By Chirag Sharma
With an underlying thematic of “Let there be light”, the festival focused on a broad spectrum of social or environmental issues through the medium of installation art.
A strong visual element predominated, as several installations flit from inspirational thought to overt substantiation. Light heartedness was infused amidst serious food-for-thought via the “wishing well” and the ubiquitous beacon of hope that keeps life alive – the kacharapeti (dustbin) that urges you to drop your fears, sadness and doubts and forget them forever!
Amidst a burgeoning street bazaar that epitomised signature arts and crafts from various states and regions of India, we were regaled by a bevy of independent talents, Pavement Gallery artists, spot painters doing portraits, potters helping common folk mould wet mud on their wheels, the quintessential “hand-cart” and “cutting chai” that are metaphorical of the metro buzz and much much more...
A series of programmes especially tailored for children from comic strip production to the pottery wheel were a definite highlight. It was very heartening to see so many young children; and I was especially touched when I witnessed an 8 year old totally absorbed into a very informative conversation with his mother on the cultural metamorphosis in rural vs. urban scenarios of late.
With a selective pick of literary and heritage nuggets via performances, film screenings, book readings, guided walks, discussions and workshops, “food” was a new addition this year. Myriad forms, colours, textures, aromas, tastes and flavours of food were celebrated through demonstrations and workshops by Mumbai's celebrity chefs and landmark restaurants.
Another thoroughly enjoyable experience was the Heritage Bus Tour, where the Open Bus took us for a breezy and concise tour of South Mumbai’s Heritage to witness landmarks like the Gateway of India, Victoria Terminus, Asiatic Society and other iconic buildings. And equally interesting if not more, was the Public Dining History Walk that enriched us about the emergence of Irani cafes in the city.
Every day the Rampart Row came alive with colourful performances by folk dancers and musicians from different parts of the country. Some of the country’s legendary and path-breaking artists gave stellar performances at the iconic Cross Maidan, which formed an extended venue to the festival this year.
For the initiators, every year since 1999, Mumbai hosts the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in its heritage precincts for duration of 8-9 days, where theatre, music, film, dance and visual arts amalgamate in a large cauldron of cultural mixes bringing to life the heritage precincts. The festival provides a superlative opportunity for the young and old alike, to be initiated into the ethos of their city and the rich cultural fabric that is India.