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Life Size Hologram of Mahatma Gandhi Discusses Education for Humanity at the Ahinsa Lecture in Paris

The UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP), in cooperation with the Permanent Delegation of India, hosted the fourth Ahinsa Lecture, featuring a dialogue between panellists and a life-size hologram of Mahatma Gandhi, on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for education. It was opened by the Ambassador of India to France and Permanent Representative of India to UNESCO, His Excellency, Mr. Vinay Mohan Kwatra and the Assistant Director-General Priority Africa and External Relations, UNESCO, Mr. Firmin Edouard Matoko.

UNESCO MGIEP organized its fourth Ahinsa lecture to celebrate 150 years of Gandhi

Paris, 1 October:

The UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP), in cooperation with the Permanent Delegation of India, hosted the fourth Ahinsa Lecture, featuring a dialogue between panellists and a life-size hologram of Mahatma Gandhi, on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for education. It was opened by the Ambassador of India to France and Permanent Representative of India to UNESCO, His Excellency, Mr. Vinay Mohan Kwatra and the Assistant Director-General Priority Africa and External Relations, UNESCO, Mr Firmin Edouard Matoko.

The Ahinsa dialogue, held on October 1 at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, commemorates the International Day of Non-Violence on October 2 which marks Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary.

Gandhi’s hologram exchanged views with Gregoire Borst, Professor of Developmental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience of Education, CNRS and Vera El Khoury Lacoeuilhe, Member of Advisory board of UNESCO MGIEP’s TECH 2019. Anantha Duraiappah, Director, UNESCO MGIEP, moderated the discussion about the importance of Gandhi’s philosophy of education for human flourishing. The event attracted about 1000 people, including youth, educators, academics, policy-makers, and delegates from several member states of UNESCO.

The Indian Ambassador to France, H.E. Mr. Vinay Mohan Kwatra, opened the discussion highlighting the importance of promoting Gandhian values of education to build a culture of peace in the world. His remarks set the tone for a highly engaging dialogue between the hologram of Mahatma Gandhi, Gregoire Borst, Vera El Khoury Lacoeuilhe and  Anantha Duraiappah.

The discussion started with the panel presenting their perspectives on the meaning of education in the world today. It focused on raising  awareness on the future of education and SDG 4 (to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all).

The holographic avatar of Mahatma Gandhi was created using photo-mapped images from 1930-1940 and advanced contouring software and 3D printing to create a life size wire-frame of the Mahatma. Digital sculpting tools were used to add colour and texture to produce a real life image of  Gandhi. The image was then animated and the voice lip synced to produce a colour hologram with advanced reprographic techniques. The process was curated by Birad Rajaram Yajnik along with the technical team of Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museums and was sponsored by Gandhi Smriti.

While Gandhi was amongst the most photographed people of his time and the world has access to his photographs, filmed interviews and radio addresses, it is less than 5 per cent of the compiled 98 volumes of Mahatma Gandhi’s written work. A hologram can bridge this gap and the written word of the Mahatma can be experienced in a  life-like scenario.

Through Holography, a standing hologram of Mahatma Gandhi will speak for a total of 15 minutes with 2 to 3 minutes to set the tone for the panel discussion. (The talk was extracted with due reference of his writings on Satyagraha, Ahinsa, Kindness, critical inquiry and education).

Gandhi’s hologram will then sit with the panellists, to take part in the discussion, during which he will answer questions with 2 to 3 minute interventions. The process was curated by the technical team of Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museums.

Commenting on the Ahinsa series, Anantha Duraiappah says, “For a better future, we must not just focus on an education that only builds human capital but also human flourishing by providing the next generation a cognitive and social emotional experience of the Gandhian values of Ahinsa (non-violence) and Satya (truth). In this way, we can equip our youth to wage peace and sustainability,” He further added, “An education system that builds social and emotional competencies is vital for fostering pro-social behaviour. Unless our present education systems embrace building emotional intelligence, we might end up in a world of highly literate people who are lacking in empathy and only concerned with their own wellbeing. This is not sustainable and will not build peaceful and sustainable societies.”

One of the quotes from the hologram of Mahatma Gandhi emphasizes, “The essence of all education is kindness—kindness to all, friends, foes, men and beasts. The chief objective of education is the building of character. Imparting knowledge should aim at character building. Knowledge is the means and character building is the end”.

Asserting that human beings are intrinsically altruistic, Prof. Borst presented a study that showed at just 6-months, babies already prefer puppets that display altruistic behaviors over puppets that display anti-social behaviors.  According to Prof. Borst our brain is wired for prosocial behaviors but because our brain changes due to the social environment it is exposed to, it is imperative to foster a culture of peace in each and every individual.

Speaking on the occasion, Vera El Khoury Lacoeuilhe, Member of Advisory board of UNESCO MGIEP’s TECH 2019 commented, “In reality, no one knows with precision and certainty, what kind of education and skills will a baby born today need in 30 years. The exponential change we are going though is unprecedented and will never stop. The overwhelming majority of our schools are still organized like factories and our education systems are obsolete.

Education policy makers formed by the industrial school system, are going to make decisions regarding quality education for the future, a future they know little or nothing about. This is a huge challenge for humanity.” She further added, “Clearly, our best chance is to invest in the human being, but with the understanding that even the human being will be constantly changing. I believe that two of the main features that will be key for life in the coming decades are Empathy and Resilience.”

In its fourth edition this year, the Ahinsa Lectures began in 2016 and have featured leading intellectuals and policy makers each year discussing transformative ideas that can create more peaceful communities.

Organized by the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace (MGIEP), a Category 1 research institute established by UNESCO and funded by the Government of India, the dialogue was part of the Ahinsa Lecture series which was launched in 2016 by MGIEP under its Distinguished Lecture Series program. MGIEP works towards transforming education systems to create peaceful and sustainable societies.

About the Ahinsa Lecture Series

Ahinsa is derived from Sanskrit word hims meaning injury and its opposite (a-hiṃsā meaning without any injury) refers to non-violence. This ethical philosophy was popularised by Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest champion of nonviolence in the world. The Ahinsa Lecture brings forth public speakers of the highest calibre active in the field of peace and non-violence to the forum for the benefit of peace builders, policy makers, youth, UNESCO Member states, and international community. The Ahinsa Lecture is organized to mark the International Day of Non-Violence celebrated on 2 October to mark the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Ahinsa Lecture was introduced in the year 2016 and is a part of the Distinguished Lecture Series, which is expected to inspire a larger international dialogue on a more peaceful and sustainable world, built through better education, inclusive spaces, and global citizenship. Previous lecturers include: Ms. Tawakkol Karman (Nobel Laureate 2011); Dr. Scilla Elworthy; Prof. Sugata Mitra; Prof. Martha Nussbaum; Madame Irina Bokova; Prof. KP Mohanan, Sadhguru  and Sir Partha Dasgupta.

For further details on the Distinguished / Ahinsa Lectures Series or to view past lectures / talks, visit: http://mgiep.unesco.org/distinguished-lecture-series

About UNESCO MGIEP

The UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) is UNESCO’s category 1 Research Institute that focuses on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.7 towards education for building peaceful and sustainable societies across the world. In line with its vision of ‘Transforming Education for Humanity’, the institute’s programmes are designed to mainstream Social and Emotional Learning in education systems, innovate digital pedagogies and to put youth as global citizens at the centre of the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development. For more information, please visit the website.

The webcast for the fourth Ahinsa lecture can be seen here

For more information, please contact g.nair@unesco.org