London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence – a view of the last discussion by Robert Fisher

London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence

The London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence met recently to discuss The Current condition of Women, Feminism and Gandhi. This is a forum to discuss Gandhi and the relevance of his ideals, especially nonviolence, in the contemporary world. Anyone who has an opinion on the subject or has read about Gandhi and wants to share their thoughts is welcome to join. Details of the next discussion forum will be posted on the Gandhi Foundation website, Facebook and Twitter.

GF London Discussion Forum

I came away from this meeting with a number of thoughts on the subject of violence against women which I have set out below in context with some other factors I see at play in this rather complex area and the environment in which we live. That is not to say violence in any form against women is acceptable.

In order for me to put things into perspective I would prefer to adopt a gender-neutral approach to the subject and consider violence against the person rather than against a man or a woman, albeit in the subject of the rape of women, this is a particularly disturbing crime.

The thing that became very apparent to me, were the economic factors in the equation and in particular the commodification of both men and women in an economic system that places a monitory value on all things, dependent on the various attributes that are assigned to it (him or her). “Conflict minerals” and the rape of women to secure control over mined resources and images of very attractive women being used by corporate institutions to enhance & market their particular brand of electronic device, derived from these same Conflict minerals.

I hope & believe these electronic devices will eventually help protect vulnerable communities and individuals everywhere from all types of harm and particularly the types atrocities we see happening in the Congo now & in other places around the world, which will I hope eventually pass.

I also recall the comment made by the (academic) whose name I do not recall, who sat next to me at meetup and who stated that corruption was endemic throughout Indian society.

Corruption being the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.

In a competitive open market economy the incentive for those in power to maintain unfair advantage over those under their control can only exist for a limited period of time, especially in a world where all are connected by a computer device of one sort or another.

The empowerment of all strata of humanity being achieved through online learning and education is just one factor to consider in this connected global society.

It is the responsibility of the strong & powerful to help protect the weak and vulnerable in society and in this respect I see the all-pervasive concept of mutual self-interest being of fundamental importance.

Further to the subject of the rape of women, it is important that our criminal justice system is fit for purpose in dealing with these matters and from what I heard at meetup, it is not. As I have already mentioned I am working with others to develop a number of legal and financial services, which will help address some of the issues raised above but for the time being I must bide my time.

You work in compliance and you will know the incidents of bribery and corruption within banking and other corporate sectors around the globe. Others who sat at the table at meetup had many of the skills and knowledge necessary to help develop some of the systems needed to address these challenges.

 By Robert Fisher

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

When Chaplin Met Gandhi educational workshop at Mulberry Youth Conference

Mulberry Youth Conference

Mulberry Youth Conference

Mulberry School for Girls invited Jim Kenworth to run a When Chaplin Met Gandhi drama workshop at their prestigious Mulberry Youth Conference recently.

Over a decade ago, a group of students concerned about growing tensions around the world and in Britain following September 11th, launched our Youth Conference. The conference has gained a reputation for its challenging discussion and powerful speakers through which students consider the means of becoming active in their communities. We have received the Philip Lawrence Award for excellence in citizenship and a prize in the highly commended category in the Anne Frank Awards. This year’s topic was ‘The Power of Voice’. Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian, and Lucy-Anne Holmes, founder of the No More Page 3 campaign, were confirmed as speakers.

For more information visit: http://www.mulyouth.org/

The play When Gandhi Met Chaplin by Jim Kenworth was performed in Kingsley Hall (where Gandhi stayed in 1931) and other venues in East London in 2012. The participants were both professional actors and young people from schools in the East End of London. An Education Resource Pack inspired by the meeting of the two famous figures has been produced by Jim Kenworth and the Royal Docks Trust, with some help from the Gandhi Foundation.

You can read more details and access further resources by clicking: http://gandhifoundation.org/2013/11/04/when-chaplin-met-gandhi-school-resource-pack/

When Chaplin Met Gandhi School Resource Pack

When Chaplin Met Gandhi School Resource Pack

Chaplin and Gandhi in London 1931

Chaplin and Gandhi in London 1931

The play When Gandhi Met Chaplin by Jim Kenworth has been performed in Kingsley Hall and other venues in East London. The participants were both professional actors and young people from schools in the East End. Now an Education Resource Pack inspired by the meeting of the two famous figures has been produced by the Royal Docks Trust, with some help from the Gandhi Foundation.

The Pack consists of material to be used in six Workshops and has already been successfully used in some London schools.

The six workshops are:

1. An Introduction to the characters
2. The East End in 1931
3. Gandhi’s Philosophy of Nonviolence
4. Chaplin and Gandhi meet and debate – Materialism Vs Spirituality
5. Territory/ Post Code wars, gangs
6. Hopes and Dreams of the Future for East London

You can explore more details about the Educational Resource pack here: When Chaplin Met Gandhi Resource Pack

For further details: www.jimkenworth.co.uk

New Book – M.K.Gandhi, Attorney at Law: The Man before the Mahatma By Charles DiSalvo

9780520280151_DiSalvoThe new book, M.K. Gandhi, Attorney at Law: The Man before the Mahatma, is the first Gandhi biography of its kind. The author, Charles DiSalvo, uses previously unearthed archival materials to illuminate Gandhi’s unsuccessful court battles to defend Indian rights, his turn to civil disobedience, and his transformation from a shy youth into the confident public person who would lead India to freedom.

 - University of California Press

Here is a link to a feature about the author and what compelled him to write the book: http://law.wvu.edu/disalvo-feature

 

A World of Limited Resources – The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2013 by Natasha Lewis

The Abbey, in the little village of Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, was again the setting for this year’s Gathering, a week of attempting to live in the style of one of Gandhi’s ashrams whilst allowing a space for discussion into applying his principles to issues faced in the modern world. The building itself is a perfect facilitator for this event, providing several cosy sitting rooms, a kitchen and dining room dating to the 13th century, and a large Great Hall which has windows that open out into the main garden. The grounds give ample space for camping and sports including badminton, as well as a large kitchen garden which provides much of the delicious food for the week! The surrounding countryside also provides several beautiful walks along the river Thames.

GF SG 1

The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2013

Although some rooms are available in the Abbey itself, most Gatherers stay in the guest house annexe, which has the advantage of 20th rather than 13th century plumbing and heating! The braver amongst us, mostly families, camped and this year a camper van was also used for accommodation. Thirty Seven people attended over the first weekend, with people coming and going over the next week.

The premise of Gandhi’s ashram means that a great communal spirit is built up throughout the week, with teams taking turns to help prepare meals and keep communal spaces clean. The kitchen is usually the focal point, where children’s (and adult’s!) baking and craft takes place, as well as some of the most interesting discussions about the year’s theme.

After a help-yourself breakfast, the morning session begins with a brief meditation and sharing of information, then continues into the main discussion topic for the day. There is normally a short introductory presentation followed by discussion in small groups and then feedback. This leads into Shramdana, meaning ‘sharing of one’s time, thought and energy for the welfare of all’ in accordance with the way Gandhi’s ashrams were run. Lunch is eaten and, after a digestion break, craft activities begin later in the afternoon. It was Gandhi’s belief that time should be spent on useful tasks, and this period is used to follow his guidance. Crafts available this year were varied, including collage making, art using dried flowers, crochet and watercolour painting. One particularly interesting activity was spinning thread from a sheep’s fleece: we set up a production line including carding the wool, using the spinning wheel to turn the wool into thread and winding the finished wool into balls (and untangling it!). The spinning wheel was a bit trickier to use than I expected and unfortunately my wool alternated between being much too thick and snapping because it was too thin! After supper Gatherers are invited to contribute to the evening’s entertainment which included animal noises, poetry readings, slideshows and circle dancing. Then meditation and time for sleep before it all begins again in the morning!

The topic for this year’s Gathering was “A World of Limited Resources: Inspirations and Challenges in Sharing the Planet” which attracted many external speakers as well as new participants. This meant that there was often a talk in the afternoon in addition to the morning session. The first of these was given by an architect, Sandra Piesik, who is running a project reviewing renewable resources as construction materials, involving over 120 scientists and professionals. Her talk mainly focussed on developing architecture using palm leaves in the United Arab Emirates, and her efforts to rescue indigenous technology from the extinction imposed by the advent of globalisation and modern building practices. She highlighted the fact that concrete is not always the most suitable building material in every environment on Earth, and that there is a huge untapped source of building materials from the palm leaves from plants used for date production, which are currently wasted in the UAE.

GF SG 3

The theme of the first morning session (Sunday) was Sarvodaya. This is a term coined by Gandhi to mean ‘universal uplift’ or ‘progress of all’ and was a fundamental principle of his political philosophy. We discussed some of Gandhi’s other main principles: Swaraj, self-rule;  Swadeshi, self-sufficiency; and Satyagraha, “truth force”, Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance strategy.

Monday’s theme was resource depletion: examining the effects of diminishing stocks of non-renewable gas, oil, coal and minerals on the world. We discussed particular industries’ impacts on the earth and its people, and possible substitutes.

Tuesday focussed on climate change and population from a biological perspective, as the talk was given by an ecologist. Human culture has gradually evolved from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle through small scale agriculture to the globalised economy we see today. However, this has occurred in a period of relatively stable climatic conditions for the past 5000 years, which has lulled us into a sense of false security. We were divided into three groups and attempted to answer three questions. The question for my group was: What attributes from our hunter gatherer and agricultural ancestors should we cultivate and which should we reject? We were also asked to talk about steps we could take to reduce our energy usage both on a personal and national/global scale. 
Ruth gave a presentation originally aimed at actuaries to show that in the economic world it is vital to take into account risks of climate change and resource depletion.

The World Economic System was Wednesday’s subject. Alan Sloan presented us with a thought-provoking presentation on a potential new economic system based on ecological footprints. Conventional money is not directly related to the material world, and he suggested that if the new currency were based on the resources available from the earth then this would help to solve the resource depletion crises we are currently facing, as well as relieving poverty in the developing world.

GF SG 2

Four participants gave presentations on four ‘prophets’ on Thursday. John Muir was an American naturalist whose activism helped to preserve national parks such as Sequoia National Park and the Yosemite Valley. Ishpriya is a Catholic nun who founded the International Satsang Organisation. The Reverend Horace Dammers was the founder of the Lifestyle Movement. Frances Moore Lappé is the author of the bestseller Diet for a Small Planet, which advocated a plant-based diet as being much more conducive to food security.

On Friday we welcomed another guest speaker, a representative of Traidcraft. He gave a presentation on the organisation and their efforts to ensure that workers are paid a fair price for their products.

On the last evening we held a party, which was a sort of variety show with everyone offering their best party pieces. We had old home videos, games, singing, jokes, poetry, a small flute recital and some improvised circle dancing. The evening ended with a small tribute to the victims of the atom bomb in 1945, as it was Nagasaki Day. We went out into the garden and floated tea lights in little paper boats in a large baking tray filled with water, as incense smoke floated up into the night sky. It was a lovely way to end the week, which has been one of the most thought-provoking I have attended.

New Book – Ecology Economy by Felix Padel, Ajay Dandekar & Jeemol Unni

Ecology Economyecology economy

- Quest for a socially informed connection

By Felix Padel, Ajay Dandekar and Jeemol Unni

orientblackswan logo

 

 

 

 

About the book, courtesy of Orient Black Swan:

Ecology, Economy is an elaborate argument to establish society as central in policy-making for holistic development. The book presents cases of the adverse effects of resource utilisation—water, metals, power, land—on Adivasi communities in particular. It presents an overview of the paradoxes inherent in ‘development’ projects, emphasising the drastic drop in the standard of living of rural communities, and the immeasurable damage to India’s ecosystems and resource base.

The authors highlight the tussle between real growth and the rule of law, the informalisation of labour under a neoliberal economy, and current threats to ‘Adivasi Economics’—the little monetised systems based on a long-term symbiosis with the natural environment, based on taking from the ecosystem without intrinsically damaging it.

It asks: what is real development? How can we transform present developmental patterns to achieve a more truly sustainable path towards collective well-being? Is there any politically feasible path out of the multidimensional economic, environmental, social and climate change cataclysms facing us now in India and worldwide? Contrary to seeing dissent as ‘anti-development’, this book puts a face to the people on whom ‘development’ is imposed.

A product of the confluence of anthropology, policy analysis and rural economics, this volume also comes with an extensive Bibliography to lead researchers and every interested reader towards a rich body of work. It will be useful for students and scholars of sociology, economics, anthropology, ecology and environmental studies, development studies, political science, law and international affairs.

Listen to a lecture on Gandhi by our President, Lord Bhikhu Parekh

Creative Connections: Gandhi in London

© Mahatma Gandhi by Elliott & Fry 1931 NPG x82218

Mahatma Gandhi
by Elliott & Fry 1931
© NPG x82218

Listen to the lecture given by Lord Bhikhu Parekh at the National Portrait Gallery on Thursday 20th June 2013

Lord Bhikhu Parekh, President of the Gandhi Foundation, focuses on Gandhi’s time spent in London, both as a student and again in 1931, as a delegate of the Round Table conference at Kingsley Hall.

To listen to the lecture click below:


A Publishing House for Adivasi Literature

adivaaniWhy don’t we have an Adivasi voice?”, “Why don’t we have a ‘for and by’ Adivasi publishing house?”, “Where is the authentic Adivasi narrative?” These questions had haunted Ruby Hembrom when she enrolled for a publishing course in Kolkata last year. “While going through a list of publishers and authors, I could not find any Adivasi. While Adivasis have often been written about by others, they have very rarely been authors themselves,” says 35-year-old Hembrom, an Adivasi herself.

So, in July, 2012, after she completed her course, Hembrom, along with two friends — Joy Tudu, 36, an Adivasi social activist in Pakur, Jharkhand, and Luis A Gómes, 46, a Mexican publisher in Kolkata — established Adivaani, a trust that publishes books written by Adivasis. Hembrom looks after the editorial side, Tudu is in charge of marketing and Gómes handles the designing and printing.

Article & photograph courtesy of The Indian Express. Read the full article here

Whose Country is it Anyway? written by Gladson Dungdung is published by Adivaani. See a review of this book by Dr Felix Padel here

Civilizational Gandhi – a new paper by Rajni Bakshi

civilizational gandhiGateway House’s Rajni Bakshi analyses the Mahatma’s civilizational vision and explains how it can guide us through contemporary economic and identity-related conflicts.

From the central hall of the Indian Parliament in New Delhi to a statue at Union Square Park in New York, and across far flung corners of the world, M.K. Gandhi is loved and celebrated as an apostle of non-violence. Yet it is Gandhi’s little-known work on what it means to be truly civilized that might be far more crucial to the future of our species.

The multiple global crises – social inequity, financial turmoil and ecological imbalance – have made it imperative to revisit and pay close attention to Gandhi’s radical but more sustainable civilizational vision. Within India, both the economy and polity are in a state of distress. More than six decades after independence, India remains at the bottom of the United Nations’ Human Development Index. Twenty years of economic liberalisation have expanded the size of India’s middle class, but not raised the standard of living for the overwhelming majority of Indians. Globally, people are slowly acknowledging that the global financial system is fundamentally flawed and not just going through a cyclical low. We are also more sceptical now about the ability of the prevailing market culture to ensure even basic well-being for the seven billion people who inhabit the earth. At the same time, the human economy and nature’s eco-systems appear to be critically out of sync. Despite an increasing urgency for trans-national cooperation, there are persistent fears about a clash of civilizations – primarily between the West and the Islamic world, but also within multi-ethnic societies in large parts of the contemporary world.

This paper explores how the Mahatma’s civilizational vision can serve as a new lens to understand contemporary global crises – identity-based conflicts, the failed promise of universal prosperity and the threat of ecological collapse. What we have here are not ready solutions but a framework which might help us to forge solutions.

Download the full paper free of charge by signing up here: http://mad.ly/signups/71601/join

Originally published by Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations: http://www.gatewayhouse.in/

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

Obituary – Jason Imam 1975 – 2013

It is with great regret that we have heard the sad news that Jason Imam, son of Bulu Imam, the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award winner 2011, has passed away. He was an exceptional person and an exceptional artist and he will be very sadly missed.

Jason with a piece of his art in his mud house

Jason with a piece of his art in his mud house

The art which Jason specialized in was the art of sgraffito cutting through layers of light and dark mud to create images in the same way ancient Greek pottery (i.e. Balck on Red/ Red on Black) used to be made before firing. This is an ancient form of house decoration by the tribals in the forest villages of central India, peculiar to the Jharkhand region where Jason lived. It is used to decorate the rooms of houses where marriages take place with black and white forms, and from which it derives its name ‘Khovar’ which means ‘Marriage room’ (Kho=cave, and Var= Bridegroom). A similar form of art called Sohrai is practiced during the harvest festival and painted with earth colours. In Jason’s art varied earth colours are used in the traditional black and white comb-cutting. This art is connected with the pre-historic Meso-chalcolithic rockart of the region. This entire area of North Jharkhand has been very badly threatened by opencast coal mining in the North Karanpura valley of the Damodar river, displacing hundreds of tribal villages. Since 1993 a campaign through the art spearheaded by the Tribal Women Artists Cooperative under the aegis of INTACH has been holding exhibitions around the world to highlight the violation of human rights and destruction of the environment and also to draw toattention to the plight of rockart and cultural heritage in the region. Over fifty exhibitions have been held in important art venues around the world. With the assistance of INTACH one of the rockart sites named Isco in the valley has received consideration recently by UNESCO as a potential world heritage site, and a dozen other sites have been taken note of by ICOMOS, Paris, as threatened world heritage site. Jason’s art has helped in highlighting the art, and brought a new dimension to the tribal paintings in the contemporary scene. Much was expected of his work which has been widely exhibited in Australia, Europe, Canada and North America, India and the UK. He worked extensively on wood and metal also, and spent a month at the Australian Museum in Sydney where his work was widely appreciated.

Peacock, the symbol of India by Jason Imam ©

Peacock, the symbol of India by Jason Imam ©

In 2003 he built a mud house by himself with the help of the tribal women artists and designed and decorated it in a unique manner and lived in it until his untimely death recently on 11th February, 2013. This house has long been the attention of architects of sustainable architecture and had been visited by teams from IIT Roorkee BIT Mesra, and NIFT Mumbai. It is a unique expression of the traditional village house and western lifestyle. It is completely built in mud and some of the furniture is in earth work. The decorations in the house are extremely eclectic and expressions of his personality. He had guided several eminent art researchers and film-makers in the field. He had been long associated with artists and curators, and the late Keekoo Gandhi and Manjit Bawa, and Rajeev Sethi were admirers of his work. He maintained a close association with the villages and the artists and when he was very ill visited many of them at risk to his own health which we now understand were journeys of farewell. His love for dogs and children was legendary and in the Christmas before he died he spent his last savings on celebrating with children and loved ones. His loss will be felt throughout the tribal community of Jharkhand of which he was one of the most profound artistic voices. His preserved artworks and vast collections of village objects, and the mud house he built will be testaments of beauty and tribute to his genius. My wife Elizabeth, his mother, is an Oraon tribal and he inherited her tribal genes which gave him his deep insight in the ordinary things of life.

Jason's inner house with Khovar comib cutting decorations

Jason’s inner house with Khovar comib cutting decorations

 He had been sick for nearly half a year. He was so special that it is unnecessary to try to even describe his illness or how he reacted to it. He kept his humour and generosity to the very last moment. He was not married and had no children. Every son is precious to his parents. Ours is no exception. Jason was a creative phenomenon in his own right and earned the respect of both his peers and seniors in important art venues around the world. He placed our tribal art of Jharkhand in a new dimension and much more was expected but time cut his work short. The abilities of his mind and hand will perhaps never be reborn again. Whatever of his vast output remains will be carefully preserved and displayed along with the outstanding house he built from mud with his own hands as a living symbol of himself. He was passionately devoted to the LITTLE THINGS which pass unnoticed and he immortalized these in small arrangements. His art was a celebration of the tiny fragments that make up our whole universe in its diversity. Collections of seeds, stones, wood, insects, even the preservation of cobwebs and stray assortments remind us of an amazing worship of the LITTLE THINGS. A complete disregard for materialism and what money buys was intrinsic to his mindset. As a father I feel that I have lost a greater part of myself than I ever knew, and my strength is in his mother who produced such genius. I can go on and on but I think I have expressed myself enough to share both my gratitude for your thoughts and the pain of my feelings in this hour of deepest grief. His brothers Justin (elder), Julian (younger), Gustav (youngest) and his three sisters Juliet, Cherry and June are left to mourn him with his mother Elizabeth, Philomina and myself. We are fully aware of our own iconic statement as a family devoted to tribal expressions of art and which in this passing phase is a moment of history moving before us which will be recorded and later interpreted but must never lose the authenticity of the ORDINARY, of what I have called the LITTLE, the greatest truths of the simple which create the deepest as well as loftiest expressions of Art and Genius in this ephemeral world and of which Jason was an out-flowing of the eternal spirit. He rests in peace in each of the hearts who knew him and loved him and his work. He left us during the spring festival of the mother goddess Saraswati devoted to learning when the moon is in its resplendent pregnant stage of womanhood immortalized in our Mesolithic rockart as Kokkethai, as well as in his own paintings inspired by a lifetime’s experience of the most unusual kind in the forests and villages studying and documenting the prehistory of the Chotanagpur plateau. The day of his leaving us , 11th February 2013, at the closing of the Maha-Kumbh Mela, was the fulfillment of a destiny for one born on the Deepavali festival of 3rd November 1975. He was only thirty-eight years old when this cycle was completed. OM .TAD EKAM.

Bulu Imam is Jason’s father. He is also a cultural activist and joint recipient of The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award 2011.

To view a portfolio of Jason’s work please click: Jason Imam’s portfolio

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