On the website of the World Wisdom Map, one can find people from across geographies sharing personal lessons and inspirations that have held them in good stead in life. 25-year-old Khishigjargal Enkhbayar from Mongolia maintains that “fate favours those who exert themselves.” She further elaborates on how she applies this life lesson, inspired by a popular Mongolian proverb, in her life. “If things work out, fantastic! If things don’t, that’s also fine, because I will have learned something from the process,” writes Enkhbayar. Yet another life lesson comes from Nsengiyumva Emile. The 38-year-old from Burundi writes, “Failure is only a success if you learn something from it.” Emile follows this up with his story about overcoming all possible obstacles in his entrepreneurial journey.
This unique collection of stories, lessons and learnings has been put together by Project Fuel in association with the Singapore International Foundation’s Arts for Good Projects. It has taken 11 months for the team to create this artistic and interactive digital repository of human wisdom from across the world. “This map combines visual and wisdom anthropology that people of this diverse world have to offer each other, promoting cross-cultural understanding and creating social impact. This consciousness project further sparks awareness about the heterogeneity of lifestyles, as well as the myriad coping mechanisms that we employ to make the most of these strange times of covid-19,” mentions the curatorial note.
According to Deepak Ramola, founder and artistic director, Project Fuel, the pandemic has impacted so many lives. However, it is being looked at solely through the lens of loss. “That is not the whole truth as it has served to teach valuable lessons to humanity collectively as well as individually. We thought it would be great to know what people from each of the 195 countries had learnt during this time,” he says. The map is an extension of Project Fuel’s work, which is about converting life lessons, gleaned from people, into interactive performance activities and educational programmes.
Till now the map has received nearly 400 entries. “When we started the project, we were wondering how to convert and adapt these stories to a tech platform. And that is where the Singapore International Foundation came in,” adds Ramola.
The process of documenting instances of human wisdom hasn’t been without its share of challenges. When the team conducted the first round of interviews with people who were well-travelled, most were unable to name all the countries of the world. “Here questions of empathy come into the picture. Why do some countries never make it into our memories and associations? So, we ensured that we have voices from those places. Also, we didn’t want to make the selections of interviewees ourselves for it not to become a biased group from a certain kind of demographic,” says Ramola. Hence, the team created a filtered layer of volunteers, who then went on to become curators.
Ten artists from Southeast asian countries have designed original artworks around 30 life lessons. “We have also followed an open-source methodology to create educational modules around 20 life lessons, which have reached and impacted 70,000 people,” explains Ramola. The team has also collaborated with New York-based data scientist Ruchika Singh along with data visualiser Rasagy Sharma to glean insights and design data narratives emphasising patterns of how people learn in times of crisis. One would think that the pandemic might have brought about frequent use of words such as “fear” and “anxiety” in people’s vocabulary, but it is “hope” and “resilience”, which are being used more often. “Also, one assumes that most influences on life lessons come from family members and teachers. But it is people from outside this circle who have a huge impact. Another insight which has been revealed is that people who have core values, such as courage or gratitude, find it easier to cope with a difficult situation,” says Ramola.
The World Wisdom Map is an ongoing project, with a newer version to release every year. It can be viewed at https://worldwisdommap.com.