‘Refugees don’t just leave their homes – they leave their jobs and communities behind too. When they finally make it to safety, they then have to start all over again,’ Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, wrote after she visited CUCULA in Berlin in January 2016. CUCULA is an association, a workshop and an educational program all in one, producing designer furniture with refugees.
‘Cucula aims to “do something with refugees, not for them”,’ Sandberg writes, referring to the name CUCULA, derived from the Hausa language meaning ‘to do something together’, as well as ‘to take care of each other’.
In the CUCULA workshop, refugees make and sell furniture based on the design series ‘Autoprogettazione’ (1974) from Italian designer Enzo Mari. He granted the team of CUCULA the rights to use his designs, and to build and further develop his furniture. The pieces of coloured wood come from the wrecks of the ships that brought the refugees to safety, collected in Lampedusa.
Less than two years after it’s inception CUCULA is an established project, producing furniture by the hundreds and using the profits from their sales to fund training and help with living costs for refugees.