The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival: A metaphor for Mumbai

Tomorrow is the last day of Mumbai’s much-loved and much awaited annual Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF). The Festival is organised by the Kala Ghoda Association, a not-for-profit organisation, with the aim of “physically upgrading the Kala Ghoda sub-precinct and making it the Art District of Mumbai”. All events of the KGAF are held within a one kilometre radius of the Kala Ghoda area in South Mumbai.

The KGAF makes space for all kinds of arts and through its various components ensures participation of a very large cross-section of the population. According to the Festival’s website,

The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is an expression of the inclusiveness of art where all gather in a joyous spirit of celebration of the finest talents producing momentous and uplifting work.

In its 13th year now, the KGAF 2011 had children’s events, workshops, literary events, heritage walks, film screenings, theatre, music, and dance performances, and a street festival as well. In addition to all these events, artists from across the country set up stalls to showcase and sell their products.

An art installation of a cow depicting scenes from “A Day in the Life of India”

Seeing the crowds at the Kala Ghoda, I felt the whole city was there ! It’s obvious that the popularity of the KGAF is growing by the year, and for a city that is starved of such events the Festival is like a breath of fresh air. I went for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus heritage walk (this will be another post, so watch this space), watched some of the cultural shows and, along the way took in the art installations and the mela-like atmosphere, met people who I unfailingly meet only at the KGAF every year, and observed how every visitor had a camera of some sort or the other. And yes, I shopped. I bought some Malkha fabric, organic hand-pound Indrayani rice, cushion covers from Nagaland (courtesy Ritika Mittal), some Dokra jewellery, apricot bath oil from the Uttarakhand-based Aarohi… 🙂

A selection of some moments from the KGAF 2011:

Art installation made from paper cartons and suspended from the trees
Colourful letterboxes ! This was my favourite art installation.
More art installations. (L) Who am I? by Vivek Sonawane and (R) Boot and Foot Race by Priyanshu Thakur
Shudder !!! The iron creepy-crawly
Ethnic Dokra Art Jewellery
The stunning collection from Mora Rang, and the gorgeous creator herself, Ritika Mittal
Colourful cane baskets from Eastend Handicraft Unit, Manipur
All ready and lined up for the next show !
Look who came to the KGAF. (L) A grumpy Krishna and (R) A beaming Narada 😉
Drummers from Manipur
Folk Dance from Tamil Nadu

Anybody who has lived in Mumbai or even been here as a casual visitor will realise that it is very unlike other cities in India. No, I am not talking about the “spirit of Mumbai”; I am talking about its ability to make space for everybody and everything—the classy, the kitschy, the bizarre, the trite, the queer, the morbid, the migrant, the son/daughter of the soil, the single woman, the live-in couples, the much married… You can add whatever else you want to the list and can be sure that it would have a place in the city.

The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is exactly like the city it is held in. It has something for everyone, and therein lies its appeal and popularity. Indeed, the KGAF is a metaphor for the city of Mumbai itself.


Read about the other editions of the KGAF

31 thoughts on “The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival: A metaphor for Mumbai

  1. I was there this Saturday, my first time. And I totally loved the experience! Did you know that there are painters just at the turn of the Rampart Row who would sketch a caricature of you in 15 min!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Ankur. This is my 11th Kala Ghoda and I wait for it eagerly every year. I also like the way the whole area transforms. I do know about the caricature artists and got one done last year ! This year I purchased two miniature watercolours from the pavement gallery.

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    1. Well, its actually not so bizarre if you know the history. There used to be a statue of a black horse (kala ghoda) in the area, which gave the area its name. Even after the kala ghoda was removed to the Bhau Daji Lad Museum, the area continued to be known as Kala Ghoda. The festival is held around the place where the kala ghoda used to be, hence the name 🙂

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  2. I have heard a lot about this festival and wud love to experience it some day.

    The Surajkund Crafts mela celebrated its 25th anniv this year. do check out my Blog to find more about this 🙂

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Abha. You should come for the Kala Ghoda Festival. I have heard about the Surajkund Crafts Mela, though have never attended it. I will definitely go and check out your blog. 🙂

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  3. After reading about the purchases you made, I wish now that I bought some handicrafts. The pictures look so lovely. I like the bags very much.

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  4. It was my first visit to the festival and , though I had to keep an eye on my watch to make sure that I did not miss my train, I loved the couple of hours I spent there.
    I am planning for a more leisurely visit next.
    The pity is that many Mumbaikars are ignorant about it, much less know what is about.
    On second thoughts, its best left undersold!

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  5. I am glad that you enjoyed it. The best part about the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is that it is an inclusive festival and tries to accomodate a variety of arts. Also, unlike other festivals like the Bandra Festival, it is not about a place or a suburb. Rather it is about many things. Much like what Mumbai is like.

    I wouldn’t agree with you that Mumbaikars don’t know about it. The average Mumbaikar does know about the festival and also makes it a point to visit the festival at least once during the week it is on. Also, you must have visited the place durin the day, and that too on a weekday, when it is not too crowded. Try visiting it during the weekdays and in the evenings, and I can guarantee that you won’t have the space to move. And yet, it does not get claustrophobic.

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  6. This year I did not make it & felt sad, but passed it as last year on sunday evening when I was there it was toooooooo crowded.But I enjoyed your write up esp the pictures . Loved the bags.So now I have visited,

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    1. Well for a culturally comatose city like Mumbai, Kala Ghoda is quite something. Do try and make it next year. It is always held in February, the weather’s lovely and generally its great fun. I’d love to take you around. 🙂

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  7. hi,, do you know how many people attend the KGAF, a whole number?
    on a per day basis or all the 9 days? do you know how many?

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    1. Welcome to my blog, Priya. I’m sorry but I do not have the answer to your queries. All I know is that it is extremely crowded in the evenings and on weekends. Perhaps you could write to the festival organisers for the exact figures.

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  8. hey im Gaurav Jhunjhunwala from Balwant Sheth School of Architecture. really happy to see our installation on your blog and im happy that u have liked it. i am talking about the canopy made of paper cartons. It was our first participation last year and i hope we come up with great stuff this year too.

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    1. Welcome here, Gaurav, and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Your installation was one of my favourite ones at Kala Ghoda 2010. I hope that you get a chance to put up something for Kala Ghoda 2012 as well. Do let me know 🙂

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