The first steps towards a French Pavilion were taken in the beginning of the nineties. In 1993 a foundation stone was laid and a Service Tree was planted on the site of the future pavilion. The Pavillon de France has been very active since 2006 through a large number of events: talks, movies, exhibitions and concerts. A team welcomes French speaking visitors and provides information about Auroville, and also offers French classes to Aurovilians. On behalf of the French Pavilion, Auro-Traductions is a service of the Pavilion, and Auroville Press publishes a quarterly, “La Revue d’ Auroville” in French. The Pavillon de France also organises receptions, invites VIPs and works with the French institutions of Puducherry.
Even though there are many Aurovilians of French origin, no clear plan for a French Pavilion has as yet emerged. However, a network of interested persons now starts to be active and organise cultural exchange programmes with the aim to make the specificity and wealth of the French culture known to a wider public. Gradually, the various initiatives will find their meeting point in the International Zone of Auroville, in the French Pavilion. The foundation stone was laid on August 23rd, 1993 and it seems that today, in light of the growing interest generated for the International Zone, the French Pavilion is about to take shape.
"With the intellectual quality of France, the quality of its spirit," Mother said, "the day that she will be really spiritually touched will be something exceptional."
France has always played, with India, a prominent role in the Auroville project. Let us remember, indeed, that the Mother was French.
It is again a French man, Satprem, who for twenty years, recorded and transcribed Mother's account of her experience of a new way of being on earth, in Mother's Agenda.
And it is another French man, architect Roger Anger, to whom Mother entrusted the design and construction of the city.
Today, the French and francophone community of Auroville comprise around 350 people, children included, i.e. more than 20% of the total population.
The great minds of France, from Voltaire to André Malraux, have always recognised the real dimension of India.
"It is France," Mother said in 1961," that can link India to Europe. France has great spiritual possibilities. In spite of the present state she is in, she is meant to play a great role. It is through France that Europe will be touched by the spiritual message."
It is in the light of this declaration from the Mother that one must understand the profound dimension that underlies the proposal of 'A partnership for the 20th century' made to India in January 1998 by Mr Jacques Chirac, president of the French Republic.
The project of the French Pavilion was presented by an Aurovilian delegation to Mr Jacques Chirac during his visit to India in January 1998. In July 1998, in Paris, Mr Karan Singh, then president of the Indian delegation, officially presented the project of the French Pavilion in Auroville to Mr Claude Allègre, then Minister of National Education, Research and Technology.
France means generosity of feelings, newness and boldness of ideas, and acts of chivalry. This France commands the respect and admiration of all; it is through these virtues that she conquered the world. A utilitarian, calculating and mercantilist France is no more France; these things do not conform to her true nature, and in practising them, she looses the nobility of her position in the world.
The French Pavilion proposes to represent the different facets of the national genius of France. For this, it will combine the following functions:
- a permanent exhibition centre where the most representative achievements and expressions of the French genius will be displayed, showing how France has participated in the evolution of the world
- a centre to promote and spread French culture
- a centre of exchange between France and Auroville, France and India, France and the world
- a centre of research in human unity and the future evolution of mankind
- a centre to receive students, researchers, entrepreneurs, teachers and artists from France who will participate in the programmes offered by the Pavilion
- an education centre for all French citizens and friends of France living in Auroville who wish to widen their knowledge of the French culture
The first stone of the French Pavilion was laid on August 23rd, 1993, by His Excellency Mr. Philippe Petit, the then French Ambassador to India. At that time, the construction project had been defined by the town-planning group of Auroville (Auroville's Future) under direction of the architect of Auroville, Roger Anger.
The French Pavilion will be included in the European Area, the part of the International Zone dedicated to this continent.
Representatives of the French and francophone community of Auroville are actively engaged in various sectors of the city. Beside cultural exchange, there is also an active professional collaboration between different sectors of activity in Auroville that are managed by executives of French nationality, and various French organisations and institutions established in France as well as in India, for example in Pondicherry. The Alliance Française of Pondicherry is one of them and plays an important role in the spreading of French culture in the region.
Auroville is a centre where many francophone artists live and create. There is a rich potential that waits to be dynamised and the city attracts many Indian and European artists. Because of its aims and the quality of its artists, it is a fertile meeting place for research and exchange in the field of art at the service of the evolution of consciousness and of human unity in its diversity.
The French Pavilion will be able to sustain, develop and promote all forms of artistic expression that work in this direction, as well as build bridges between these different forms of art (dance, music, painting, photo, poetry, sculpture, theatre…). It will also foster exchange between French, Indian and Aurovilian artists by setting up partnerships, artists houses, networks, events, shows, exhibitions, colloquies and meetings.
A presentation of all francophone Auroville artists is being put together and will soon be available for reference at the French Pavilion.
Until the Pavilion is constructed, it has been decided to continue developing activities in Auroville under the umbrella of francophony. Use of the French language, of which Mother said that it should be taught in all Auroville schools, must be particularly maintained and encouraged. This can be done by the following means, in which everyone is welcome to participate:
- creating a library, by sending books
- creating a video library, by sending video tapes
- supporting Aurovilian francophone publications
- offering pedagogical support
- sending newspapers and magazines
- sending 16 and 35mm films
- setting up a network to receive French TV channels
- organise workshops, exhibitions and cultural and artistic programmes
- organise exchange programmes.
The activities of the French Pavilion also include Auroville Press International, Aurofilm, Auro-traductions, the publication of the 'Revue d'Auroville' and the 'Collection des Pavillons', recently created in collaboration with Auroville Press International.
In order to develop a lively exchange between France and Auroville, we have in mind to encourage the following activities:
- visit and stay of French specialists in Auroville, in different areas of expertise
- visit and stay of Aurovilian specialists in France
- organisation of colloquies, workshops, seminars and conferences in Auroville and in France
- creation of partnerships and common research programmes
The French Pavilion team thanks the Vitalis association in France which enabled them to obtain their first computer for the work. The aim of the association is to create the French Pavilion in the International Zone of Auroville and to help develop its activities. Initiative of this is placed under the umbrella of the Ministry of External Affairs.
Vitalis' president is Mr: Gilles Lachaud, director of research at C.N.R.S. (National Centre for Scientific Research), France.
For additional information, please contact :
Pavillon de France, Multimedia Center, Town Hall 605 101 Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India.
Ph: 0091 413 2622 001 / 2622 713
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Gilles Lachaud, 22, rue de la Loge, 13002 Marseille
Ph.: 04 91 91 86 16