Art, experience, connections–Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa explores new creativity frontiers

Goa comes even more alive this month with this award-winning multi-disciplinary festival. Enjoy our series of photo showcases and curator insights!

Art, experience, connections–Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa explores new creativity frontiers

Friday December 22, 2023,

5 min Read

Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 735 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

Regarded as India's largest multidisciplinary arts event, the Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF) kicks off its eighth edition in Goa this month. See our coverage of earlier editions here, along with photo essays and curator insights.

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This time, SAF is being held across 12 venues in Panjim, transforming the Mandovi riverfront into a hub of cultural activity for nine days. The festival spans visual arts, crafts, film screenings, theatre, exhibitions, food workshops, dance, and live music.

Highlights include art exhibitions at Excise Building, PWD Complex and Old GMC Complex; live music and dance performances at The Art Park and Nagalli Hills Ground; installations on the Promenade; and the evening river cruise with live music from Santa Monica Jetty. The programming is deliberately designed to promote creative collisions between multiple art streams.

“This festival is not just about coming to see things, but to touch, eat, smell, and feel,” Sunil Kant Munjal, Chairman of Hero Enterprise and Founder Patron, Serendipity Arts Foundation, tells YourStory.

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“Inclusion and experience support the key message – to think,” he adds. The festival also has a focus on sustainability, through its displays, stalls, natural products, local partnerships, and upcycled exhibits.

Art provides several choices for audiences to think and come up with their solutions to problems, Munjal explains. This includes responsible living, connectivity, and engagement.

Dance curator Mayuri Upadhya has picked performances and messages that reflect her diverse experience across art, culture, design, and fashion. She explains: “Ideas come to you, they find you. How can you say no?”

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Mayuri Upadhya

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“Artists and audiences need to be aware of how communication can happen at all levels. This calls for experimentation and learning from failure,” she affirms.

There will always be opportunities and challenges for artists. “We need to go beyond trends and projections. All dance forms should thrive, and art and society should find a space together,” Upadhya suggests.

Music plays an important global and local role in promoting environmental awareness, according to SAF music curator Ricky Kej, a three-time Grammy Award winner. “Connecting to nature comes naturally to children, he explains.

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Unfortunately, the formal education system can hinder children’s diverse creativity and deep empathy for nature, he cautions. “Children’s songs that emphasise love for the environment can reinforce their connection to nature throughout their lives,” Kej emphasises.

He audits and controls his carbon footprint, and promotes environmentally-aware lifestyles. Kej advocates measures beyond carbon footprint mitigation, and also invests in startups that focus on climate issues.

The music performances at SAF 2023 include Rani Khanam (Lucknow ghazals, sher-o-shayari), Electric Ensemble (fusion of electric and classical instruments), a musical tribute to RD Burman, Goa Jazz Academy (emerging musicians), Groovy Train (soul, funk), and My Earth Songs (with Grammy-winner Lonnie Park).

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Crafts curator Sandeep Sangaru has showcased his work connecting bamboo crafts, architecture and design communities across India. “There a huge potential for bamboo in the construction industry, and the SAF exhibition shows the audience what is possible,” he explains.

“State governments can do more to promote bamboo as a farming product, not just a forest resource,” Sangaru advises. Bamboo as a material is sustainable and versatile, and grows fast.

“India has a strong tradition of crafts in the bamboo sector, but the dots need to be connected across boundaries,” he adds. He advocates more storytelling about bamboo products and communities, and collaboration across the ecosystem.

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SAF caters to an inter-generational and cross-disciplinary audience, explains art curator Veerangana Solanki. Her curated works highlight synesthesia, with multi-sensory impacts.

The featured exhibits span and combine objects across physical and digital media. “Technology like AI should be used cleverly but for human advancement, not manipulation or weaponisation,” she cautions.

“Art plays an important role in making people pause and think more about the challenges facing humanity, from conflict to climate,” Solanki adds. In that regard, some elements of art remain constant while others change.

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Culinary arts curator Thomas Zacharias brings to SAF a strong focus on indigenous food ingredients, cultural storytelling about food, cooking workshops, and food publications.  He even promotes connections between festival visitors via conversations about food in a speed-dating format.

Leveraging his experience and credibility in the industry as a chef-entrepreneur-curator, he now connects grassroots communities in cuisine and sustainability. “I am just a vehicle, facilitator, and enabler. I connect rural and urban communities, tribes and mainstream audiences,” Zacharias explains.

Theatre curator Quasar Thakore Padamsee has put together a series of performances that transcend traditional expectations of space, medium and interaction. “In the post-pandemic era, it is heartening to see young writers wanting to write their own stories,” he explains.

Quasar Thakore Padamsee

Quasar Thakore Padamsee

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“Multilingualism in plays and the rise of formats tuned to the digital age reflect the new reality today,” he adds. Quasar has also arranged for theatre performers and directors to interact with audiences immediately after the shows to keep the conversation going.

As for trends in the Indian arts and culture movement, he points to the rise of small and large spaces for performances. “This includes small theatres and local events as well as large venues and festivals,” Quasar observes.

“Theatre will have to keep discovering its strengths and reinventing itself. Even in the face of challenges to free speech, theatre will always find a way to say what it needs to say,” Quasar signs off.

Now what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and harness your creative side for a better world?

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(All photographs were taken by Madanmohan Rao on location at the festival.)

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