SalamatRaho presents to you the story of a foreign lady who visited India, made this country her own and substantially contributed to Indian Heritage.
This is what happened to one foreigner – Kimberley Moyle- who visited India and could never leave it, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
“India has this peculiarity – it makes foreigners love it or hate it, but it’s impossible to keep it neutral” –Robbie Robertson
India is a country where guests are treated like Gods- Atithi Devo Bhavo! This left such a deep impact on Kimberley that she not only bonded with the people but with the soil too.
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Kimberly Moyle, an Australian by birth, who made India her home, has imbibed India into her system. She has taken up reviving vernacular architecture and protecting our Indian heritage.
A woman with high spirits, enthusiasm and positive energy, working diligently with the youth of India, to increase awareness about natural construction techniques and tourism.
Why did an Australian citizen decide to become part of the conservation and preservation process of Indian heritage and culture?
Kimberly’s childhood was spent in a picturesque wine growing region, the Yarra Valley, east of Melbourne, Australia. Her family moved houses often and they always lived on at least a few acres surrounded by nature in a character home, heritage property or bluestone cottage, surrounded by beauty in nature and in her home.
As a young teenager, she always loved being outdoors and being active, playing with her dogs or spending time near a river. At an early age, she became increasingly convinced that she was not interested in living a conventional life. The idea of a 9-5 job with just two days off a week and 4 weeks off per year (the norm in Australia) did not sit well with her. She needed more freedom than that.
Her parents had always encouraged her to follow her passion and to do what she loved, instilling the confidence in her that anything was possible. By the age of 26, she was actually settled in her life in Australia, having her own business (horticulture related) and a beautiful home in the countryside. Yet she knew she wanted to explore beyond Australia’s borders.
So, at 26, she set off on a 1 year journey around the world. Her intention during that one year was to visit as many unique natural landscapes as possible. To visit countries where traditional culture was still strong. Where she would be able to experience a life different to that of her own in a modern capitalist society.
Exploring The World
Her first destination was Borneo before moving on to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Nepal, India, Madagascar, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Egypt, Brazil, Ecuador, The Galapagos Islands, Fiji & California (for the ancient Redwoods) and finally back to Australia.
In Vietnam, she joined a cycling tour, which she loved so much that it became her favourite mode of local transport. Cycling connects you with the roots of that region as you get an opportunity to wander into small lanes and hamlets. One can connect with the local people and experience their lives up close.
She had already booked a round the world ticket before she left Australia so she flew between continents but on land she was always on two wheels.
One year around the world had inspired her to learn new languages everywhere she went, to appreciate the unique ways in which human beings express themselves through their language and to gain an insight into their culture.
One thing that really stood out, crossing many continents, was Asia’s immense cultural diversity, and within Asia nowhere is as diverse as India.
With her cycling touring experience, she managed to get a job working as a mountain bike tour leader in China & Mongolia. This time allowed her to explore Asia in even greater depth.
After two years she knew she wanted to continue living in Asia but wanted to do something a little more meaningful, to give something back to society by starting a social venture.
Back To Australia
She returned to Australia to study Development studies. She wanted to understand the world of Not for profits, NGOs, AID and development. She enrolled at the Australian National University and completed a double Bachelor degree in Asia Pacific Studies & Development Studies. She majored in Hindi and South Asian studies and her studies critically viewed development through an anthropological and sociological lens. She was inspired to think beyond development to alternatives to development. She started learning about alternative agriculture, alternative education & natural building. At heart Kimberley had developed a deep connection with India.
First Affiliation With India
During those 4 years in her Australian University, as soon as there was a semester break, she would jet off to India for intensive Hindi studies at a fabulous private language school in South Delhi, Zabaan. She would learn more in 6 weeks of intensive classes with them than she would in an entire year in Australia. They helped her to see India and her culture through a new language and a new cultural lens. As her understanding grew so did her connection to the country.
Learning Hindi is one of the most rewarding things a foreigner can do. People are always thrilled (and completely surprised) to hear you speak in their language. It instantly opens them up to you and friendships become easy. It also allows you to engage with people from all walks of life. Many of whom have never been able to speak with a foreigner.
After her studies, she received a scholarship from the Australian government to undertake studies and an internship in Asia. She spent a semester studying in Singapore at the National University (they didn’t have an MOU with an Indian University) and then she came to India and completed two internships – one in Udaipur Rajasthan for 5 months and the next 4 months in Spiti Valley.
This was the turning point in her life – Spiti.
In Spiti, she met her partner Karan. Every year she visits Spiti, helping him with his exceptional hotel and social business ‘Strictly Spiti’, to promote local organic, wild and indigenous crops and handicrafts. Meanwhile, she was searching for the right kind of opportunity where she could contribute with her unique skill set.
One thing that had dawned on her through all of her travels, was how beautifully culture is expressed through vernacular architecture. That too using locally available materials in a way that is adapted to the local bioclimatic context.
These dwellings are inherently sustainable and yet people are being convinced that these homes are ‘backwards’ and the way to be modern is to build a concrete home just like those in the cities where people are ‘modern and successful’.
Not only are we losing the beauty of vernacular architecture in our landscapes (this is a global phenomenon in less industrialised countries, not unique to India), along with it we are losing generations of inherited knowledge passed down through generations.
This is where the inspiration for Indi Architecture was born
She wanted to pay tribute to the beauty and intelligence of vernacular architectural traditions and the artisans who create it. She is a facilitator. She created a space where people can come and learn vernacular traditions directly from the artisans. In doing so she strives to give the artisans the honour and respect they deserve for their highly specialised skills and as the carriers of such precious cultural heritage.
Our past helps strengthen our future. Our heritage makes us unique. We all are a reflection of the heritage we grew up in and inside all of us lie the labour of people before us. We’re all immortal as long as our story is told. Kimberley decided to unearth and protect the unique stories and knowledge of India’s highly skilled master artisans still creating culturally relevant and bio-climatically sensitive architecture as their families have done for generations.
She believes that you don’t stumble upon your heritage. It’s there, just waiting to be explored and shared.
She also hopes to raise awareness more broadly in society as to why we should all care about the precipice on which we stand poised, where if not valued now this cultural legacy of how to live more in harmony with the earth, using locally available materials in a myriad of ways, may all be lost in this generation. Now is the time to act and ensure this knowledge is passed on to future generations.
Presently, she has been working with lime artisans in Rajasthan, a Mohrakashi fresco artisan from Punjab and mud work & wood carving artisans in Kutch. She is busy researching other vernacular traditions and seeking out more artisans across the country. She yearns to create something unique and leave her legacy behind on this Indian soil.
“Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness” – Frank Gehry.
During her time in India, Kimberley has cycled from Gorakhpur to Jaipur, Manali to Srinagar via Leh, Mumbai to Bangalore via the Konkan Coast & Kerala, Hyderabad to Chennai & numerous times from Chandigarh to Spiti.
She has spent more time enjoying village hospitality than the bright lights of the city and is most at home when exploring a new region.
She is also trying to raise awareness internationally about Indian vernacular architectural traditions through social media and getting an incredible response.
Her workshops are being well received and interest is growing with each one.
Kimberly says,” The artisans enjoy teaching and sharing their craft.
I love every moment of this journey and feel blessed to work with such interesting people from very diverse backgrounds. “
Up next for Kimberley is a Mohrakashi Lime Fresco workshop showcasing Master Artisan Gurpreet Singh Mankoo to be held at the scenic Nandpur Fort in Kangra Himachal Pradesh. In this 5 day workshop Gurpreet ji will be teaching the three distinct lime plasters used as the base for frescos, as well as how to create designs in the Mohrakashi tradition, how to mix the mineral stone pigments for use as paints and the special technique of application over the lime plaster. This is a unique opportunity for interested people to join.
Unsung heroes, change makers – what would you call people who are silently working to improve the lives of many or helping to preserve our Indian heritage and culture.
Kimberley, Australian by birth, yet more Indian than most.
Kudos to You.!!
To learn more about her work visit indiarchitecture.com
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