When the wind howls outside the house,
When it's cold,
When my parents scream horribly,
When no one understands me,

That’s when I build my own little world.

First I look in the garden for branches,

an old broomstick

and some pieces from the neighbour's fence

Next I need a couple of shoelaces,
dad's fishing line

the old clothesline

and the lasso I got for my last birthday.

I use the sticks to build a tent frame. Dad can help out once he's
calmed down

Now I need a large piece of cloth

Mum's bedsheets perhaps, that curtain
full of holes or the old table cloth?

Finally, I invite my friends over and
together with them, or simply with
Gabriel the Giraffe, I start painting
the tent cover.

Monkeys,
giraffes,
fish,
astronauts,
polar bears,
hummingbirds,
rainbows,
pirate gold;

there's room for all of it in my tent.

My world is complete.

Here I can keep all my treasures;

I can hide safely and find ideas for other worlds.

When the wind howls outside the house,
When it's cold,
When my parents scream horribly,
When no one understands me,

That’s when I build my own little world.

First I look in the garden for branches,

an old broomstick

and some pieces from the neighbour's fence

Next I need a couple of shoelaces,
dad's fishing line

the old clothesline

and the lasso I got for my last birthday.

I use the sticks to build a tent frame. Dad can help out once he's
calmed down

Back

Once you climb up the spiral staircase of the 1920’s building and step through the big glass doors, you find yourself standing in front of a small black door.

The sign says “3B”, its letters shaped like wild animals and milled from pale wood.

Next to the door, little coats and jackets hang on hooks attached to the wall at the level of my waistline.

Colourful chairs dot the room. They are easy to stack, made of ultra-light painted metal; the same ones they had during my time at school.

But has everything always been this tiny?

Hesitatingly, I enter the classroom.

Immediately I see the expectation in the 30 pairs of eyes staring at me.

The teacher beckons me inside; we’re about to begin.

We sit on foam padding in a circle around the teacher’s desk.

Feet are kicked about and giggles can be heard, everyone is feeling at home.

The kids introduce themselves, one after the other.

They come from Turkey, Algeria, Morocco, Albania, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Croatia and Russia. None of them are from Germany.

But they talk to each other in German.

A small boy sits next to me and holds my arm.

I read them a short story about Max. Max, who is having a bad day, builds a tent and crawls inside. Oops! He confuses his dog with Gabriel the Giraffe — laughter ensues.

Then we get started.

After the kids puzzled over the task of how to put the prism-shaped wood tent frame together, they eventually all figure it out and we start painting the tent cover. At first the boys and girls paint separately.

The girls paint butterflies, parrots and tigers dancing amongst the flowers and palm trees, while the boys favour red Space Invaders battling each other on the seabed.

We will spend the next few days painting together, boys and girls now joining forces, and the colourful brushes will cover every last blank spot. At some point, the kids stop noticing the school bell, they just keep painting every surface they can find.

At the end of the workshop we draw tent-building instructions for kids from all over the world.

Saying goodbye is difficult for everyone.

A few weeks earlier my friend Daniel Sannwald had called me to ask if I would be interested in participating in his “Unu-o-Unu” project. His plan was to collaborate with a number of artists, who each would produce work together with a group of socially disadvantaged people.

I decided to build tents with children.

Thanks to my mother, a school-teacher, I was put in touch with a primary school class in Frankfurt am Main.

We worked with German photographer Axel Hoedt on the cover and some of the pictures inside the magazine, shooting in and around his Stratford, London studio.

We thank the Pestalozzi School for their friendly support and everyone who participated in this project.

With thanks to: Axel Hoedt, Razan, Milica, Saarah, John, Luxury, Enis, Yassin M., Yassin, Ahmed, Azzeddine, Chaula, Sara, Franko, Nabila, Stanislav and Pestalozzi School Staff.

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