Dennis Karpes: thinks up ideas that have an impact

Dennis Karpes: thinks up ideas that have an impact

Spirit of the times and urgency as sources of inspiration
Dennis Karpes’ story is a well-known one. Google his name and he’ll come up as the brain and driving force behind Dance4life. And for about ten years now, Justdiggit – the landscape restoration programme that even its patron, Desmond Tutu, took up a green spade for. Currently, Karpes is peaking with a spin-off of Justdiggit, The Raindance Project: multimedia events in Africa and the rest of the world in order to raise awareness for the restoration of the ecosystem. What drives him in his ideas and which turns did he take to get to where he is now?

About 30 years ago, Karpes began to feel a certain unrest. Unrest that prompted him to do something for things that matter. “I had completed the HEAO, was in my mid-20s and realised: Money Doesn’t Matter to Me. I felt that I was in the wrong place, didn’t know who I was, the type of person I wanted to become and felt really insecure. And working a nine to five job at some company felt truly awful. I became deeply unhappy. At some point I ended up in the marketing business; I made jeans look like a really big deal at Levi’s. It was trendy and hot and young, but again, it was all about money and profit. Then, and I’ll never forget this, I heard the word ‘world improver’ for the first time in a conversation. Suddenly, I realised which road I should take. I realised that I had to make an impact. The idea alone, that I could make a difference in the world, gave me so much satisfaction. I decided to go for content only.”

‘I am convinced that we can make the world a better place using creativity’

The light
When Dennis Karpes talks about his development from that moment on, mystical terms like ‘the light’ and ‘eureka’ crop up. “In 2000, I reported sick for a day at Levi’s and in that one day, I thought up the concept for Dance4life. That was my first eureka moment; I knew exactly how it should be.” Dance4Life grew to become an international organisation that was able to reach millions of young people through music events and to inform them about sexuality and aids. Karpes tells us that creativity has always been an important aspect on his path. “This is also because I have always surrounded myself with creative people. I am convinced that we can make the world a better place using creativity.”

Letting go
During his lecture at CWF2019, Karpes will talk about his time with Dance4Life and other subjects. “And why I went in that direction”, he adds. “Dance4Life was a boy’s dream that became reality thanks to the efforts of many. But I will also talk about why it is sometimes important to stop doing something. Because letting go is also an art: when I thought up Dance4Life, I could never have imagined ever being able to let it go. But I did just that. For several reasons, which I’ll also be talking about. I suddenly realised: I’m finished here. When I let go of Dance4Life, it was one of the best things I had ever done in my life. When you finalise something, the world is at your feet again.”

Digging for regreening
This opening gave Karpes room to initiate a new movement: Justdiggit. In 2009, he met climate visionary Peter Westerveld, who showed him the results of his landscape restoration projects in various African countries. “Peter had a holistic view of the world but was way ahead of his time. He talked about rainwater management and how, by conserving rainwater, you could make land suitable for vegetation again. That way, erosion, flooding and further degradation of land could be prevented; rain can even be generated through regreening. Peter philosophised about a green corridor in North Africa. But his was a cry in the wilderness, literally. In 2010, he held a TED Talk and was simply laughed at. He has passed away in the meantime, but the spirit of the times is now on our side!” Under the motto ‘If we can warm up the earth, we can also cool it down’, Justdiggit projects in Tanzania and Kenya show that Peter Westerveld’s ideas were right: once dug up, large areas of dried up land become green again. Meanwhile, Justdiggit also creates awareness among people about the importance of healthy soil. Karpes: “Spirit of the times and urgency. These have always been sources of inspiration for me.”

‘With Justdiggit, we address eight of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals with a single approach’

Second eureka moment
Justdiggit is doing well now – time to let go of this project, too? “No, in view of the ecological state of our planet, I think I could spend the next 40 years working on it. With Justdiggit, we address eight of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals with a single approach.” But a new branch has grown on the Justdiggit trunk. ‘At the end of 2018, Karpes had his second eureka moment’. “I wrote a 10-year plan in one day: the concept for The Raindance Project. It was another mystical moment, true bliss. I’m a daydreamer, I create my own fantasy world. I do it all the time but suddenly, everything came together. It was a really special moment, identical to that night 20 years ago.”

 

The Raindance Project
The Raindance Project will be a large multimedia project to create awareness for restoration of the global ecosystem through rural events in Africa and support events in the rest of the world. “It will be one big creative playground”, says Karpes. “I’m still working on funding but I hope that I’ll soon only have to be occupied with creativity, because then things can be created that I wouldn’t otherwise think up. It’s already happening, I can feel it. The universe is already coming into action for us, that’s so great! I know what the power of music and events can do. I want a contemporary Live Aid, with the restoration of Mother Earth as the theme, in which we collaborate with famous African and other international artists. And, the amazing thing about this story is: we are going to involve African wisdom keepers, who know all there is to know about rain dance rituals. Mysticism, spirituality and pure wisdom. The Raindance Project was created because the world seems to be losing that kind of wisdom.”

‘I want a contemporary Live Aid, with the restoration of Mother Earth as the theme

Open invitation
Anyone who thinks they can play a part in this creative playground is welcome to join us, says Karpes. “That’s an open invitation to the visitors of the CWF2019. I expect many creative spirits there who can come up with things I can’t.”

You’ll meet Dennis at CWF2019!

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