Thanima- a search for AUTHENTICITY

The THANIMA conference was initiated mainly to address the homogenization of our aesthetic sensibilities. The Western aesthetic is sweeping the whole world making the very idea of culture redundant. Cultural diversity would soon be eliminated totally if we don’t explore deeply various aspects of the formation of aesthetic sensibility in humans. We need to come together to explore deeply various aspects of aesthetic formation, its roots, its connection with the context, formative process, connection with cognition, connection with culture and also how it gets awakened, distorted and destroyed.

The intention of the conference was very clear not only in terms of the content but also the process. We were not expecting any expert pontification on the issues raised but to learn to hold our suggestions, explorations lightly, with humility, to invite more and people into a journey of enquiry…..

What is unique about the content is that aesthetic sense has never been considered worthy of addressing the de colonization issue. Almost all the conferences on decolonization are about how to decolonize the knowledge. Aesthetics is also very intangible ‘subject’. So purposely we were journeying into an unknown and intangible realm…

But over the years slowly even other issues related to homogenization are also being added and the third one will attempt to go much deeper to delve into the spiritual alienation of modern man and his war against life and nature.

The first conference of Thanima was conducted at Department of Architecture, NIT Calicut, on 30 and 31 January 2015, with the theme ‘Reinventing Design Pedagogy & Contextual Aesthetics’, aimed at exploring various aspects of aesthetics — formation, conditioning, politics, connection with culture and ways of teaching design {pedagogy}.

The conference addressed the need to overcome stultifying cultural homogenization and to recapture the lost aesthetics more rooted in our milieu along with the importance to impart education without killing the creative and inventive spirit in children and orient them in culturally authentic ways.

The conference was attended by 300 delegates from all over India and over 40 selected papers on various themes were presented during the two days of intellectual discourse. Ar. Nimish Patel of Abikram architects, Ahmedabad, Smt.Laila Tyabji of Dastkar, New Delhi and Guru Ravindra Sharma of Kala Ashram delivered the keynote addresses. (, ,

The second conference was held in Jan 2017 again at NIT, Calicut, supported by IIA, Calicut Center and Existential Knowledge foundation- Pune. The conference was called ‘Reimagining Aesthetic Unfolding — From Conditioning to Awakening’ The 2nd International Conference on Design Pedagogy and Contextual Aesthetics (ICDPCA) . See the link for details

The third conference was held on March 6 7 8th 2020 again at NIT, Calicut, supported by IIA, Calicut Center and Existential Knowledge foundation- Pune.

Thanima conference generated a deep interest among the participants to take this search forward. There is a need for some of us to come together to deepen our own understanding of what are we trying to do in the name of Thanima. What does it mean to be authentic and original? Even though ‘creation’ of knowledge is also an important part of being authentic we are, FOR THE TIME BEING restricting ourselves to the formation of aesthetic sense. what needs to be done is to rethink how the foundation is conducted so that we don’t condition the aesthetic sensibilities but approach it differently so that it is awakened.

The design and architectural education are unique in many ways. They are experiential to a large extent, they deal with the real world, they deal with the ‘present’, they encourage ‘creativity’ and more than all this they integrate somewhat seamlessly art, science, technology, sociology, history, psychology, culture and this would also allow one to enter philosophy…..

The second uniqueness is the foundation year that is offered which is designed to de-school the learner as the regular education that one has gone through doesn’t enable them to study design and architecture. most of the habits and attitudes acquired in the teacher depended system become a hindrance to the learner-led system that these disciplines demand.

So the foundation is the most crucial year this needs to be the focal point of re-imagination, explorations, and re-thinking….

Rethinking Foundation

Foundation studies in Design and architecture forms the basis for the basic attitude/ aptitude formation. Both design and architecture encompass three types of streams, science, art and society. This means they need to be sociologists, scientists, and artists. Three aspects that needs to be addressed is to do with awakening sense of process, the formation of aesthetic sense and learning to understand culture and society

The design process, when taught as a method, loses the exploratory element. On top of this 12 years of schooling have already killed the learning ability. Both design and architecture studies demand a fundamental shift needed from the way the students ‘learn’ in schools. What is fundamentally different in architecture and design education from other streams- civil, mechanical etc is that the students are called upon to learn the real world, to be creative, to take responsibility for their own learning and creation of knowledge. Naturally one needs to undo the impact of years schooled knowledge.
Systematic addressing of this is required to make this shift possible.

AESTHETIC SENSE FORMATION (basic design) or awakening the aesthetic awareness
Basic design or elements of design is one of the courses that pave the formation for the development of aesthetic sensibility apart from the history of architecture etc. It is a known fact that almost all the architectural institutions teach the same old basic design which naturally leads to homogenization. It is important to choose nature itself as the source for learning because nature holds the first principles of beauty.

The present education does not do anything for the development of the sociologist in us, makes us sensitive to the environmental degradation that we kind of promote nor makes us understand the politics of knowledge. It is important to explore the role of culture in one’s own formation and the role of the designer in contributing to the formation of culture. It is also necessary to sensitize students to the deeper aspects of social context, identity, cognition, rooted-ness, cultural formation, colonization, westernization, imitative knowledge vs. created knowledge, etc.

So the invitation is to explore these aspects that could even help in reimagining the whole schooling system……

Victim of modern education, cognitively rewired to understand WORD instead of WORLD. Exploring KNOWLEDGE making process instead of analyzing 2nd hnd information