Some time ago Auroville’s town-planning office TDC took the wise decision to allow for temporary structures in the International Zone. In the past this so far underdeveloped zone of Auroville has faced great challenges, like land encroachment and littering and vandalizing from outside parties, with only Bharat Nivas, the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture, the Unity Pavilion, the International House, the Inuksuk, Savitri Bhavan and the Visitors Center as its first settlers and guardians.
Active presence provides the best protection and stimulates the imagination of what one day will become a vibrant international campus of cultural, educational and research activities. So, the African and the French pavilions recently took their first temporary shape and Sankalpa Art Journeys found their temporary home in colourful blue containers opposite the Inuksuk.
The call was also heard from the European pavilion group, which had formed up over more than a decade as a collaborative effort of several national pavilion groups, with its members mainly from Auroville International (AVI) but also from Auroville. In its earlier years the group had concentrated on the inner search, on the question of whether one can speak of a common European identity, of a “European soul” striving to shape its body – a question which cannot be easily answered by a yes or a no, but will be an important topic for inner and outer research of a future European Pavilion. Confronted with recent major threats for the unity of Europe, so important and precious after two devastating wars in the last century, the group felt the urge to create some material space which could receive and anchor the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s force working for human unity. As a first step two years ago, on February 21, 2016, a tree was planted and a small sculpture with the Mother’s name “Mirra” in Sanskrit erected and consecrated in the designated European area of the International Zone.
Then fundraising started for the manifestation of a temporary European House and a place was offered in the fenced and protected compound of the International House. Donations came in from different European AVI groups and individuals, from a Luxemburg Green Party member of the European Parliament, who donated for the solar equipment of the house and also sent an encouraging message for the inauguration, and from Aurovilian pavilion groups and individuals.
On February 17 of this year the first section of the European House – two modules and an open platform – could be inaugurated with a lively festive act. The construction team of Jothi Prasad Rajan’s Aurocreation had given their best to finish work just in time and a dynamic team of landscaping volunteers, guided by Michael Roberts from Scotland, had worked until the last moment to beautify the surroundings and give an idea of a future garden setting around the structures.
Aurovilian Denis Capdeville, who was the main organizing force behind the construction, welcomed the guests, among them Ms. Nirima Oza, member of the Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation, who also greeted the participants. B Sullivan conveyed the greetings from the International House team, the direct neighbours, and expressed his wish for more dynamic development of the International Zone in the years to come.
Isa Wagner, then Secretary of Auroville International, spoke on behalf of AVI mentioning the importance of Auroville as an “earth-laboratory”, of which nations and continents are the distinct and indispensable parts, each elaborating on a specific aspect of collective evolution leading humanity to its true unity in playful and inspired diversity. She quoted Sri Aurobindo who described Europe’s main achievement as follows: “… the democratic conception of the right of all individuals as members of the society to the full life and the full development of which they are individually capable … It is now fixed that social development and well-being mean the development and well-being of all the individuals in the society and not merely a flourishing of the community in the mass which resolves itself really into the splendour and power of one or two classes … But in addition, there is this deeper truth which individualism has discovered ... He [the individual] is not merely a member of a human pack, hive or ant-hill; he is something in himself, a soul, a being, who has to fulfil his own individual truth and law as well as his natural or his assigned part in the truth and law of the collective existence. ... That is an idea, a truth which, intellectually recognized and given its full exterior and superficial significance by Europe, agrees at its root with the profoundest and highest spiritual conceptions of Asia and has a large part to play in the moulding of the future.“ (The Human Cycle, Chapter II – The Age of Individualism and Reason)
Thus uplifted the 250 participants of the joyful event were offered a copious fundraising lunch. The delicious food was generously offered by different Auroville restaurants and individuals, Kalsang from the neighbouring Pavilion of Tibetan Culture contributed with fresh drinking water, dishes and cutlery were lent by the Unity Pavilion, volunteers from Auroville and AVI served the food and washed the dishes – it was a truly collaborative effort.
The program was framed and completed by small activities and performances offered by different national groups, mirroring the rich cultural diversity of Europe: a master potter from Kazakhstan, a German pianist, recitals in Catalan, Spanish and Luxemburgish, songs in Swedish, Portuguese and French, a German canon, an Italian aria, a Russian modern dance and a French circle dance, a British and an Irish poetry recital, an Austrian volunteer with drummers from Swaram, and much more.
When the crowds had left and the sun sails were removed the next steps to be taken became obvious: to start a new fundraising, for a third building module to complete the original layout based on a three-pointed starlike form around a hexagonal platform and also for a canopy covering this platform; to complete the landscaping and beautification of the surrounding area; to look for furniture and, above all, to fill the place with life, with cultural activities, small performances, exhibitions and such. The space shall also be offered as a base camp for further planning activities of other pavilion groups, in the spirit of true sharing and collaboration. A taste of this international sharing spirit became obvious shortly after the inauguration, when the neighbours from the International House communicated their plans to build another guesthouse within the compound, which would also be available for guests of the European House, and a community kitchen offering the possibility for an adjacent European restaurant. A promising outlook for an accelerated development of the International Zone!
Friederike, Auroville International