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.
When 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…
As 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
I 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
- The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival: A metaphor for Mumbai
- The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2012
- The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2013
- The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014
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?