Art no image

Published on July 22nd, 2011 | by Jules Yap


An IKEA room in Guinee-Bissau

Materials: several

Description: This isn’t really a hack. A Dutch artist, Tinkebell, thought the interior of Ana and Tinko could be improved and managed to get a complete IKEA interior for their two bedrooms and moved them to Guinee-Bissau, West Africa. The article is in Dutch.

I’m not sure what to think about it and I’m looking forward to read the reactions to this video.

See more of Tinkebell’s Save the World presentation: Dutch | Google translated to English.

~ Marjan Ivonne Smit, Almere, the Netherlands

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The Author

Jules Yap

"I am Jules, the engine behind IKEAHackers and the one who keeps this site up and running. My mission is to capture all the wonderful, inspiring, clever hacks and ideas for our much loved IKEA items".

38 Responses to An IKEA room in Guinee-Bissau

  1. They probably would have preferred a clean water well for the entire village. There is so much wrong with the actions of this “artist” and so little right.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This wasn’t about saving a family.
    It is about opening up our eyes.
    The “rich west” who knows what’s best for the poor third world countries. Who think that they can only be happy and thriving when they live, work and think like us.
    In this video, you see a situation that isn’t bad. The western standards are projected on it, and I think everyone agrees that this isn’t better for them. It’s worse.

    It is wrong to assume this is about helping a family. Also think she meant it in a provocative, maybe sarcastic way when she said “she felt like she helped those people”.

    Isn’t that what we, the west, tend to do? Donate money or build things, set up projects with the western mindset behind it, and then everyone feels oh so good about themselves because those poor people really needed help and we helped them.

    This family had no say in it, just like many people from 3rd world countries have no say in HOW or even IF they want to be helped.
    To say you are going to help someone, implies that you think they are either doing it wrong or can’t manage on their own or will not reach YOUR standards on their own.

    An example is “the boy who harnessed the wind” (
    He says people need to help themselves and not become dependent on others to live.

    I’m not saying that you should never help, just that it would be wise to think about the purpose and whose purpose it is, the need and whose need it is (and who did define this need) and if the help that is being offered is helping them to live without help.)

  3. kip says:

    I get that this ‘art’ is meant to make you think about the issue. But still the Guineans were unaware of being part of it. And yes they got two Ikea rooms… hardly saved their life.
    How much money and fuel were spent to ship furniture and people from the Netherlands to this village?? Why not reclaiming something local.

  4. This is art that’s meant to make you feel uncomfortable. (Done very well I might add). The whole thing, just like her other art, is done to elicit a reaction from the viewer.

  5. Shannon says:

    It seems like she has good intentions, but is not really putting herself in their shoes. She’s an outsider making assumptions about what they want. The furniture, the curtains… It’s not practical for the climate. Within a year the white will be tinged yellow from the dust. Their rooms reflected their lives and values perfectly before she came in — simple, clean, waste-free. They had what they needed already. If she really wanted to help, how about protein bars, formula, vaccinations, fever-reducers, things that are in tight supply and truly missed? Sterile bedroom sets that could then set them up for either jealousy or ridicule… Seems to me she saw them humbly living out their lives and misinterpreted how she could help.

  6. Jerry says:

    I like this woman:
    I like the way she’s sitting and doing nothing except drinking her soda,
    I like the way she seems to be interested soooooo much by people and how they live,
    I like the way she sent her ‘staff’ by camper and ‘flew’ herself to the village,
    I like the way she’s involved 500% to improving deeply the life of her, sorry, these people,
    I like the way the villagers seem so happy and joyful with her,
    I like the way she shares a lot with them,
    I like the fact she asked them before inventing this after sleepless nightSSS of thoughts,
    I like the fact Ikea is not using this at all for marketing (see one remark above)
    I like how she wears respectfully re. her environment,
    I like her adaptability to new cultures/minds,
    I like her modesty as she definitely saved them, no doubt about it,
    I like the idea of this woman at least getting the Nobel prize as we need people like her…. to realize we are clever and nice people. And maybe doing our nano-part of helping.
    Quite simply.
    Not quite selfishly.

    (my words understate my revulsion)

  7. YellowRose says:

    This is an example of our profound ignorance about the nature of poverty and the solutions required to end it. Having new furniture won’t give Anna and Tinka jobs, pay for their water, electricity or send them or their children to school. It won’t end the economic terrorism waged by Western Europe and North America that links aid to poor countries to the purchase of products from these countries. It won’t end agricultural subsidies that put farmers in poor countries out of business. It won’t end the government corruption caused by poverty in poor countries. It won’t end the purchase of natural resources in poor countries by multi-national corporations, keeping poor countries poor. Wake up! Learn something about the causes of poverty. Get educated about what can be done to end poverty. Get a clue!
    Poverty is a luxury we canNOT afford!

  8. imananteater says:

    This makes me think about a lot of things. I actually had to chuckle while watching this video. “She can’t be serious, if this was true, she would be dumber than Paris Hilton!” And since I know that this was impossible, this video had to be planned. Plus, this project is titled SAVE THE WORLD. Isn’t that a little bit suspicious? A bit of sarcasm and irony in the air?

    Why is she doing such inhuman things? Does it have a meaning? Are the different reactions of the viewers intended? For example the cat story (read a few comments up) – maybe she wants to create a tension between viewer and her acting. And since contradictions and controversy are one of the most important things to become popular, I think, she chose this way.

    IKEA, as a global company, would be a perfect example for the consumer society nowadays (just like every other big company like McDonald’s, Apple or Nestle.) Especially in this video, by bringing furnitures of IKEA to Guinea-Bissau (I have to admit that I didn’t even know it existed), maybe she wants to signal that we can’t escape from this consumer society. Even this peaceful African Family is forced (to put it in a controversial way: helped) to have IKEA furniture – even they cannot hide from this development. Everyone is affected of modern society.

    I’m pretty sure that this family and the townspeople were paid for this video, or at least clarified the situation. After the video, she gives the viewer a little bit of time to think about it, or to show a reaction – that would explain the long break (the white screen). Everything she is doing encourages the viewer to think about his/her environment, action and the world. The consumerism and modern form of imperialism.

    She might get attention with this way of publicizing, but I’m sure it’s not the smartest, clearest and most comfortable one. There will be a lot of people misunderstanding this. Or maybe I’m misunderstanding it, too.

    (Forgive my bad English skills, I’m German)

  9. majeral says:

    Tinkerbell needs to go back and do the whole village!! How dare she pick one household and “save them” what an ego. I agree that she might have caused jealousy among the neighbors.And while IKEA is ok. The JUNGLE for pressed cardboard? One good rain and everything is compost. If she has that kind of money , sit down with the whole town and ASK them what they need and want. This is sad. It made me uncomfortable to watch also. And I thought we Americans have ego.

  10. Beate says:

    I rather like the discussion here, than the fact, that some silly woman bought for a lot of money stuff the people did not need, took it all the way down and made a film out of it. crazy. and ignorant, what people realy need. Selfish and arrogant.

  11. Franck says:

    Some parts are ridiculous. The others are unteresting.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Everyone needs to calm down. She’s just an artist trying to generate controversy.

    Look up Tinkebell in Google and you’ll find she’s a “shock” artist. She posted a guide on how to kill and turn your cat into a handbag on a cat lover’s site.

    She thrives on outrage and indignation.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Also, Tinkebell makes puppets out of dead animals and bags out of cat furr.

    Total idiot

  14. Anonymous says:

    I fully agree with everyone here.
    I help out an organisation that helps orphans and widows in Cameroon and this is just ridiculous.
    For one thing, these people had a roof and they had pretty decent furniture in my opinion. It all looked rather nice and comfortable ! Although I have to admit the bed structure didnt look all that sturdy once they had taken it to bits lol.

    Anyway, I’m sure the whole community could have done with some help, like i don’t know, buying desks for their classroom and stuff like that, maybe some cooking ustensils, cuddly toys for the kids and a few other toys.

    I don’t know as this is not a country I am familiar with but I can assure you that in Cameroon doing this sort of “helping” is totally ridiculous !!! They need nets and plastic cups, etc… not brand new furniture as they tend to make it themselves …

  15. Anonymous says:

    “I felt I had saved them”??

    An Expedit bookcase hardly can be called salvation. What a load of arrogant, condescending nonsense. Just leave them alone…

  16. Anonymous says:

    Ik don’t like the artist Tinkerbell, she killed her cat to make a bag. I

  17. Anonymous says:

    Horrifying. I am so glad to see the sentiments I was feeling watching the video expressed here. Well intentioned? perhaps. Misguided? Definitely. I find this more of a goodwill hack than an Ikea hack. Neo-colonialist dribble. Time, effort, money and energy could have been much better spent. Yet another example of well-intentioned charity that will probably do more harm than good.

  18. Marjan Ivonne Smit says:

    Thank you for your comments. You all express the same feelings I had when watching this video. I think Jules is right to say that Tinkebell shouldn´t have used Ana´s family to make her point. Maybe I should have said: this is too much of a hack.

    I noticed there were a lot of anonymous reactions and wonder why that is.

  19. Jules says:

    Parts of the video made me uncomfortable too – the overly condescending tone, the notion that the family needed to be saved and the artist and crew swooping down as saviours.

    Further reading the link posted by Anonymous made me question this even further.

    It says “The goal of active participation by the public is to reconsider the way in which we now often deliver aid across the world according to our own norm. This will help us find other goals to guide aid and the way in which aid is delivered: not necessarily according to our own norm, but by taking the ‘other culture’ and its beliefs seriously. The project is certainly not primarily a critique of development aid, but criticizes normative thinking and the need to project our norm on other cultures, assuming this is always an improvement.”

    Yes, it is good to question the way we impose our norm on others. But at the expense of Ana’s family? That irks me. Sure go make your arty statements but don’t use other people to say what you want to say.

  20. notbydesign says:

    I agree with all the comments above, and can add a perspective from my experience in marketing and advertising.

    I feel the hand of 2 guilty parties at work:
    1. a marketing/ad agency
    2. IKEA

    I don’t think this woman thought of it herself, and if she did, well she did it in exactly the way a marketing company would do it. I should know because I work for one.

    Document it, make it personal, then hoodwinkle it into a community like IKEA hackers where people already like IKEA products and talk about them – get them to become ambassadors for this story then what the PR and creative awards come in.

    Only, they forgot that the average consumer…that’s you and me…they like to call us “average”…we are more intelligent than that and can tell smell it when something isn’t authentic.

  21. Phil says:

    As with all the other commenters, I found this very uncomfortable to watch. Rail roading over someone else’s life by imposing your ideas of ‘better’ isn’t right, especially not if it’s in the sake of ‘art’. What a way to make someone feel worthless by throwing out the things they’ve worked hard for and replacing it with stuff of your choosing? No wonder the recipients didn’t look very happy about it all.

    Three parts of the video in particular made me realise how this ‘artist’ is only thinking of herself. 1. The artist didn’t even smile once and show any kind of sincere emotional attachment to the people she was ‘helping’. 2. She didn’t even bother driving out there with the moving crew and instead took the easy option to fly out on the day. 3. She says she ‘saved’ them.

    The money spent on this would have been put to better use by driving a truck out with some builders and building supplies in order to build something like a school or community centre or whatever the village could actually use. It would have cost the same if not less.

  22. Margarete says:

    IKEA is a global player.
    Why do so many comments refer to Ikea as “our culture”?
    It makes no more sense to sleep in a “Malm” in Minneapolis than to admire the new small “Billy” in white in the corner of a humble little house in Guinea Bissau.

    These Poeple let this crazy colorful Lady step into their home. It was their decision. So what is this victimisation about? Don´t they deserve to share all the good things and all the bad things globalisation has brought to all of us?

    By the way: english is not part of my culture. So, please don´t judge :-)

  23. kirsi says:

    This is the biggest mistake people make from another culture. Changing things that are fine for them. They are not living by our standards so it’s not good? Why give them the furniture? Is this normal to have this in their culture? Have all the neighbors these stuff, but they didn’t? I understand the reaction of Ana. Why change if it’s already good (I liked the parents bed very much!). But I also liked the big heart of the Dutch artist! But I think she had to do more investigation of these people really needed these stuff. I wonder if it gives Them really more life happiness.. The dutch artist gets more for sure, because she’s doing this.. (sorry for my English, I am dutch myself).

  24. scottclayton says:

    Thanks for posting this. It really got me thinking, and I assume getting people thinking is what this project was intended to do; (i.e. it wasn’t about ‘fixing up’ a home).

  25. Anonymous says:

    okay, me again, the one who thought first it was a parody…YES, it is in a way, because tinkebells point is:

    “—According to the artist Tinkebell, the Dutch have a tendency to project their own norms on the people they are helping, without asking these people how they feel about this. By way of commentary, she decided to furnish the house of a family in Guinea Bissau with Ikea furniture. “I felt I had saved them.”—”
    i found it in found this article:

    so, probably she will be the first one to help restore the old rooms and hopefully pay for the whole disturbance…

  26. Zoe says:

    Instead of IKEA – sorry IKEA – I would have gone to BAUHAUS and bought some machinery and some wood and get some natural material from their own area and helped the whole village to build the furniture they think they need/want. Giving tips, some material and the possibilites(tools).
    A big mistake is to think that we know what is better for them, istead of asking them what they prefer/want/need. And letting them doing it.
    It’s so easy to undervaluate people!!

  27. Anonymous says:

    very sad…first i thought it’s a parody…but NO!
    still, after reading all these comments, i feel better again. probably the whole village will help together to restore the old rooms and will have a good laugh about the silly people from europe!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Misguided artist…

  29. Anonymous says:

    this lady is delusional. It’s like some sick science project. She’s completely out of touch with their reality.

    If i were living in their poverty, i would have sold that furniture to some rich westerners in one of the big cities.

    I like Ikea furniture, but what the people had previously was probably far more sturdy and durable than what they got.

  30. Amanda says:

    Cultural imperialism was the first thing that came to mind as I watched this.

  31. Anonymous says:

    It seems like everyone here share the same sentiment– the woman should be thrown in jail :-)

    On a more serious note… I absolutely agree that this woman did not put much thought into the situation and real needs. Although she tried hard to portray this as a philanthropic gesture, it reeks of narcissism and selfishness. It seems she did it primarily to make herself feel good than practicality.

    And I really did not like the video though… she acts like god, as if she saved them… and I don’t think I saw Ana smile even ONCE!

    If we want to give her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps another way to look at this is that of a woman that really did want to help but didn’t really put enough thought into it, didn’t think it through and the implications. It may be hard to think about the full picture and all the issues people raised here after they saw the video. It’s possible at the time, all she thought about was Anan and Tinko as if “she” was in their shoes, and did what she would have wanted someone to do for her. She didn’t realize the social impact it would have… and she probably wanted it to be a surprise, which is why she didn’t consult them.

  32. Anonymous says:

    You need a Like or Applause button on this site, Admins. :-)

    Kathleen, you hit the nail on the head. I was horrified watching this. I grew up in a housing project. This is insulting from start to finish. She did all of this for her, not them.

    The very last line of text in the video proves that.


  33. kathleen says:

    I don’t like it. You don’t “save” anyone by redesigning their living space without consulting them. It also doesn’t seem very wise to swap out sturdy items with things made of pressboard, in that environment.

    This video seemed SO paternalistic. Even children are usually given more input on the design of their living areas. Wow.

  34. Kine says:

    Have to agree with Julien, this video makes me feel uncomfortable!

  35. Anonymous says:

    I applaud the motivation, I honestly feel like they were sincere and they did this out of a sense of compassion. It came from the heart.

    However, portions of this of this video are borderline ridiculous. Thats the first word that popped into my head. Personally I thought the parents room was nice, I loved the wood frame bed. I thought that was awesome. Maybe some more storage. Then they wrote, the kids room was even worse. Uh, that line seemed a little condescending and you have to be sensitive to certain historical elements. It kind of reeked of this colonialesque, oh my gosh look at how these poor savages live because where we come from this is how we live. Please really understand what I mean by that, this is not about race, its more about culture. I want to illustrate what I mean with the next thing that really bothered me about what they did.

    All the white furniture. Its like they didn’t consider the elements and where the family lives. Do you see all the dust and dirt, white furniture is not a practical choice. To me that was more of the woman’s personal response to this families living conditions. She saw all the dirt and to combat that or over come it, she chooses all white. It’s ridiculous.

    Lastly the other thing that immediately came to mind was this family appears to live in a very small community, a village maybe, you don’t think seeing all this pretty brand new white furniture might cause some problems, a little jealousy maybe?

    The kids room looked great but again perhaps if you’re gonna go through all the trouble and expense maybe a more modest upgrade to the kids room, like a couple beds and dressers and then perhaps a play area for all the kids in the community.

    Granted we don’t the exact details and issues that arose while doing this, there could be good reasons why they chose to do things a certain way.

    Lastly I think the trouble that people might have with this is, the well what does this do for them really, you have a poor community with a variety of issues and needs. And your call to action is decorate? with Ikea furniture no less, inexpensive yes but also disposable ie. it doesn’t last. It seems like such a temporary superficial way to help. Im sure the parents love it, and the kids forget about it theyre on cloud nine, but why not use that money you spent on the furniture and plane tickets and buy books or build something or invest in something that is more lasting, like education.

    Again I love the heart of this just not the execution.

  36. jan says:

    the one and bad thing that was caused by the new media in the last two decades is the infinite number of artists. Nowadays if some wannabe artist makes number two but not in the lavatory but in the middle of living room instead, someone instantly throws a vernissage around it.
    1) they don’t seem to me very excited and happy with all the fuss. and I don’t think they liked it, the attention, the furniture itself.
    2) if you have the money to move the whole RV to africa with bunch of people, even if they would volunteer, you can pack the RV with a lot of other and better stuff than Ikea furniture.
    3) this could put them into danger – danger of robbery, hatred from their neighbours,
    4) the ikea furniture will fall apart in less than 5 years in the humidity there is.

    this whole thing is nothing but another stupid act of another stupid artist. it’s not much different from Paris Hilton throwing 100 dollar bill to some random hobo

    • Anonymous says:

      It seems everyone has totally missed the point of this video. Amanda below states “Cultural imperialism was the first thing that came to mind as I watched this.” This video is a commentary on that! It IS a commentary on the Paris Hilton’s of the world!!!! Why do you think the artist chose IKEA? Why do you think she is dressed the way she is? Why do you think she took a plane when her IKEA workers drove? Charles Dickens called it telescopic philanthropy. People alleviate their guilt by throwing money at a problem that is a world away. It makes us feel better about the injustices that the modern world has wreaked on this country. It is a commentary on the King Leopold’s of the world and how Leopold motivated the raping of the Congo by mobilizing the senseless women who would stand behind him as he liberated the savages. It is what Joseph Conrad was criticizing sans humour.

      The only problem I have is that people were injured on some level in the making of this video. Artistic licence trumped everything else. Meh they got some crappy furniture out to the deal!

  37. Julien says:

    somehow this video makes me feel quite unconfortable!

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