Pawan is a public intellectual who is trying to raise the awareness of society about deeper issues influencing our thinking and perceptions.While living in Mussoorie, a small hill town in Uttarakhand, he was requested by villagers to start schools in their villages where there were no schools.
In February 1989, the schools were opened informally with no formal organizational setup. But as soon as the demand for schools grew from around the area, SIDH (Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas) was formally registered as an NGO in December 1989. Pawan claims that he learnt more from the village community while he was trying to teach the little children in his schools.
His learning was:
Pawan is greatly influenced by Mr. Dharampal with whom he shared a very close relationship for the last 10 years of Mr. Dharampal’s life. He started becoming aware of his own, hidden assumptions about life, development, backwardness, and the Indian society. Mr. Dharmpal introduced Pawan to Mahatma Gandhi. The research work and insights of Mr. Dharampal about world politics and Indian social structures combined with the writings of Mahatma Gandhi helped Pawan understand the modern systems and their stranglehold on the lives of ordinary people. They helped him to formulate a framework through which it became easier to understand modernity and how it leaves very little space for leading a free, meaningful and relaxed life.
Pawan has been working closely with the teachers’ community, has performed important research to understand the real and imagined expectations (“A Matter of Quality”); what impacts the behavior of children (“Child and Family”) in the rural Indian context; the values and assumptions imbedded in Indian textbooks (“Text and Context”). These studies raised fundamental issues related to education in India.
Pawan writes regularly for Hindi newspapers, magazines and journals, and English journals regarding the present socio-political issues, and education in its wider context. He is deeply interested in exploring the connection between the inner and outer world, traditional knowledge systems, socio-political issues and education. He is connected with several bodies working in these areas.
Claude Alvares is a 1976 Ph.D from the TechnischeHogeschool in the Netherlands. For several years, he wrote for a wide basket of Indian newspapers and magazines including the Illustrated Weekly of India, India Today, Outlook, The Times of India, etc. He is now blogs at www.typewriterguerilla.com
As a scholar, Alvares coordinates the Multiversity Project which seeks broadly to decolonize thinking and curricula in our universities. The project involves scholars and academics from Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Over the past decade, Alvares has coordinated six international conferences on redesigning non-Eurocentric curricula. These conferences have focussed on how scholars and academics can relink critically with their own intellectual and cultural traditions.
A strong critic of Eurocentrism over the past three decades, Alvares is best known for his book Decolonizing History which severely knocked down Western interpretations of societies like India and China. Other books include Science, Development & Violence, Fish Curry and Rice, The Organic Farming Sourcebook and A Farewell to the Eurocentric Imagination.
With Shad Saleem Faruqi, he edited Decolonizing the University, which has now been published by USM Press.
In the State of Goa, India, Alvares has headed the Goa Foundation (an environmental action group) as Director for 25 years, moving the High Courts of India over several environmental issues in public interest. The Foundation's most recent petition in the Supreme Court led to the closure of Goa's entire mining industry.
Judy Frater believes that the traditional craftsperson is the best designer to make the work of the craftsperson economically viable to consumers and a larger market. Through practical and relevant education on technology and marketing, Judy is building the expertise of the craftsperson to make a significant contribution to the sustainability of the craft tradition.
Kala Raksha means “Art Preservation.” Started as a grassroots effort, it was officially established in 1993, as a registered society and trust by co-founders Judy Frater and Prakash Bhanani. It aims to preserve the traditional arts of the region by making them culturally and economically viable.
All activities are artisan driven and Kala Raksha encourages community members to work together toward the goal of self-sufficiency. Generating income through their traditions, community members can realize their strengths and maintain their identity as they develop.
Comprised of artisans, community members, and experts in the fields of art, design, rural management, and museums, Kala Raksha today works with nearly 1,000 embroidery artisans of seven ethnic communities. Artisans produce some of the most exquisitely hand embroidered and patchworked garments, accessories, and home furnishings made in Kutch.
Judy Frater is Founder Director of Somaiya Kala Vidya (http://www.somaiya-kalavidya.org/), an institute of education for artisans. She has lived in Kutch, working with artisans, for 25 years. During this time she Co-founded and operated Kala Raksha Trust. She established the Kala Raksha Textile Museum, and founded Kala RakshaVidhyalaya, the first design school for traditional artisans. For this concept, Ms. Frater was awarded an Ashoka Fellowship for social entrepreneurship in 2003. Under hereight-year tenure as Director, Kala RakshaVidhyalaya received international recognition for its unique and successful approach to education of artisans. Frater received the Sir Misha Black Medal for Distinguished Services to Design Education in 2009, the Crafts Council of India Kamla award in 2010, and the George B. Walter’36 Service to Society Award from Lawrence University in 2014. In 2014 she joined Somaiya group to found Somaiya Kala Vidya, to take design for artisans from a program to an institute and reach its full potential. Ms. Frater is author of Threads of Identity: Embroidery and Adornment of the Nomadic Rabaris, awarded the Costume Society of America’s Milla Davenport award.
Anupama Kundoo’s internationally recognised and award-winning architecture practice started in 1990, demonstrates a strong focus on material research and experimentation towards an architecture that has low environmental impact and is appropriate to the socio-economic context. Kundoo has built extensively in India and has had the experience of working, researching and teaching in a variety of cultural contexts across the world: TU Berlin, AA School of Architecture London, Parsons New School of Design New York, University of Queensland Brisbane, IUAV Venice and ETSAB Barcelona. She is currently Professor at UCJC Madrid where she is Chair of ‘Affordable Habitat’. She is also the Strauch Visiting Critic at Cornell University.
Kundoo’s work extend to urban design and planning projects, with her background in rapid urbanisation related development issues, about which she has written extensively. She taught urban management at the TU Berlin and recently proposed her strategies for a future city for Africa, as part of the Milan Triennale 2014. She is the author of ‘Roger Anger: Research on Beauty/Recherche sur la Beauté, Architecture 1958-2008’ published in Berlin by Jovis Verlag in 2009. Her latest publication is a book chapter ‘Rethinking affordability in economic and environmental terms’ in the Routledge book ‘Inclusive Urbanisation: Rethinking Policy, Practice and Research in the Age of Climate Change’, 2015.
Sri Ravindra Sharma fondly called as "Guruji" is the founder of Kala Ashram. Born and brought up at Adilabad, his wanderings around helped him to get an in-depth knowledge of the culture, heritage and economy of that area.
Kala Ashram is a melting pot of culture, heritage, india’s rural social-economics, art, science and anything that is associated with India and the way of life that was naturally led by people here. The Kala Ashram has been founded on the four principles or four pillars of life on this land of SanatanDhrama of Bharat that is Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha (Principles of Life, Economics, Aesthetics and Liberation). Here research is being continuously being done to understand and implement the way of life led by people in India vis-a-vis economics, philosophy, culture, heritage and science.
The Indian village was a self-reliant unit where every individual was living prosperously. The effort here is to understand how the people in the villages used to lead a life of self-reliance and honour. The secret according to Shri Ravindra Sharma lies in the 49 Hindu Samskaras (Sacraments). These unique processes, which were part of life, played a very key role in the way of life.
Nimish Patel studied at the MIT, Cambridge, USA, with specialization in Urban Settlement Design in Developing Countries, and also has a Diploma in Architecture from CEPT, Ahmedabad. He is a core team member of the Whole School Development Plan carried out by Ministry of Human Resource Development and a Member of the Panel of Sustainability, Bureau of Indian Standards for the upcoming National Building Code. He is a Member of the INTBAU India Committee of Honor (IICoH) and also the IICoH Representative on Board of INTBAU India, on the Editorial Board of StonEdge.
He has officiated as Member of the Jury for the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Conservation Awards 2001 to 2004 & 2007 to 2009 & 2012 at Bangkok. He has lectured widely, nationally and internationally and has been a visiting faculty at CEPT for Architecture, Urban Design & Planning, and has taught at the Masters of Built Environmental Programme at UTS, Sydney, Australia.
Laila Tyabji (born May 2, 1947) is an Indian social worker, craft revivalist, designer and the founder of Dastkar, a Delhi-based nongovernmental organization, working for the revival of traditional crafts in India. The Government of India in 2012with the fourth–highest Indian civilian award of Padma Shri honored her.
Tyabji co-founded Dastkar with five other women in1981 and the inaugural Dastkar Nature Bazaar was held in New Delhi, the same year at the Triveni Kala Sangam. The nature bazaar has since become a regular event with a permanent venue at Kisan Haat, Mehrauli, Delhi. Tyabji also cooperated with the Self-Employed Women's Association of India (SEWA), a similar on-governmental organization founded by renowned Gandhian, Ela Bhatt. She is credited with revolutionizing the craft industry in India by developing a market for Indian crafts, modernizing the artisans ‘skills, and acting as the liaising link between the artisans and the buyers. Dastkar operates on the policy of leaving the ownership of the goods to the artisans who produced them, retaining a 20 percent revenue towards the operating costs. It provides the artisans with training and assists them with credit, designs, and product development techniques. The organization has a producer group base of over 250, which collectively employs more than 36,000 artisans.
Western culture brought in homogenization as a part of modernity to impose their thought processes on the rest of the world thereby convincing that their knowledge is redundant. Each generation has to re-create, re-experience and re-live knowledge in order for culture to be authentic and original. Using de-contextualized knowledge, modern education not only kills creativity but also the cultural rootedness, diversity and aesthetic sense. Design and architectural education today creates problems at two levels; aesthetic and process. The real issue is to understand how to retain the cultural diversity and help learners to retain their original, authentic sense of beauty.
Modernity ensured that we understand and view tradition as past, static, uncreative etc. The real meaning of 'parampara' is ever renewing. The renewal happens in the ground of experience. So the very nature of tradition according to this meaning is about being creative. About a century ago we had diverse cultures with distinct way of life and aesthetic sensibilities that created contextually rooted architecture and artefacts. Traditional artisan’s learning is experientially rooted, learner driven. The cognitive space ensures the first handedness in these learnings and helps the learner to situate oneself in the cultural conditions of one’s life. Can there be an education that is sensitive to these vital issues that retains diversity and authenticity?
The search for alternatives gives an illusion that it is fighting against homogenization but the logic of newness and difference is again rooted in modernity whereas search for authenticity demands deeper engagement. Search for alternatives gets trapped in the notion of newness, difference or even sustainable. In modernity it is clear that sustainability and even inclusion are after thoughts. While sustainability is sought after making life un-sustainable, traditionally, sustainability is the very ground on which creation takes place. Modernity instils into our being its characteristics of alienation, fragmentation, linearization, exclusion, after thoughts and its takes consistent and deep efforts to recognize and reclaim our authentic ways of knowing and being.
In modern learning situations year after year, all students are subjected to western design process and learn design through western history and sense of aesthetics. Thus generation after generation is estranged from their own history, culture, individual sense of beauty and their very being. But when such views are imposed in our design education systems, the importance of context is lost completely and the entire thought process and methodology is being homogenised, allowing less space for thought explorations that are rooted in context. The need for research on understanding various indigenous meanings of aesthetics and re-imagining the way foundation programs are conducted could help lighten the imposition of western world view and aesthetic sensibility in turn, creating an environment of better learning ambience. Hence if aesthetic education involves awakening the senses by creating situations for connecting to the natural context of the learners’ lives, there is a potential for making the learner authentic and original.
The spirit of the conference is to engage in deep explorations and questions rather than ready answers and even when a solution is being offered, see the same with a spirit of openness. The objective of the conference is to explore various aspects of aesthetics - its formation, conditioning, politics, connection with culture and ways of teaching design pedagogy, the ambience for learning.
The reason for organizing the conference is to address the homogenization that is sweeping the world. The visual experience of modern spaces all over the world is beginning to look alike. In this regard, architecture and artefacts are no exceptions! Until last century, we have had diverse cultures with distinct ways of life and fitting aesthetic sensibilities. The homogenization of human cultures is one of the biggest challenges of modernity to be addressed by both academia and practice. The real issue is to understand how aesthetic sensibilities as manifested by the things they make and the spaces they employ are inextricably linked to the cultural context. It is the innate need of the system for its aesthetics to respond to cultural needs and nurture cultural diversity of local contexts.
Wellbeing and health of a culture depends on its authenticity and rootedness. The tangible- visible/ experiential- aspects of any culture is its aesthetic sensibility, which gets manifested in what and how people do.The buildings we make, the food we eat also when and how we eat, the language we use etc etc. In fact everything we do constitute our culture, even why and how. When people lose their authentic and original aesthetic sense, their culture gets destroyed.
The most important task we need to address is the homogenization of aesthetic sense. All aspects of our life are getting standardized and homogenized. This is no longer a cultural question but only a spiritual exploration. A key lesson we can learn from the non-literate people/ artisan communities is about the role of aesthetic sense in retaining cultural roots as they have been able to keep alive the diversity to a great extent whereas the educated have been totally homogenized. So what is in education that kills our aesthetic sensibility? What about art, architecture, design and fashion education, which is responsible for moulding and conditioning the taste of people? What is it in their education that totally distorts and homogenizes their aesthetic sensibility and kills their moral/ ethical sensitivity?
We are proposing a conference to rethink the education of the aesthetic sense – involving both architecture and design.