There's a new addition to the International Zone. Standing four metres high and weighing forty tons it has an unmistakable presence. The best time to see it is early morning, as the sky begins to lighten. Walk out behind the newly completed Tibetan Pavilion and there, in the open field, you glimpse something that, from a distance, is reminiscent of Stonehenge . Walk closer and you will see that the massive unworked slabs of granite balanced on top of each other represent a human figure. Now, in this solitary corner of the International Zone, there is presence.
The Inuksuk inauguration on Auroville's birthday, February 28, 2009.
The Pavilion of Tibetan Culture is in the background.
In fact, this four-metre high installation is an ‘Inuksuk'. The Inuit, the early inhabitants of the northern part of Canada , Alaska and Greenland , were the first to create Inuksuks. These monuments of unworked stone were erected as navigational aids, to indicate a good place for fishing or hunting, or as a memorial for a beloved person. The underlying meaning is “Someone was here” or “You are on the right path”. Inuksuks can take many forms but as Inuksuk in the Inuit language means “one who acts as a human being”, or “in the likeness of a human”, it often has a human resemblance.
Inuksuks are found in the northern polar regions. So how did one end up in Auroville's International Zone? Monique Patenaude, one of the driving forces behind the project, takes up the story.
“There are very few of us Canadians in Auroville – twenty five at the last count. Every five years or so we come together, mostly when people from AVI Canada visit Auroville, to discuss our contribution to the International Zone. Generally we don't get very far, but at every meeting Francois Grenier and I would say that we should start with something which recalls the first peoples who inhabited Canada . After all, they have been there far longer than the descendants of the Europeans and we feel they know something about that land that we don't know.
“In 2003 I was going to Canada for a visit and Jossie, who taught in Transition School , asked me if I could get something made by the Inuit for her sand-box: she already had at least one object from all the other nations of the world. So when I reached Montreal I started looking in boutiques for Inuit art. It was difficult to find something appropriate – the artworks were very expensive and the reproductions badly-made – but finally I found small Inuit sculptures in stone that represented a human being. I thought these were exactly what she needed.
“I bought four and I had them in my purse when, a few days later, I went to a meeting of AVI Canada. There, once again, we discussed how Canada could participate in the International Zone. We didn't have enough money to build a pavilion, so what could we do? I took out my little sculptures and suggested we could do something based on this. Everybody was very enthusiastic.
“Next year Christian Feuillette, the present president of AVI Canada, came to Auroville and we had a meeting of the Canadians. Christian announced that AVI Canada had a project to build an Inuksuk and that Francois and I would organize it. Christian chose a place behind the Tibetan Pavilion along with Helmut and Peter Anderschitz, who were in charge of International Zone planning at the time.
“I made drawings, Francois made measurements; we thought that, with the assistance of Ramalingam and his granite workshop, everything would be finished fast. However, when we sent our first concept to AVI Canada they rejected it because it was too abstract; it didn't look enough like a human being.
“It took us some time to get started again. Then I drew Inuksuks that more clearly resembled human beings. Now we also decided to use unworked stone, which is how the traditional Inuksuks are made. Finding the granite stones was not easy, but finally we had them ready in Ramalingam's workshop.
“However, meanwhile there had been changes in the plans for the International Zone and it was no longer clear that we could install the Inuksuk on the original site. There were so many delays and discussions. For a long time we even thought of erecting the Inuksuk outside the International Zone. Finally I insisted that we be given a location. A few weeks ago we got the approval to place it at the very spot chosen by Christian five years ago!
“We had not erected the full Inuksuk before the final installation, so we didn't quite know what to expect, but the transport of the stones and the installation went very harmoniously. I had not wanted anything too realistic but something that would have a certain expression. I think it has this. Also, the orientation is important. The AVI people asked us to turn it towards the Matrimandir which, in its present position, also means it is turned to the rising sun. I like that.
“We will inaugurate the Inuksuk on the afternoon of 28th February. We wanted to do it with Inuits but this is not possible. However, a few days ago I had a telephonic conversation with a young Inuit woman from Canada . She had just met two members of AVI Canada and had seen many photographs of our Inuksuk. She told me that it is a child and she really likes it. This makes me happy.
“Moreover, a few years ago some of us met William Commanda. He is not an Inuit but one of the great spiritual chiefs and a respected elder of the Algonquin people. He was ninety four years old then, a beautiful person, very sincere and very simple. He created the “Circle of All Nations”, which seeks to foster racial and cultural harmony and respect for nature. In fact, the project of Auroville and the message he gives from the First Nation have many points in common.
“Recently we told him that AVI Canada and the Canadian Aurovilians were making an Inuksuk in order to underline the importance of the first inhabitants of Canada and we asked him for a message for the inauguration. William Commanda is Keeper and interpreter of three Algonquin Wampum Shell Belts. These intricately patterned belts record prophecies, history, treaties and agreements, and he sent us a message which was first inscribed on one in the late 1400s. (See box) He also asked a friend of his who is an Innu – another of the first inhabitants – to visit Auroville and read this message at the inauguration in his own language.”
A Circle of All Nations – A Vision of Peace
The Vision of North American Algonquin Elder William Commanda
These difficult times we live in were foreseen by spiritual visionaries across the world. My ancestors warned us about this time and the choices we would have to make in the Seven Fires Prophecy, which was inscribed in the sacred wampum shell in the late 1400s.
The Prophecy holds a vision for a future where we:
- honour our relationship and responsibility to Mother Earth and
- celebrate our individual gifts and diversity and still recognize
and respect our place within a circle of all nations
The steps to this future are few:
- first we look within, so we know ouselves first and best.
- we recognize, acknowledge and forgive ourselves, our shortcomings and any failure to achieve our best potential
- we forgive others for any hardship and pain they may have caused us and our communities. We trust that this energy will transform them spiritually
- we recognize that our thoughts, words and actions affect ourselves, Mother Earth and all creation. And we embrace peace mindfully
- we listen to our minds but we trust our hearts above all.
It is of crucial importance that the people of the world:
- respond immediately to the plight of the many oppressed by exploitation, social injustice, racism
- animate the human capacity for forgive ness, compassion,love and reconciliation
- create a global synergy to ensure the improvement of the lives of all
This Path will lead us to love, sharing, respect, responsibility, compassion, healing, reconciliation, equality and justice.
We shall then light The Eighth Fire together and become
A Circle of All Nations – A Culture of Peace
See also our pages on the Inuksuk and on its presentation