Growing up somewhere in the middle of the second post-war generation in Germany came along with the experience that people around you more so avoided rooting their lives too much in the past, but rather tried to emancipate themselves from any sort of familiar tradition or historical burden. And, thus, the pursuit of life seemed to only happen beyond the present, never behind. Having your roots somewhere else, whatever the past might have been, seems to be different. You look back as if there might be something that you certainly wouldn’t want to loose on your way forward or ideally transform to the contemporary equivalent, and use it as an ingredient to shape your individual future. When I first met Van Bo some three years ago, he introduced himself as Prime – yes, the mighty figure from Transformers. A pseudonym he, the rhyme maker, rapper and sprayer, chose while growing up in Berlin’s traditional working class and immigration district Wedding at a time when people weren’t yet discussing whether it’s upcoming or may be never would. I still hear the sound of how he pronounced his name, with the defenceless pride of a child, a bit odd though for a grown up person I thought. But when I watched my little godson unwrapping one of his birthday gifts in London I witnessed how much of a globally relevant figure Prime actually is, and the oddness faded away. And so is Van Bo to me. There lays no contradiction between his past, when his family flew from Laos and landed in Wedding, there is no loss of the past when he explores his very own way through the present, when he, the architect, the designer, the activist constructs and builds, and – most importantly – shares his construction plans, his house and even his shoes with people who are in any sort of need, whether you call them working class, design community or just the crowd. It seems he has never lost how it felt to long for something because that might be the same as just being curious. If there is anyone I would dare to associate with the worn out word Karma, Van Bo certainly is. Google it, if you need prove, if you believe me, just stay curious about what he will share with us.
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