Teddy bears are one of the most iconic children’s toys on the planet. No matter where you are across the globe, it’s likely that the sight of a stuffed bear will make a local child’s eyes light up with joy. We may dismiss them as mere playthings, but for designer Junichi Nakane they have become a symbol of both activism and cross-cultural friendship. Following a visit to Mali, Nakane was inspired to do something that would help members of a community called Dogon build a well so they could access clean drinking water. Sure, he could have just donated some money, but that seemed boring. Instead, Nakane decided to design a stuffed animal that would transcend socio-demographic lines while raising money for the village’s efforts. The result is Kumanokoido, a bear comprised of traditional fabrics from various cultures around the world.

Nakane, Kumanokoido, teddy bears, toys, stuffed animals, Africa, Mali, traditional fabric, camouflage

According to CoolHunting.com, the name Kumanokoido is a hybrid word created by Nakane himself: “Kumanoko” is Japanese for “cub” or “baby bear” and “Ido” means “water well.” Together with his friend Saki Yahagi Oki, an avid sewer, Nakane produced a prototype: a stuffed bear made from the waxed pattern fabrics used in daily Malian life. Finally, in September 2012, he rented a booth at the Brooklyn Flea with 15 hand-sewn bears. He sold out in less than two hours. That’s when he knew he had an idea that could grab the public’s attention and help raise much needed funds for the Dogon community’s well.

Currently, Nakane is working toward a goal of $15,000 and has lauched a new exclusive line of Kumanokoido made from camouflage. “These bears are made by combining fabric from different camouflage uniform patterns from the armed forces, regional, and worldwide military branches,” Nakane explains. As the uniforms typically come from countries that don’t get along, the “Camo Bear” is meant to symbolize world unity. Besides making bears, Nakane is currently working on a dedicated website and online shop. For now, you can see images of the bears, Nakane, and supporters on this Tumblr. Each bear is made to order. Details on how to pre-purchase may be found here.

+ Kumanokoido Bears

via Cool Hunting