A week with Endangered Species

It has become a thing, in Auroville, every year, for one week the Endangered Craft Mela is organized by a group of volunteers.

Many of the traditional Indian crafts are endangered by current industrial development and consumption patterns; more and more traditional tools, artifacts and arts are being replaced by ‘fast’ throw-away and, often cheaper products, and traditional art forms are losing space to more generic and globalised forms of entertainment. With this replacement, we are losing know-how, skills and (potential) tools as well as art forms that express local uniqueness and resourcefulness, which we so much need and require to shape a more sustainable and creative form of living.

This craft week aims to to provide a lived experience to children – that they can develop this intelligence in their hands and that they can feel empowered to make and create sustainable, useful and beautiful artisanal products themselves. This is a huge gap in most of our current education; children are largely alienated from this experience, in schools and at home. Equally important, we would like to give recognition to the importance, capacity and place that artisanal work has in working towards a sustainable future.

Source: Auroville Wiki – Endangered Craft Mela

Click to know more about the Endangered Craft Mela

This year, the Mela was a little different, two new topics were introduced, water and endangered species.

Our area’s water situation is getting worse and only a very abundant monsoon rains for the past 2 years allows us to pretend that everything is fine. It’s not fine, if next year’s monsoon does not bless us, then water will become a very precious and scarce resource. Hundred thousand of people living in Pondicherry, Auroville and all the surrounding villages take underground water from the same aquifer for agriculture, industry and domestic purposes. Aquifer levels have steadily reduced and it is just a matter of time before even the deepest wells dry out.

ICA and Pichandikulam Forest collaborated to create a space for kids and adults to learn more about the endangered species of Tamil Nadu, we almost never see them but they are part of the rich ecosystem in south India.

Why do we want to celebrate engendered species? isn’t it a weird choice of words?
When we say “celebrate” we mean that their lives matter to us, and their possible disappearance is not to be taken lightly. We want to celebrate each day of their lives and how they enrich the world.

Why do we want to talk about this with kids? Isn’t it too depressing or heavy a topic for them? Maybe it is, but it is also, unfortunately, the reality that they grow up in, and trying to hide it or shield them from it will not make it disappear, it will just hit them later, and possibly harder. We, the adults, the previous generations, the human species are bearing the responsibility of the state of our world today. We can hide behind the lack of scientific data before the 20th century, and we can say that we didn’t know, but can we deny what is happening now? Data is flooding us, and knowledge is everywhere, and despite that, nobody knows if we can fix anything. Hope is what we have. Hope that by teaching our kids they will not make the same mistake to take the Earth and it’s life for granted, hope they grow up respecting and caring for our planet better than what we were able to.

The Mela is a more or less organized chaos where, each day, more than a hundred people, mainly kids can go around, choosing to explore what they like from tailoring to woodcarving with a stop at the pottery or bamboo weaving stand. Our Idea was to bring some key informations about endangered species that are close to us. Like the Nilgiri Tahr for example, Tamil Nadu state animal, whose natural habitat is getting destroyed by at-all-cost development and climate change. Then let people choose their favourite medium to represent the animal they felt the closest from. We had brought some paint and crayons, Tanisha created some very nice stencils, cards to paint and some masks as well as the posters on which people could find a description of the animal habitat, habits, and why it’s disappearing.

Tanisha told me “you’re walking a very fine line when you’re talking about endangered species, because yes, humans caused of all those problems. And because most of them are young kids you want to offer the aspect of humans can also solve those these problems. I eventually found a flow to talk about it, I was asking the kids what kind of house they would want to live in, and then pointing that all of us, who are the same specie, already like very different sort of spaces, and if we end up in a concrete box, even with all our needs met, we would get really sad. Then I would talk about how all of these species have a very specific kind of space that they like to be in, and when this space is threaten, they get sad just like we would. And when their home is destroyed, they get destroyed too.
I would also point that all those species are doing their best to adapt to our presence and way of life, some of them can even understand our language. As far as humans are concerned, we don’t try to adapt or to learn their language, we can’t even differentiate between two specie of the same family, most of the time”

After a week as crazy as this one, we know that the kids won’t remember everything we told them, and some adults are looking at this like it’s another “activity”.
“We were doing the bare minimum, we were trying to learn about and understand those animals and by giving the examples of the language and habitat it was much easier to make people understand why this conversation is important” said Tanisha, adding “there was this little girl who could not even remember my name, she was asking it everyday, but she would remember about the Malabar Civet and chanting how it likes to go out at night…”
We wanted to start the conversation, hoping that this drop of awareness will create ripples.

Thank you Tanisha and Mar, our two wonderful volunteers who spent the week holding the ICA part of the endangered species stall.

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