MAgzAV Issue No 10

Have you seen the latest MAgzAV? Issue #10?

It addresses the ‘Elephant in the Room’ (an idiomatic expression that applies to an obvious problem or risk that no one wants to discuss or a condition of groupthink that no one wants to challenge) through articles and photo-shopped photographs. The central image directly addresses the fear that Aurovilians will uglify the image of the Matrimandir and stringent rules need to be put in place to prevent it. The image confronts our need to spiritualise and make sacred and holy; many in Auroville felt the photo-shopped image was a desecration (to violate or outrage the sacred character of an object or place by destructive, blasphemous, or sacrilegious action). “The Aurovilians and staff of the Information Service (Visitors Centre) were really offended by the centre page of the magazine” and removed the page with theoffensive image: an effective censorship. It will not be sold at the Wild Seagull Bookshop at the Visitors Centre either. In effect, the magazine has been ‘banned’ from sale at the Visitors Centre.

Tellingly, the hurt feelings are engendered, not by the many critical and thoughtful articles about the very real issues that hide in the midst of our spiritual efforts. Neither were they triggered by the images of the elephants in the Entry Service, in front of the Town Hall, etc.

The artist, Marco Saroldi who took the photographs and photo-shopped them, said that when he worked on the image of the Matrimandir, he did not know what was wanting to be expressed. And now?

“Now, the real meaning has come out, loud and clear. The image has been removed because it is deemed to be offensive. Secretly ripped out of all of the copies given for sale at the Visitor Centre. The temple has been profaned, the religious censorship has struck, again. The Auroville Ayatollah are still alive. The hugest elephant has come out of its pen. So, in the end: Thank you for the gesture, it has given meaning to my image and raised the issue: Is the Evolution of Consciousness a new religion, Sri Aurobindo its prophet and the Matrimandir its temple? Please tell me, because I am not sure I have understood correctly the holy texts I read,” he writes.

The question remains:

Do we really want diversity in Auroville if that diversity means to critique what we consider holy?

In the larger context of this country we live in, artists are struggling with the force of “hurt sentiments” which lead to books being burned and films fighting to be shown. Though the law of this country (like in so many other countries) protects our freedom of expression, and India, like Auroville, has as its motto “Unity in Diversity”, protecting the diversity of expression remains a challenge at the human level, both in India and in Auroville.

By Krishna for Auroville Art Service