The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014

The 2014 edition of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) ended today or rather would have by the time I publish this blog post.

A 9-day festival of all things art, the KGAF 2014 offered various programmes in the area of children, cinema, dance, food, heritage walks, literature, music, street, theatre, visual art, workshops, and urban design and architecture. This was the 16th edition of the KGAF and like previous years, every event and programme on offer was free.

Like every year, I made a beeline for the visual / installation art. And unlike previous years, I also made an effort to register and participate in some of the heritage walks as well as a workshop on offer. This meant that I was able to discover something more about this beautiful city of mine and fall in love with Mumbai all over again. 🙂

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

This ghoda or horse incorporates many of the symbols that Mumbai is associated with

Let me take you through the highlights of what I saw and experienced at the KGAF 2014. First up are the visual art /installations and stalls, followed by some captures from the Heritage Walks / Tours I went on.

The visual art / installations were not grand or flashy or eyeball catching like the KGAF 2013. One could even be forgiven for thinking that they were boring and uninteresting. That was my first impression too, but when I read the artist statement or concept note or the information board given, I was able to look at the artwork with a new understanding.

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

“Unsafe Touches” by Pankaj Garde and Ritu Jariwala. This installation is to create awareness of and freedom from Child Sexual Abuse

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

“Art Trisomy” by Nayanjeet Nikam to create awareness of Down’s Syndrome

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

“Provoke/Protect” an installation done by 10 women from Dharavi in response to the Nirbhaya rape.

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

I liked this one a lot. “Illusion” by a group of artists is entirely hand cut, sanded and painted to create different images, based on where the viewer is standing and also the distance from the art piece.

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

“Everchanging Life” by Dhvani Gogri, Tanvi Kundliwal, Deeksha Somaiya and Anuradha Soman. The installation is all about a look at life through the vocabulary of a human being – from baby talk to a child’s first words to teenage talk to adult philosophy to old age to death of the human being

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

“Moving Grids ” by Nitant Hirlekar. The installation talks about how distance, angle and complexity of the human mind helps us form assumptions and perceptions. This installation looked different from every angle

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

“Songs of the Sea” by Neha Dedhia, Kuwal Sanam, Harjas Sachdev and Huzaifa Panvelwala. This cane seating is meant to encourage and facilitate people to sit and have conversations or just take a break.

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

It worked ! 🙂

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

“Tapal Dhadak” by Nayanjeet Nikam and Rehal Shisodia. The 3 letter boxes have a different theme. Green is for Mumbai, red is for Bollywood and blue is for India

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

“Choreographed Shadows”. The artists have tried to capture the “dance of sunlight on gushing waves”, which changes through the day as the sun moves across the sky.

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

“Garden of Momentum” by Tasneem Rajkotwala and Vishal Sonawane based on a concept by Mahera Goel and Dhwani Pandya. A mixed media installation, this represents the variety and pace of aspirations in Mumbai

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

Every year, the KGAF has some animal sculptures on display. This year it was: the horse, the bull and the lion, who looked suspiciously like a dog.

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

“Moving Amoeba” by Avi Gandhi, Amaya D’Souza, Nirvi Kothari, Dishita Shah, Arushi Jan and Saona Rohra. As one moves around the amoeba, the images on the amoeba seem to move and pulse, creating an illusion of a live organism

There were many new entrants to those participating in the stalls at KGAF 2014. But with many stalls putting up a “no photography” sign or a crowd of people standing outside, there were very few opportunities to photograph the stuff on display. Sharing a couple that I managed to take here:

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

Brass artefacts

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

Graphic Curry’s awesome stall.

I attended 5 Heritage Walks/Tours: Mumbai High Court, Jewish Heritage, Stained Glass, Art Deco and Port & Harbour Tour and for me, they were the highlight of KGAF 2014. Though the Heritage Walks/Tours in itself were good, the organisation and management of the same left a lot to be desired. I’ll be writing more about the Heritage Walks /Tours over the next couple of weeks or so. Till then, have a look at some images from 3 of the walks.

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

Stained glass windows at the altar, St. Thomas Cathedral

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

Detail from a building built in the art deco style

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

The ship-breaking yard at Darukhana. Never knew that Mumbai had one

Growing popularity and word-of-mouth accounts of the KGAF has meant that it is getting bigger every year. The KGAF 2014 was bigger than its previous editions in every way — crowds, security measures, response to various programmes on offer, etc. Till last year, the crowds would be overwhelming only on weekends and on weekday evenings and one could come on a weekday morning to walk through the installations and browse the stalls. There was no such differentiation this year — Rampart Row, where the KGAF is held, was packed all though with people and their camera gear. I can safely and confidently state that there was more camera gear and mobiles than people !

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, MumbaiMy brother, who came all the way from Pune for the KGAF one afternoon, promptly dubbed it the Kala Ghoda Selfie Festival 😛

This time around, I actually visited KGAF one weekday morning, before the stalls opened and before the crowds came in just to see the installation art on display. I arrived at around 8 am, walked around in peace and at my pace, photographed the ones that appealed to me (Now you know why most of my photographs do not have any people crowding in), and then went in to work.

What a pleasure it was to not get shoved or pushed or being asked to move or have someone request to pleasssse click their photograph, or get distracted by selfies being taken ! While selfies don’t bother me so much (well, as long as my FB and Twitter timelines don’t get clogged with them), it was disturbing to see young college kids getting clicked with a ‘V’ sign and huge grins on their faces in front of installations that were about issues like child sexual abuse or rape or Down’s Syndrome. 😦

Over the years, the KGAF has seen growing concerns and protests by residents and offices at the venue due to increasing crowds and noise levels. One such protest led to street performances being shifted from Rampart Row to Cross Maidan last year. This year, another resident has filed a case complaining about the inconvenience and nuisance caused by the KGAF. The Bombay High Court is considering shifting the venue of the KGAF from 2015.

I hate crowds and stay away from any events or programmes that bring them. The only exception I make, year after year, is the KGAF. Though I always declare after every KGAF that “I can’t handle the crowds anymore, and I’m not going there next year”, I always do. Such is the magic of the KGAF. This year was no exception.

But will there be a 2015 edition of the KGAF at Rampart Row beginning on the first February of the year?

I don’t know. But I certainly hope so.


Read more about the other editions of the KGAF

45 thoughts on “The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014

    • Thank you Manju. Very happy that you felt that you had visited the KGAF through this post.

      As a concept both “Illusion” and “Everchanging life” were simply brilliant. The latter one, particularly, is something that will stay with me for a long time.

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  1. So happy to read this. You have expressed so many things that I felt. Even I hate crowds, but make an exception for the yearly KGAF and Sawai Gandharva Festival. Next year I have decided I am gonna book myself at a hotel nearby, so that I can attend all the walks and appreciate the installations. I loved the cover photo. I had seen the blue elephant Toran…wanted it..but it was too crowded..glad to see it here. Love the article, the photographs and our Bombay city 🙂

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    • I always miss the Sawai Gandharva. My brother, who stays in Pune, is always urging me to take leave and come, but somehow it never works out.

      I wanted to by the blue toran too, but couldn’t get near the stall. I actually shot this picture with a zoom lens from across the street and then cropped it.

      And three cheers for our Bombay 😀

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    • You’re welcome, Chattywren. Glad you liked the post. Though I did no try sitting on the cane seat, it looked so comfortable that I wanted it for my garden. But then I live in a Mumbai flat, and not a house with a garden ! So…

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  2. Thanks for taking me through the KGAF. I missed it completely this year, but glad to see it through your words and photos. Lovely photos..so glad you went early morning and got all those wonderful image without the milling crowds!

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    • You’re welcome, Richa. In retrospect, I wonder if perhaps the photographs don’t look too empty. And also if I should have braved the crowds to have taken the pictures of the installations.

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  3. Great pictures. I think the popularity of Kala Ghoda has become its own enemy now. The festival that started in 1999 with humble beginnings and passion for art has now become sort of nuisance as more people venture in. However, I would like to ask people of Mumbai, why don’t they protest and complain when illegal Ganesh pandals come up on the streets of the city playing Bollywood in the name of religion. I am not targeting any religion or creating a stir, nor I am taking sides with Kala Ghoda, but just wondering about the hypocrisy in our city..

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    • “I think the popularity of Kala Ghoda has become its own enemy now.”

      Very well said, pathbreakingwriter. You have hit the nail on the head here. I may be wrong here, but one of the reasons why people may not complain about the Ganesh Pandals is because it is a religious thing. Whereas something like the Kala Ghoda is “secular”.

      I could probably be counted among the hypocrites. I love going to the KGAF every year. But would I like something like this on the street outside my house? I don’t think so.

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      • @pathbreakingwriter I think its up to locals to take a stand against what’s going wrong in their local neighbourhoods. So out here, it was the Kala Ghoda Festival that affected us and we took a stand to pray that its moved.

        I don’t think the festival will in any way be any less what it was, if the venue is shifted. Besides, the real Kala Ghoda statue stands today at Jijamata Udayan (Byculla Zoo).

        Btw there’s nothing about it being secular, religious or what have you. When you block a road and let 20,000 people come by, with no safety precautions, fire hazards, and more. It’s playing with trouble and and asking for a disaster. Besides causing a massive inconvenience to locals who cant walk out of their own homes freely.

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        • Welcome here, KGAResident and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.

          Much as I love the KGAF and all the fun that comes with it, I can only imagine what a nuisance the same festival must be every year for residents like you. I hope that a solution that works for all is agreed upon before next year’s festival comes around.

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    • with nose up in the air I don’t do selfies 😛

      The heritage walks were very good, but except for the Port and Harbour tour (which I will post by the end of the week), the others will take a while to be written. I have already written about the Jewish Heritage of Mumbai based on a tour organised by the Prince of Wales Museum.

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    • Thanks, TGND. If I had a garden or a patio, I would probably have got a cane seat like this for the place. Since I don’t I’m trying to persuade my organisation to get a cane seats like this and place it around our campus.

      May 2015 be the year you visit the KGAF. 😀

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  4. I went there on the first day, Sudha and loved it. But like you say, the crowds are getting much much more and difficult especially with a kid in tow. But its beautiful. We got books for the brat from the Pratham stall and attended the ‘Catch that Crocodile’ play. Super nice it was. We of course, couldnt go this weekend because of various reasons…missed a lot of good stuff especially on the last day 😦

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    • Oh ! I was there on the first day too, but only for a short while as I went on the Bombay High Court Heritage Walk. I wish I had known so that we could have planned to meet.

      The first day was probably the best and the crowds just increased with every passing day. So it was probably good that you made it on the first day itself !

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    • For me, the highlight of the annual Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is the visual and installation art. I may not like all of them, but I definitely look forward to seeing new perspectives and some awesome creativity at display. The KGAF begins of the first Saturday of February every year, so you can mark your 2015 calendar right away 🙂

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  5. Lovely tour of the KGAF, Sudha. Wish I could go to one with you and enjoy/appreciate the art works. Crowds put me off too and the only time I had gone, it was in the evening and the crush was unimaginable. BTW, could you explain a little about the ‘Ever changing Life installation?’ Like the kind of words used. I thought the amoeba was actually a caterpillar. It looks real and would have spooked me out if I had actually seen it ‘move’ even if it was illusory 🙂 I completely understand the insensitive selfies who can’t distinguish between a serious and fun installation. And why this obsession with snaps? It is at such times that social media sucks for making normal people into self-obsessed individuals.

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    • Thank you, Zephyr. I think there is a jinx on you and I visiting the KGAF together. Maybe 2015 will be the lucky year.

      Everchanging life looks at life through the everchanging vocabulary of a human being. Beginning with a baby’s “Ma ma” or “Baba”. Then it moves to simple words as the child grows older, then simple sentences like “I want milk”. During teenage years the language turns to slang and monosyllables. Then adulthood and old age as vocabulary diminishes. Death is shown as a bare tree, bereft of any letters or words. It’s quite a powerful installation.The installation packs a powerful punch, Zephyr. I loved it.

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  6. I might want to tag along with you at 8am next year to see the displays at my pace. This year’s crowds put me off, not because of the numbers but for their unforgivably idiotic tendency to have themselves photgraphed grinning in front of displays deserved serious appreciation. I am all for an exam that will qualify visitors to attend the festival and banning smartphones. After about 45mins at KGAF, I could not take it any longer and left. Mumbai deseves better !

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    • What to do, Srinayan. We are like that only and selfies are the rage. How else can you say ‘Been there, done that’. Yes, why don’t you come with me at 8 am next year, as that is the only way I’m going to see the KGAF. Provided there is one next year :-/

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