The founder of “Lenguaje de Artista” is Kevin, a Dutchman in his early 30s, whose self-described “normal, middle-class Dutch childhood” was only slightly damaged by dyslexia and ADHD, which affected his schoolwork and curtailed his formal education. But he now believes that his problems with the printed page led him to develop a prodigious verbal memory, and also an unusual ability to understand other people. “I could understand what they were saying, but also what was underneath it”, he explains. “It made it easier to figure out what they needed and how I might help them” After his parents divorced, when he was 13 and his sister 10, Kevin became their sole communication channel. “I learned to be a diplomat.” he recalls.
Always keen on the visual arts, and especially fashion, in his teens Kevin taught himself to sew and to alter clothes, and he was an early adapter of skin-tight jeans. His daring attire made him popular with the girls, but less so with the boys, and he was mercilessly bullied for his extravagant way of dressing, and for being gay, which he wasn’t. So he learned to fight.
“The first time I got kicked hard in the face in kick-boxing class I was surprised to find that I wasn’t made of glass and I didn’t break. That was a major discovery. If you can take the blows, it means you are strong. From being scared of everybody, I became scared of nobody. As a dyslexic, I was even more scared of verbal confrontations, but I got braver at those too. I learned to protect myself. I wasn’t a troublemaker, but for the next few years I was always ready to fight, to defend my friends, or for any good reason.”
One late weekend night in Rotterdam, Kevin was being harassed in the street about his looks, and his reaction, as usual, was to confront the worst of his tormentors. A few blows were exchanged and, to his surprise, one of his actually knocked the other guy unconscious. His instincts told him to run, which he did, around the corner and into the waiting arms of the police.
It was his last fight.
He spent the weekend in jail, thinking hard. “In my cell there was a book by a boxer, basically a Rotterdam bar fighter, much worse than me. After a couple of pages I started thinking about what kind of person I wanted to be. It was as if I had a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. I made my decision. I decided I wanted to love my life, and not hate it, as I then did. And I decided I wanted to help other people, not hurt them.”
He especially wanted to help people who, like himself, had felt misunderstood, “people who knew something was wrong with their lives, with the world, or both, but didn’t know what to do about it.”
A few months later, he decided to embark on a journey, both geographical and spiritual. He documented his travels in a video blog (Check it out on Youtube)
“My first experience with nature was discouraging. On my first night on the road I was hanging in a sort of hammock tent between two trees, alone, cold, and soaking wet. A complete failure. Further into the journey I learned that nature could be my friend and my partner, but only on her terms. At the end of my journey I was learning how food grows, and the work people do to make it grow. In the silence I made amazing discoveries, and heard things that the city noise had always blocked out. I felt safe, happy, and as if I belonged, or at least I could belong. I hadn’t found all the answers, but I felt I was now asking the right questions. I hadn’t reached my destination, but I knew I had found a path.”