The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015

I received an Asus Zenfone 5 for review just a couple of days before the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) began giving me the perfect opportunity to test out the phone camera, something that is very important for me in a smart phone. Enjoy reading my KGAF post, but do let me know what you think of the photographs too.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts FestivalWhen I ended my post on the 2014 edition of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) last year, it was with mixed feelings. Though I had liked the installation / visual art on display, I hadn’t particularly enjoyed the way the events (or rather the heritage walks I had participated in) had been organised and conducted. I was upset enough to write a post on all that was wrong with the way the heritage walks were organised.

KGAF 2014 had also ended with uncertainty about the 2015 edition of the festival. A Kala Ghoda resident had filed a case complaining about the inconvenience and nuisance caused by the KGAF and the Bombay High Court was considering shifting the venue elsewhere.

Over the last one year, I followed the news on all developments pertaining to the KGAF and read the arguments and the counter arguments, the demands made and the compromises offered… till one day, I saw the announcement for the KGAF 2015. At Rampart Row. And to be held as usual from the first Saturday of February.

That was on 7th February and I visited the KGAF on that very day. And then again on the 8th. Then the 10th, the 12th and finally on the 13th. I went alone and with friends, attended programmes and also met up more friends. Want to see what I did at the KGAF 2015? Read on…

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival
These colourful ladders were not part of any installation. I just saw them lined up and had to take a photo. Never say no to colour !

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts FestivalKala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts FestivalAs usual, it was the visual/installation art that I tried to see first. I say tried to, for as usual there were crowds surrounding each installation. No, not to see it or read it but to have selfies or groupies taken. As usual.

See the photograph on the right and imagine this full of people and nothing visible. That’s what it was like on the first day (it was worse on the other days) and that’s also why I came early one morning to see the installations in peace and quiet, like I did in 2014. Sharing with you the visual/installation artwork I particularly liked:

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival
A giant tap serving as a reminder to the water we consume and waste. And also a reminder to the day the tap will run dry.
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival
Ethno Mod: A Tribute to the Spirit of Womanhood in India by Kisalay Vohra. Going by the crowds, this was perhaps the most popular installation.
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival
The Semantics of Gestures by Anushree Chatterji. An installation that demonstrated the simple language of gestures.
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival
Cube of Connection by Shital Mehta. The installation was how technology limits our perspective to a visual, two dimensional experience and how its important to be away from technology too.
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival
Clockweb by Sonal S. Jadhav, Nikhil U. Borhade and Yogesh Bhagat. An installation that was a rather chilling depiction of being trapped within time, and maybe not realising it.
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival
I think no explanations are needed here !
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival
The ubiquitous Mumbai crow.

The KGAF installation/visual art were located in two places: Rampart Row and the grounds of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Vaastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS). For some strange reason that I cannot even recall, I had never attempted to see the installations at the Museum in the previous years. But this year I did. In fact, I made it a point to visit the Museum grounds on all days I went to the KGAF — I liked the installations there so much.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival
The Tree of Life by Vihaan Kohli. The artist has used different textures to denote different feelings.
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival
Van Gogh (left) and Picasso (right) as imagined and represented by children from different schools.
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival
Loved this colourful, grumpy face inspired by the Indian artist, Souza
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival
Rousseau’s Jungle by students of Aseema. The installation is themed around the artist Henri Rousseau and his imaginative jungle
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival
Installations around the theme of Rabindranath Tagore

In addition to wandering around in Rampart Row and the Museum grounds and looking at the visual / installation art, I also attended two wonderful programmes at the KGAF 2015.

The first was the release of “Books, Letterforms and Design in Asia“, a book on the design philosophy of Asian graphic design as seen by Suguira Kohei, perhaps the world’s best known book designer. Kirti Trivedi, a book designer from India and someone who has worked with Kohei, made a presentation on the book and its author. The session was a real treat as publications designed by Kohei and other Asian designers were on display.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival

The second was a performance by the Symphony Orchestra of India at Cross Maidan. Conducted by Zane Dalal, the 70-member strong orchestra played a range of music beginning with India’s National Anthem followed by some opera music, notably Carmen, and then Dvorak’s Slovenian Dance, and finally ended with music from The Magnificent Seven, My Fair Lady and Sound of Music. It was an evening to remember — some superlative music, the open air atmosphere, and the best rendition of the Jana Gana Mana. I have goosebumps even as I type this out.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival One of the biggest surprises at the KGAF were the stalls and I loved looking at what they had on display and sale. Unlike in 2014, where I didn’t buy a single thing, I bought quite a bit this time — books, bookmarks, DIY craft stuff, paper, a mug, postcards, handkerchiefs. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting looking stalls.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival
Some captures from different stalls

The KGAF 2015 was the biggest yet with 450 events spread over 9 days on the themes of Children, Cinema, Dance Food, Heritage Walks, Literature, Music, Street and Stalls, Theatre, Urban Design and Architecture, Visual Art, and Workshops.

While the KGAF gets bigger and more crowded every year, some things never change. It was with a degree of familiarity and deja vu that I noticed:

  • college students just loitering about the place and clicking selfies without bothering to read or understand the installations.
  • more camera gear than people. I saw a photographer with a DSLR, a point-and-click, a mobile camera, a tripod and 4 different lenses. I counted.
  • the clueless help desk of the KGAF organisers. When a friend went to ask details regarding photo ID for a heritage walk, they didn’t know about it. When my friend pointed that it was mentioned on the KGAF website, they just shrugged it away. No some things never change.
  • the people I bump into at the KGAF, and only at the KGAF, every year – bloggers, photographers, former office colleagues, etc.

Some things, however, I noticed for the first time:

  • Polite and well-behaved school kids. In fact, the school children were better behaved than the college crowd and adults.
  • Groups of well-dressed young women with hair dos and make up that only a parlour can achieve posing and having photographs taken. I wondered how they managed to walk in their heels and the heat without ruining their foundation or hair.
  • Sponsorships for the various art installations. Some of them were so prominent that I cropped them out of the photographs, wherever I could. While it is good that artists are getting sponsorships, it was a little difficult for me to come to terms with such in-your-face product placement.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts FestivalThe KGAF 2015 was the 16th edition of this iconic art festival — bigger, but not necessarily better. Every iconic annual event reaches a point where the organisers have to think about the direction that the the event has to take.

I think that moment came for KGAF in 2014, but nothing seems to have been done. I’m talking in particular about the crowds and crowd control.

Dear KGAF organisers, I love this annual arts festival that you put up year after year and against all odds and expectations.

But I would like you to listen to what my friend, who visited the KGAF at Rampart Row on Friday evening, had to say. My friend, an artist herself, shifted from Delhi to Mumbai last year and this was her first time at the KGAF. Having heard about it from me and also having read my blog posts, she was quite keen to experience it. She was in and out in 5 minutes.

This is not an art festival. Where is the art? I can only see crowds of people taking selfies.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts FestivalI agree that visual / installation art is just one component of the KGAF; and there are many other events. But it is a big component and often the first point of entry for many first-timers to the KGAF. If that becomes inaccessible, then what is the point of an Arts festival, without the arts?

Something to think about, I say.

Read more about previous editions of the KGAF

Note: All photographs in the post were taken with a Asus ZenFone 5, that has been sent to me for review. Tell me, what do you think of the photos?

18 thoughts on “The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015

  1. very nice, Sudha! the pics from Rampart Row are really good.loved the composition. the header pic is really cute, and you have managed to get a completely different perspective of the kala ghoda! btw, kiddo was really upset that he could go just once… wish they do something about the crowds so we want to go on all the days…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Anu. It was a difficult decision to not use my DSLR at all during the Kala Ghoda and only test out the Asus ZenFone phone. But looks like my decision paid off — the photographs have come out pretty well. Of course a phone camera cannot match up to a DSLR, but these are good enough.

      The different picture was possible only because I managed to get in when there were no people. Just thinking aloud, if photography were banned at the KGAF, would people still visit it?


  2. I was at KGAF last year, and I was so put off by the selfie groups who obstructed views of the exhibits that I actually ran out of the place before I threw up. Is it possible that the organizers could allow people with camera phones during a fixed time, and at a stiff price? Without strirring up a raucous debate on fundamental rights?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Shrinayan, I would actually go one step further. I would like to see a ban on all photography at the KGAF. Of course, neither your suggestion nor my wish is likely to happen for one reason – social media.

      The KGAF organisers depend on social media for publicity. It’s free, its viral. What more can an organiser want. Then there are companies and products that jump into the fray by announcing contests for those who posts a selfie or a groupie from KGAF. All these encourage people to take pictures, while giving publicity to the main event.


  3. Lovely pictures, esp. the colourful ladders and the header. Good idea of going early and taking pictures. I went on the first day – early evening- and managed to at least get a look at some of the stalls. I thought that I would go later and buy some other items – but, just could not manage. I went on 14th and managed to see the museum exhibits. Although, I managed to enter Rampart Row, I had to take a u-turn and walk out – the crowds and people taking selfies just put me off.
    Yes, I agree with your friend and you – where is the art? Playing hide and seek among the crowds….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “where is the art? Playing hide and seek among the crowds….”

      Very well said, Neena. Every year, the crowds increase in numbers and every year I say, never again am I going to visit the KGAF again. And yet I go. It is for the art, however good, bad, tacky or plain incomprehensible. 🙂


    1. A very welcome to “My Favourite Things”, Thesilenthummer. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting with your words of appreciation.

      Loved the photographs you’ve posted. Loved the name Dark Horse even more. 🙂


  4. The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF 2015) festival is open to all and free of charge. The art festival offers various programmes in, theatre, visual arts, music, dance, street plays, literature, heritage walks and various workshops for children and adults. The Festival attracts thousands of people from all over the city and world to witness the various events over the course of the festival. Funds raised from the festival are contributed towards the restoration and maintenance of the area.


  5. I have been to KGAF only once and that was in 2012. I couldn’t see anything because of the crowds. I remember your post of the last edition where you had talked about the same things that you have listed in things that have not changed 🙂 But thanks to your idea of beating the crowds by going early in the morning, we could see all the installations in their pristine glory. The pics are lovely. Especially loved the multicoloured ladders. They cerraily look like they were an installation! The giant tap was fascinating as the one depicting gestures. I have never attended a symphony orchestra. For someone so tuned to all types of music, I am sure you enjoyed it thoroughly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s amazing how much things don’t change, especially when you want them to. And how things change, when you don’t want them to. Kala Ghoda is a great example of that.

      The stalls were definitely better than last year, and I spent more money than I wanted to 😛

      The multicoloured ladders were my favourite too. I was imaging the ladders as bookshelves filled with books. Yes, I had my little dream there as well. 🙂 There were more ladders in other colours, but I couldn’t get them in a single frame. They were in purple, sky blue and a minty green.


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