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In seiner Funktionalität auf die Lehre in gestalterischen Studiengängen zugeschnitten... Schnittstelle für die moderne Lehre

Incom ist die Kommunikations-Plattform der Fachhochschule Potsdam mehr erfahren

Spilling the tea on tea.

In this project I tried to apply the aspects we learned in our course „decolonizing data visualization - visualizing postcolonies“ and to contrast consumer behavior with production conditions in „modern colonies“ using the example of a worker on a tea plantation.

The ghost of colonialism

The ghost of british colonialism in India and Sri Lanka lives on through todays tea industry. Many of the most recognisable tea brands like Typhoo or Lipton can trace their beginnings back to the 19th century, taking advantage of the perfect tea-growing conditions of British colonies in South Asia. Thomas Lipton, established Dambatenne Tea Factory in 1890 which continues to function today. Workers there earn a 700-rupee wage but have been desperately pushing for an increase to 1,000 rupees (80 cent difference) — a move that would destroy the tea industry, according to Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs).

On the wages and living conditions of plantation workers in the assam region.

Long before I started my research, it was clear to me that I wanted to look into the working conditions of plantation workers today. Since I have spent a lot of time in India and have some acquaintances there, I wanted to collect „small data“ by interviewing plantation workers. This was unfortunately more complicated than I thought, as many workers were not willing to do so for fear of reprisals or simply because they were intellectually unable to do so.

However, I didn't let it get me down, and upon further research I came across the report „On the wages and living conditions of plantation workers in the assam region“ published by Oxfam India.

This report is based on interviews conducted by volunteers using a questionnaire. I was thrilled to find that many of the questions were the same as mine. In total, almost 5000 workers were interviewed.

Comparability and creating "small data"

My goal was to break down this extensive data and create a persona from it. With the help of this persona, I wanted to create comparability and transform the data into „small data“ that could be more approachable than just tables and figures.

Two personas one story

Now I had the data to create my persona of an Indian plantation worker. Here I created a fictional character from the Golaghat district in the Assam region. For the consumer side, I created a persona of a German worker based on data from the Federal Statistical Office.

The story behind the data, which is meant to make the two characters comparable, is that of a typical day when the personas receive their salary and want to make a relaxing cup of tea to celebrate.

draft.pdf PDF draft.pdf

- a first biased draft for the story and the data used ;)

Creating a refined visualization

Quite at the beginning of our course we studied the works of W.E.B. du Bois. I was directly fascinated by his visualizations for the paris exhibition and wanted to pick up the style and his way of presenting things.


So it was quickly clear to me that i was going to use an anologous form of data visualization and also use analog techniques to shape my aesthetics. Tea itself was also to play a major role in the project, which is why it was used again and again as a design tool. On this slide of my final presentation, I summarized all the design methods.


Final Result

A total of 10 double-sided sheets were created for the story. 5 for each persona. The pages are to be hung on a nylon thread in an exhibition context. This means that two „story threads“ are created that are hung next to each other and can be individually explored by the viewers. Both of those „story threads“ are weighted by a box of tea.

In the following slide of my final presentation you can see one example.


German side of the story

german side.pdf PDF german side.pdf

Indian side of the story

indian side.pdf PDF indian side.pdf


I am very satisfied with the outcome of this course, but I am also aware that a delicate topic like decolonization lives on context and depth. In some places, I would perhaps like to go into more detail about the connections between consumers and producers, and also take a closer look at capitalism as a driving force of today's colonialism.

All in all, however, I enjoyed the analog work very much and the feedback from the course participants as well as from Marian and Lamin was always helpful and constructive. It was a really pleasant atmosphere and although I didn't know much about the topic before, I now realize the importance of the decolonization movement.

Ein Projekt von



Art des Projekts

Studienarbeit im zweiten Studienabschnitt


foto: Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk foto: Lamin Manneh

Zugehöriger Workspace

Decolonizing Data Visualization – Visualizing Postcolonies


Sommersemester 2022