and lonely. My relationship was on the rocks. I was frustrated with my work. I missed the buzz of Asia.
In 2009, my family and I uprooted from Cannes and arrived in Singapore. We decided to establish a social enterprise called Qi GLOBAL with the ambitious mission of "Human Progress in Harmony with Nature". Through installations, videos, events and creative collaborations, we tried to inspire deeper consideration and action towards sustainable living in a country obsessed with financial progress (ironically).
We curated events and design exhibitions at the National Museum of Singapore and the former Supreme Court - now National Gallery Singapore. It was a financial disaster running on pure idealism. A lot of good intentions and interesting people, but I was not ready - emotionally and spiritually.
Nature as a Healer
In 2010, my relationship imploded and during a post break-up trip to Australia, I had an “out-of-body” experience, a spiritual and physical sensation of being one with the universe. The sense of joy and lightness was overwhelming, even though I did not quite understand it at that time. Nature was the healer to my broken ego and lifted me spirits up.
I began to explore how to find new paths to re-forest and why de-forestation was so rampant in South East Asia. This exploration led me to the heart of the virgin rainforest of Borneo. I remember vividly sitting in boat on a river watching the forest and the sunset thinking: This is why I’m alive!
However back in expensive Singapore as a single mom, I had to focus on paying the rent for the girls and me. Hence, I set up a change management company called Business Innovation Culture. Our first client was the world’s biggest food company. Another client was one of the biggest producers of flavors for the food industry. Though these engagements, I discovered the food industry from the inside.
Working with leadership teams, I saw motivations and aspirations up close. I witnessed supply chains, research & development centres, massive marketing campaigns and immense political outreach. The conflicts, the ignorance and most of all, the deceits. It was a misfit from the start. Yes, I had money in the bank, but I was miserable. Eventually it had to come to an end. And so it did.
The Year that Changed it All
2015 became the crazy pivotal year. First I got married to my new love, Quinten. Then we became parents to an adorable baby boy, named Sam. Then I nearly died from birth complications.
During months of illness, I realised that my professional love and talent was in art. I took up studies of fine art and art history at the school next door to our house, LASALLE College of the Arts. When Singapore got choked in another round of toxic haze from forest fires, it became the spark that ignited the a series of drawings and talks. Early and raw ideas without sophistication or reach, a stumbling beginning that would lead to more solid works later on.
Discovering Purpose with Art
My humble contribution to the art world would be stemming from a magical marriage of art, food, community and nature. Most people treat food as either a boring necessity, hence our craving for fast foods. At the same time, we are obsessed with watching top chefs and spend fortunes in fine dining restaurants. Our relationship with food also represents our relationship with nature. On one hand we love and admire her and on the other hand we disrespect her. What if we ourselves are nature?
In my pervious life, I was probably the embodiment of the restless cosmopolite, with a horizontal network that traversed the entire globe. It came to a point where I found myself stretched too thin, and I knew then that what I had to do was to ground down and discover my roots. How can we grow roots, if we never eat from the soil?
By sensing the plants that are rooted in the places we live, we can hope—even if it is only temporary—to internalise their sense of gravity and connectedness.
The First Mamakan Exhibitions
I began to search for my roots by foraging for edible plants. We lived in the heart of Singapore and every day I would be walking around, plucking, tasting. My experience of urban foraging grew into an exhibition proposal and the Mamakan Art Collective.
We named the first show “GastroGeography" (Singapore Biennale 2016) and it questioned the status of belonging and rootedness in an urbanized environment. It was a huge success!
The next show, “Treasure Island, 2017” explored edible plants on a larger scale, inspired by a letter written by a pioneering Danish naturalist from the early colonial days of South and Southeast Asia.
Commissioned by OH! Open House at Emerald Hill 2018 "Daughter of the Soil" featured the story of Agnes Joaquim, the first woman in the world to crossbreed two orchid spices. This was to become my last installation, while living in Singapore.
A New Life
In October 2018, we moved to a forest outside Auckland, New Zealand searching for a better childhood for our three children. Instead of the exam obsessed Singaporean school system, our kids got into the local Titirangi Steiner School. A new life is taking root of trust and love.
Thank you for reading my story and don't stay a stranger. I’d be more thank happy to hear from you on firstname.lastname@example.org.