Being a group of Aurovilian musicians, dramatists and artists who know that the cultural heritage of our Tamil neighbours excels in theatre, poetry and dance, we came up with the idea of creating a programme of cultural interchange with the neighbouring villages, through the medium of the Auroville Village Action Group. Our vision is high and wide, foreseeing events and developments over a decade -- of schools of music and art, bioregional festivals of music and drama, the revitalisation of traditional arts and crafts, the elevation of sports to a true physical education, and the flourishing of local expression in new media such as video.
To use arts and physical education as bridging media between Auroville and the local villages by adding to Auroville's existing outreach programmes (environmental and social) a programme of cultural activities.
In the year 2000 we have started with a programme of arts education for school children, using the AVAG PEP (Primary Education Project) network which has AVAG development workers visiting 21 village schools twice a week. Children in 4th and 5th standard were visited by AVAG Development Workers for an hour of 'play way' learning. AVAG arranged for them to go on trips to other villages, Auroville and Pondy, and organised a performance for their parents.
During three weeks at the beginning of summer recess, the PEP children (nearly 1,000) were invited to join a series of eight 2-day summer camps with a variety of themes such as drawing, dancing, storytelling, herbal medicine, sports, drama, magic and singing. The children choose the one which is appealing to them, and special resource people provide training. AVAA also arranged an afternoon in Vérité during which they are introduced to Auroville through animated thematic group work using music, dance and mime.
Saturday Arts Classes
Based on the PEP outreach, talented Tamil children from the nearby schools are invited to attend Saturday morning classes for folk dance, Bharat Natyam, theatre, drawing, singing and physical education. Over 100 children come weekly to the Isaiambalam Resource and Training Centre (IRTC) on Saturday morning from 10-12 am. The teachers are Tamil Aurovilians who have mastered their arts. To limit the number of children, which started at 100 and soon rose to over 200 each week, the children are required to bring wioth them a participation fee of Rs.5, and have a laminated card identifying them as participant of the programme. A different Aurovilian or visiting artist welcomes the children each Saturday with a short inspiring performance. Video clips of their classes have been made and shown back to the children. During the first three-month trial period classes are given, and the teaching team becomes established. The programme is appreciated by children, teachers and visitors alike, and only requires sufficient funding to keep it going.
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