SAIIER 2014:Unity Pavilion
Centre for Indian Culture
This year has been an unfolding of the full scope of the Unity Pavilion. Highlight of the year was the inauguration of the Hall of Peace on 11 February 2014, and in general it has been a year of growth and change. The office has been restructured and presently functions very well with regard to its various groups and purposes. The events and activities in the main Unity Hall cater widely to the community as well as to volunteers and visitors. The Peace Table for Asia is finally in its permanent location in the Hall of Peace. New outdoor spaces have been created, such as an outdoor dining space and a geodesic dome for circle meetings and dialogue.
The main elements of the Unity Pavilion are now in place, completing and complementing each other. It is wonderful to see how the Unity Pavilion with its welcoming atmosphere has become a community hub catering to very diverse activities.
The Hall of Peace
After 9 months of intensive fundraising and construction, the Hall of Peace was inaugurated in February 2014. It was a wonderful event, with the participation of Mira and Kevin Nakashima with family and board members of the Nakashima Peace Foundation, guests from India and abroad along with many Aurovilians and Ashramites from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Since this was a project with a strong Ashram/Auroville connection, it was a joy to share it with so many people connected to the late George Nakashima from his early years in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, as well as with others involved with bringing the Peace Table to Auroville and the work to build the Hall of Peace.
We see activities emerging: the regular weekly peace meditations; ad hoc calls for peace meditations such as for the current situation in Ukraine; it is used by Koodam (the Auroville mediation & facilitation team), and we also often discover small groups of residents who have come to simply sit there and talk quietly on a topic of concern. It is clear that having the table finally in its own place will by itself bring change and new activities.
Noel is back and has taken up the peace research, linking with peace organizations all over the world.
The applied research on the twelve qualities of the Mother’s symbol/Matrimandir petals, and their application in the development of a new organization for Auroville, is continuing with wider participation of interested Aurovilians. Some of the tools developed have been used in group work, both in larger groups such as the one day session on “Doors to Auroville” where 35 Aurovilians from various groups and work situations connecting Auroville and the world, worked together for a day exploring this topic in the light of the twelve qualities. Following that, a request was received to work with the Entry Service. This was very rewarding. Some tools have developed through the interconnection with Monica Sharma's workshops. A collaboration with Koodam is emerging, to see how these tools can be used in conflict resolution in Auroville. All these programmes are directly connected with the Unity Pavilion, most of them taking place in its premises.
The main Unity Hall
We are very happy to see the response of the community and the use that is being made of the hall.
- Exhibitions have included several related to the National Pavilion's such as the Italian Pavilion exhibition of Anna Maria' paintings, the Russian exhibition on the paintings of Nicholas Roerich, and a photographic exhibition on the diplomatic domains in New Delhi. We had also the much acclaimed exhibition by Ireno from the Watsu work done at Quiet, a fun interactive exhibition by young Auroville tailoring apprentices, an exhibition of paintings by Juergen as well as an exhibition of wood sculptures made in Auroville by a visiting guest.
- Cultural Events are often done in collaboration with the Pavilion Groups, and have included a variety of concerts, film shows and dance performances. Some of these events have covered a full day or even several days and included food served in our outdoor dining space, such as the Africa House events, the Latina America festival and the Unity Pavilion Christmas celebration. Larger events as these often cater to 150 people and in some cases up to 250/300 participants.
- Presentations have been made by University of Human Unity on music; by Manuela on gentle birthing; by Kathy of Thamarai on the impact of the menstrual taboos on social, ecological and economic life values; by Alok on the World Water Day, and by Ribhu on Garbology and segregation of waste. The Newcomers and Guest programmes also regularly use the Hall. Often we have groups of architecture students on impromptu visits and we always try to take the time to give a specific introduction to the Unity Pavilion, along with some words about Auroville’s architecture in general. In this way we often give informal presentations to individual and groups that simply turn up on our doorstep.
- Visits of Official Representatives: The Unity Pavilion supports the Pavilion Groups in hosting visits of Official Representatives in a beautiful and conducive environment, aiming to provide relevant exhibition material related to the individual Pavilion concerned as well as the International Zone in general. This year there were amongst others the visit of the US Ambassador Nancy Powell and US Consul General Jennifer McIntyre; representatives of the British High Commission, and the Italian Ambassador. These events have been much appreciated and are important contacts for the coming development of the International Zone.
- Community meetings: Large community meetings such as the Residents Assembly meetings, the General meetings and the Open Platform meetings regularly take place. The new sound system has been installed and it has been a tremendous help for facilitating meetings and events.
Evening use when the Hall is empty: Two of our theater groups, as well as groups of individuals practicing singing, have used the Unity Hall evenings for rehearsals.
- Workshops and programs: A number of workshops have taken place this year, involving Aurovilians as well as participants from India and abroad.
- There has been several workshops on education including “The Dream Program”, a teachers retreat workshop held by the Mohanam Cultural Center, and an educational interaction with the Delhi Ashram.
- The Unity Pavilion has had a very fruitful collaboration with the Auroville Consulting team who have held a series of municipality training programs (“Energy Managers for Tamil Nadu”). There have also been a number of workshops on self development, amongst them the workshops in February on the “Nation Soul” and on the “Soul of Auroville” lead by Soleil and Wolfgang. This came forth from an interaction between AVI and the International Zone.
- A highlight were the “Stewardship for New Emergence” workshops with Monica Sharma, which hosted 40 participants in the series of May, June, July 2013 workshops, and 120 participants in the February, March and April 2014 workshops. This program introduces transformational stewardship capacities that enable participants to lead sustainable change, strategically shift current systems and structures and to deliver tangible and measurable results in human dignity, integrity, equality and justice. It sources our wisdom, involves transformation and shifts in individuals and systems, i.e. individual and collective values and norms, structures, policies and laws. It is broad in scope and large in scale and entertains the whole system as the context for understanding change and making decisions related to change – and shows how it is wisdom and our inner capacities that manifest just and sustainable change. This workshop was organized in collaboration with SAIIER and Auroville Consulting.
The office has been remodeled and currently the Unity Pavilion management team, Peace research, Auroville International and Koodam function in its front section. This is also where there is a table for the International Zone office and the Africa House group. Ten glass-door cupboards house books and materials from various National Pavilion groups and the round table at the centre of the room is regularly used by the IZ Coordination team, Koodam and the Study Group. Koodam is by now well established and functioning. Peter Anderschitz, who erected the geodesic dome in the back of the Unity Pavilion garden, also has a small office space here to facilitate his work. Noel is back in his place in the Unity Pavilion continuing his documentation and research on international peace organizations and holding a weekly peace and healing meditation together with Pierre from Buddha Garden. Helena is joining us for the organizational development work and for the time being shares the office space of AVI.
With the partitioning of the building, Savi has been given a larger space with its own entrance. This greatly facilitates the increasing number of volunteers daily visiting the office, both from within India and from abroad.
So, after some years of construction and all the noise and disturbances, the office again feels humming and filling up.