Expression and empowerment at Kochi-Muziris Biennale: India’s longest art festival enters its final week

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale runs for a marathon three months, making it the longest duration for an international art festival in India. Here are some samples of the spectacular and inspiring art works on display at the fourth edition of the festival.

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The fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, an art exhibition and festival that is the largest of its kind in South Asia, was launched on 12 December, 2018 and will wrap up next Friday on 29 March. It blends traditional and contemporary art, reflecting the modern metropolis of Kochi and its mythical past, Muziris.

Creative works by 95 artists are exhibited in 10 locations around the heritage Fort Kochi district; there are also nine other satellite venues, as well as a Student Biennale. The whole festival is so expansive that you need a map to navigate across all the venues; the ‘short guide’ to the festival itself is a whopping 540-page handbook.

The festival promotes an inclusive, egalitarian and democratic outlook, with participation from around the world, particularly other emerging economies that are also struggling to balance their heritage and traditions with the pressures of globalisation and consumerisation. This week, the art festival coincided with Holi, which added another layer of colour to the artistic celebrations.

The earlier three editions of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale have ensured that Kochi now occupies a prominent position in the global art calendar, according to Bose Krishnamachari, President, Kochi Biennale Foundation. The foundation also organised fundraising campaigns for Kerala’s Distress Relief Fund in the wake of the recent floods.

The theme of the festival this year is ‘Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life,’ bringing back warmth and beauty into a fragmented and conflicted world. It is possible to have pleasure and pedagogy “sit together and share a drink,” and have participants “celebrate a dream together,” according to festival curator Anita Dube.

In addition to breath-taking installations and interactive audio-visual exhibits, the Biennale features panels, music performances, children’s workshops, and even community cooking. The three-month art extravaganza is wrapping up next week, and the distributed venues immerse festival-goers in the charms of the city as they navigate between some of the venues via ferry.

In our first photo-essay on the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, we present some of the outstanding art works, with artist insights coming up in future editions. See also my coverage of the Bangkok Biennale here.

Featured artists in this photo-essay include Cyrus Kabiru, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, William Kentridge, EB Itso, Anju Dodiya, Lubna Chowdhary, Heri Dono, Prabhakar Pachpute, Manisha Gera Baswani, Probir Gupta, Insha Manzoor, Simang Brahma, and Aakash Dubey.

Now, what have you done today to appreciate the growing importance of art and design in our world, and open your mind to new possibilities?

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