L’aura (En)

Author: Ana Simar.

My friend Laura passed away on January 15 this year.

She lived in Lüneburg, Germany. I did not visit her there while she was alive. Today, I am travelling the road that physically separated us to say goodbye to her.

It is the saddest trip I have ever made.

Occasionally, she came to see me at home in Belgium. She liked to meditate in the Vipassana Centre here, so when she went to meditate, she would visit me to chat and share.

The last time she came, she left me a book as a gift called “Don’t Let Privilege Cloud Your Empathy”* I had to wait for the right moment to read it finally. That moment is today, February 3, 2024, when I am going to where she lived to be near her beloved family: her husband and child.

With Laura, we talked about many profound things: breathing, embracing our emotions, feeling and loving, living life the way we want, focusing on the process and not on the results, and building a more sensitive and loving world. That is why the theme of empathy was recurring in our dialogues and projects. Among other things, she always made it clear that we can find peace with self-empathy.

*Original title in spanish: “Que el privilegio no te nuble la empatia”, Ita Maria, 2020.

Laura and I met at university in Bogota around 2006; we studied industrial design. We met in a business administration course, which was funny considering that we were both looking for creativity and the human essence within design. What a place this was to meet. The click between us was immediate, and from there, our paths crossed, and we grew up keeping each other company in comings and goings in Colombia and Europe.

I owe Laura a lot, although she would have told me I owed her nothing because that’s how she was: a person full of unconditional love. So, I correct myself then; I am very grateful to her.

My life as a migrant, or a repatriated Belgian, was not very funny in the early years. I suppose this happens to all of us, or at least to many of us. On a professional level, the time of internal search, adaptation and turbulence was very long. There was a lot of suffering, mainly because of the gap between my expectations and my reality. Later, during our discussions with Laura, I understood that the frustration with the world of work had a lot to do with how we, from school, politics, the economy, and even design, project vital systems.

That professional frustration put me into my entrepreneurial journey and the creation of Happytivity in 2014.

In 2016, Happytivity began to take shape. I shared with Laura my intentions and vision of a world where we can create with joy and in collaborative harmony. Laura was the first person who was receptive to the Happytivity concept, and from then on, she supported me with more than enthusiasm. She reproduced Happytivity’s first methodological attempt in Cologne, where she lived at the time. She believed in me since the beginning; she was my confidant and impulse in the most challenging moments when everything seemed a grey cloud over me. 

And so, a few years went by, during which time we discussed, encouraged each other, learned from each other, and nurtured our dreams and perspectives. 

Belgium, 2016

Germany, 2017

In 2020, Laura started a PhD in sustainability science, so she came to Lüneburg, where I am writing these lines today. Then she heard about a sanitary mask project based on Cradle to Cradle principles, the Viva mask. She came up with the idea of replicating the project in Colombia but adding the social dimension as a structuring axis. The intention would be to integrate master artisans from Colombia in the process of co-creation of the textile to promote economic development in different regions of the country while at the same time contributing to the care of the natural environment by cultivating under the principles of permaculture and a regenerative philosophy.

Laura created a working group where she, Gustavo Rodríguez, and I would join forces to approach the project from three axes: health, environment, and communitarian development. Thus, Chiritos was born.

The idea was to design healthy textiles from indigenous plant fibres in Colombia. Thanks to the country’s immense biodiversity, we could explore a variety of fibres and craft procedures in different territories using a co-creation methodology.

At that time, I had resumed conversations with one of my university professors to get back closer to the world of design and to remember the motivations and the joy my years at university had given me. With Laura and Fernando Álvarez, we began to discuss and create a working group that integrated various design disciplines (industrial, textile); we met Angela Dotor, Diego Granados, Dora Murcia, Andrea Herrera and Juan Manuel España. We proposed to invite the students to join in the reflection.

Laura and I had the opportunity to share our current perspectives on design with several courses and a research group at the Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano of Bogotá (our alma mater). On the menu: empathy, the systemic vision of life, Cradle to Cradle, the affective dimension in socio-environmental interactions, creativity and collaborative innovation. We had a great time!

We were very critical of the academic universe of design and design itself. We discussed how the academy’s urge and ego perpetuated behaviours that are not always respectful of our biological dynamics. We dreamed of transforming the world with our grain of sand. 

Some of the points Laura developed through her professional practice and system of life were grounded on self-knowledge, self-respect, and the affective dimension of our relationships with the environment. She invited us to validate our feelings permanently, embrace the diversity of worldviews, and live life according to what each of us envisions and feels.

I was proud to collaborate on this project, and to this day, I am flattered that Laura invited me as a co-founder of Chiritos and later of Crea.e.V. We formalised this organisation to provide further transcendence to projects with multidimensional transformative energy #solidarity #commongood #health #regenerativegoals #innerpeace #unconditionallove.

It is my wish that Crea.e.V. continues to exist and to create.

I last spoke to Laura a few days before her unexpected departure. This time, I proposed to her to bring a new idea to life together. She accepted. 

I will explain the intentions and objectives of this project in more detail later. The motivation comes from my personal history and the desire to continue honouring and transmitting the teachings of my dear Laura.

During this last conversation we told each other about our feelings, as usual. I had the immense joy of telling her how a whole new universe of human connections has transformed my life in the last few months. I told her I had experienced another reality of the professional world, where my past frustrations faded out, and that huge grey cloud that crushed my soul was no longer present.

It was a great pleasure to share with her that what we once dreamed of as a professional culture DOES exist and is growing little by little; I am helping with it at my level. I confirmed to her that there are indeed organisations that are sensitive to the affective dimension and the integral development of the human being.

She answered me with all the sweetness that characterised her. It gave her a deep joy to know that I was finally enjoying myself, and she was delighted to see how all the good things happening to me now are the fruit of my transformation process.

This conversation with Laura was one of the most concrete pieces of evidence of what I learned from her: to respect oneself, focus on the process, welcome what emerges, BREATHE, and love unconditionally allow beauty to surge, we transform ourselves, and we succeed in changing the world, our world.

With all the tears I have shed since January 15 and this journey to accompany you to your last refuge, today I feel you. I honour you, my sister, and I say goodbye. We feel each other in our hearts. I love you. Thank you.

Your Anita

Laura Durán Gil

1988 – 2024



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