Archive for March, 2007

Village Relations

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

Although Auroville has a radius of around 3km, it has not yet managed to buy all the land within this area. Also within Auroville are local villages which causes many interesting issues.
Some of Auroville can feel quite colonial with rich westerners utilising dirt cheap local labour and help. This is definitely not encouraged by the constitution, but it is easy to rationalise that the villagers need jobs and money. There can sometimes be a very uneasy relationship here! When many of the Aurovilians boast that they came here and built their houses, what they can mean is that they came here and ordered villagers to build their houses! There are cultural and racial issues which obviously arise out of all this and it can be a somewhat taboo issue for many Aurovilians.
As well as employing them, other Aurovilians take the time to volunteer in the villages to build up trust and communication, and also highlight importand social and environmental issues. As Aurovile expands and grows, it will be interesting to see what happens here!

Local Villagers
Local Villagers
Local Villagers
Local Villagers with a Western audience
Local Villagers
Local Villagers
Local Villagers
Local Villagers
Local Villagers

Mother knows best

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

One of the most striking things about Auroville for first time visitors are the constant references and shrines to a french woman called ‘The Mother’. The Mother devised and instigated Auroville, as well as having a nearby Ashram. The Mother decreed that there should be no religion in Auroville, which is really odd as everyone talks about The Mother as a divine being in human incarnation and there are shrines to her absolutely everywhere. When anyone talks about ‘The Mother’, it is always in a respectful and religious tone. This can make Auroville really seem like a cult at first, but there are many people who have a more down to earth view of it all.

The Mother

In a previous post, I touched on the fact that the Matrimandir is guarded to ensure peace and serenity. This is why I loved taking the photo above, which summed it up for me!
I got permission from the media outreach team here to photograph the Banyan tree by the Matrimandir which is usually out of bounds for photographers. So I turned up with an escort to photograph the people who meditate there and rapidly regretted this plan. Never in my time as a photographer have I encountered such hate, anger and aggression while on a job. First from the security people, then from Aurovilians. Bearing in mind that I usually photograph pop and rock stars with a lot of security, this took some doing. This was not because I was bothering anybody, but because ‘The sign says no photography’! Unbelievable, as this is where everybody is supposed to meditate and become enlightened and loving. Even when the official media representative explained, people would not calm down. Auroville is supposed to be a place with no rules, so it would seem that they really go over the top in protecting the few rules they do have to the point of mindlessness.

Matrimandir
Matrimandir
Matrimandir

Free Expression

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

I’m not normally a big fan of dance, but I thought it would be nice to photograph a free dance session. There are many workshops around Auroville that encourage free expression… for example, we participated in the weekly Om Choir session where you can sing anything you want as long as you’re singing ‘Om’. The aim is to invoke the divine. Now, as a musician I was very skeptical about this, but the resulting music was absolutely incredible. There were very talented singers in the group! This can go too far… when I was playing guitar for another free dance session, I wanted to tune my guitar with the tuned percussion which were all out of tune with each other. The advice given to me was to ‘tune with the heavens’. Hmm. So I expected the free dance to be interesting, and the dancers were mostly very talented as well. However, I was told I had to take part if I wanted the photos! I really don’t like to dance and don’t consider myself very coordinated but I gave it shot, which took a huge amount of courage. I’m really glad I did, as I really felt quite moved by the whole experience and am considering taking some lessons! The dancing around me was highly emotive, and remarkably without the usual ego and posing that goes with it. We have been to a few parties and gatherings since this session, where people bring their instruments and everyone does free dance which can be a really nice and unusual way to spend a Saturday night!
Om Choir
The Om Choir

Free Dance
The beginning of a free dance session

Free Dance
The following series of photos have been removed.
Bob

More from Auroville!

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

Matrimandir
Matrimandir
Pascal, Sax Player
Pascal, a local sax player who tours regularly with an Indian theatre company.

Auroville seems to be a great place for kids to grow up. The education is quite radical… no exams or qualifications until the age of 16, then it’s your choice if you want exams! We were speaking recently to someone educated in Auroville who has a PhD, so I guess it can work! There’s loads of freedom, and the youths seem to have a remarkable amount of self-disclipline. We’ll be visiting the schools during the week, I’m really keen to learn more about this.
We recently went to the youth centre, which the kids put together themselves. They said that they didn’t like their parents’ work ethic so they built their own youth centre to hang out in… with no sense of irony. However, it appears that they may have cheated a little and used some cheap labour from the local Indian villages. But this is a widespread issue which doesn’t just apply to the kids… more on this later.
They even have a grant from Auroville which pays for a maid! But they do work hard as well, and the community has an incredible vibrancy and identity. We also went to a pizza evening they organise every Saturday night which helps pay for their ongoing projects.
Youth Centre
Youth Centre
Youth Centre
Youth Centre
Youth Centre

Auroville can take itself very seriously and until you tap into the youth culture, it seems rather lacking in fun and energy. There seems to be a bit of a firm establishment which is rather serious. This is most pronounced around the Matrimandir where the peace and serenity nazis make sure silence is aggressively maintained. So it was nice to see a fundraising evening for a project in Africa involving much dancing and merriment. It looked like Auroville really appreciated this evening!

African Evening
African Evening

Today we went to an event for women from the local villages who Auroville has been helping. It involved endless talking, and I left when I was ordered to take photos of things I had no interest in. The women were fantastic though… always great to be around the amazing energy of Indian women.

Women's Day
Women's Day
Women's Day
Women's Day
Women's Day
Women's Day
Women's Day