Africa House is the project of the African Pavilion Group. The approach is to create a complex of buildings that will house activities and presentations related to all the countries and cultures of the African continent. A proposal for the layout of the Africa House was made in 2005 by Brook Teklehaimanot, Chair of the Architecture Department of Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. The Africa House project collaborates actively with African student groups in Tamil Nadu, arranging cultural programmes and work sessions on the site itself. It also wants to support the possibility for African students to come for studies and internships in Auroville. The African Pavilion group is connected with AVI Ethiopia and with the Aurovillage project in Burkina Faso. The Africa House office is in the Unity Pavilion.
Relation of Auroville and Africa
The relation of Auroville and Africa started at an early stage, when the Indian Government presented the plan and concept of Auroville to the governments of the world at a UNESCO Conference in 1966. Subsequently, out of 124 countries participating in the Auroville inauguration ceremony, 37 were from Africa. As in Africa the concept of Auroville is hardly known, participation of Africans has been very limited. It is therefore important to create awareness among the African people of the need for a place like Auroville, dedicated to brotherhood, human unity and international understanding.
Connection with Auroville's founders
From Sri Aurobindo's writings, and particularly his poem entitled 'Hail to the Fallen' dedicated to Haile Selassie (Collected Poems, p 596), we see that Sri Aurobindo had great admiration and sympathy for Africa. It is also interesting to note here that the Mother was of Egyptian/African origin through her mother.
It is significant that, at the beginning of preparations for Auroville's foundation ceremony in 1968, Africa's leadership consisted of a world-level statesman and a world-level spiritual leader both of whom were the first Africans to express in writing to the Mother their support to the ideals of Auroville, - and the Mother has blessed them.
Creating awareness ..
Today the world is increasingly faced with the challenges of a rapidly changing multi-cultural society, with all its attendant problems and potentials. Certainly the African continent copes with very basic problems that mainly arise from ignorance, poverty and lack of basic education, and in order to change this situation the ideals of Auroville and the wide vision of its founders may prove to be of timely help to the African people. It appears that creating awareness of the ideal of Auroville is more necessary in Africa than in any part of the world.
Tekeste Kidan came as a young African Diplomat to India in the beginning of 1966, attached to the Ethiopian Embassy in New Delhi. Through his friends and through the invitation received by his Embassy to participate in the Auroville foundation ceremony in 1968, he became aware of Auroville and came to its first Anniversary celebration. Tekeste has served as an Ethiopian Diplomat from November 1959 up to August 1993. After his retirement in that year, he served for five years in Ethiopia as a social worker and is living in Auroville since 1999, where his strong will and push to get his continent more integrated in the city is widely appreciated.
An 'Africa House' in Auroville's International Zone
In order to create awareness of the ideals of Auroville among the new generation of young Africans, it was proposed that an 'Africa House' should be built in the International Zone in the area allotted to the African continent. The Africa House could accommodate African students and guests and allow them to directly experience Auroville. At the same time, the House will present Africa to the international audience of Aurovilians and visitors to Auroville's International Zone.
The main features of the Africa House would be:
a hostel intended to provide at least 35 rooms for students visiting or interning in Auroville, as well as for guests and teachers from Africa
a multi-purpose hall to be used for exhibitions, audio-visual presentations, and get-togethers
classrooms, offices and utilities,
a kitchen and dining area
a garden with tennis courts
to increase awareness in Africa about the dream and practical accomplishments of Auroville by exposing Africans studying in India to Auroville
to organise camps for African students in which they are introduced to Auroville's sustainable development practices, which are applicable to Africa's developmental problems
to arrange for internships and study programmes for Africans in Auroville
to have the research done by the students act as a basis for presentations on Africa, both in Auroville and in Indian and African universities
to conduct programmes to acquaint Indian and Aurovilian audiences with the glories and potential of Africa. This could be done by, for instance, conducting a sports programme in Auroville, involving African sports heroes as coaches and trainers; and by encouraging cultural exchange between Africa and Auroville in the fields of music, dance & arts through bringing exhibitions, performances, training courses, etc.