Pecha Kucha (‘chit chat’ in Japanese) is a concept that originated in Tokyo in 2003 as a space for young designers to showcase their stories in a strict format limiting each presentation to 6 minutes per speaker and a slideshow of images shown for 20 seconds each. Now, just over 10 years later, Pecha Kucha nights are held in over 700 cities across the world and incorporate the educational and the inspirational on top of the design angle.
The 30th Pecha Kucha in Cape Town was held under the umbrella of the Open Design Cape Town festival, and as such was hosted at the gorgeous City Hall – a creative move from the usual spot at The Assembly.
For those arriving late it was nearly impossible to find a seat. The huge City Hall was packed: 830 people, the MC said at some stage. The organ at the back of the stage was lit up in red and blue, and towered over the presenters in Neo-Gothic fashion. On stage were three screens – the centre one for the presenters’ slideshows and the two on the sides projecting a constant feed of WeChat commentary by audience members. Saffers are a funny bunch and the comments added waves of laughter to the night, but distracted from the flow of the presentations. Out of respect for the speakers, maybe the comment feeds could have been shown in the intervals between presentations.
Back on a positive note (because that’s what Pecha Kucha is all about) the variety of themes ranged from empowering children with recycling shops to the creative collaborations of a chef, a videographer and a photographer who travelled across India together. The slideshows contained images that were powerful, amusing or academically factual, such as the breakdown process of alcohol in our bodies. The stories were individual, personal, and inspirational. The one common thread that ran through all the stories was quite simple: passion. Whether for cake or gardening or photography, Pecha Kucha is a platform for passionate people to share with the audience what it is that makes them tick – and often, how others can get involved in their projects.
Pecha Kucha has been compared to TED, but it has an important difference: Pecha Kucha is for you and me. It is accessible. It’s grassroots real. You don’t need a doctor’s degree or a completely original story to present. If you have a passion, or an interesting collection, or an epic travel story, your 6 minutes of fame are awaiting.
A quick squizz at the 8 presenters that graced the stage for Pecha Kucha #30:
Nerine Gardiner – Girl with Cake
This inspirational little fairy superhero bakes epic cakes and gives them to strangers, like security guards or homeless people or petrol attendants. She stole the entire audience’s hearts.
Chris Muller – Drink it In
Co-author of a book about alcohol consumption, Chris gave a fascinating and factual report of the pros and cons of alcohol consumption. The audience cheered throughout, Grolsch beers in hand.
John Parker – Lentegeur Project
More inspiration through a commendable man doing good for people who society has labeled as ‘mentally insane’. John asked the important question of why we exile these people, and showed the great rehabilitation work done through gardening projects at Lentegeur.
Oliver Brain – Street Sleeper
A lanky funky engineer who helped design upcycled weatherproof sleeping bags (which double as storage bags) for homeless people. Classically, the sample bag he showed us was made from a City of Cape Town billboard.
Lee John – Paper and Ink
The owner of a defunct Zimbabwean mine, Lee took us through the sad, mad years of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe, the era of starving billionaires and trash cans filled with worthless money. When money turns back into just paper and ink, even prostitutes ask to be paid in diesel.
Dewald, Max and Jade – In Foreign Transit
Three interesting creative characters documented their travels through India and innocuously asked for sponsorship to go eat, record and write their way through more countries in the same fashion.
Cobie Coetzee – Children’s Recycle Community
The children of Nduli, close to Ceres, are being taught to bring in recycling, which they exchange for points they can cash in at a recycling shop. Heart warming, tear forming, Cobie left the stage to mad applause and whoops of encouragement.
Jovad Henriksen – Yerba Mate South Africa
Polyglot Jovi introduced us to the fascinating world of Yerba Mate, an Argentinean staple-drink tea seen as a superfood. Designed to be shared, it brings people together.
Simon de Haast – What I’ve learned in 8 years of photographing rock bands
Simon is the guy who always has a backstage pass. He turned his photography philosophical and talked about the softer lessons he’s learned as a rockstar photographer.
Catch the next Pecha Kucha Night in Cape Town on 11 November 2014 at The Assembly or send in your application to showcase your passion.