My experience of and participation in the annual Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) this year, which was held from 3rd to 12th February, was limited, for I was travelling. This was the first time that I missed the opening day of KGAF, missed seeing the stalls open, missed seeing the installations on the first day, missed bumping into people I always meet at the KGAF, missed attending other events…
It felt strange and kind of weird to miss out on what has become an annual tradition for me. So I did the next best thing: the day after I returned to Mumbai, I headed to Rampart Row in the Kala Ghoda area, where the visual art installations are displayed. Like in previous years, I went in the morning, before the place officially opened and before the place got crowded. Since I wasn’t following the #htKGAF hashtag on social media, I had no idea what the installations were like. So it was almost like seeing them on the first day. Almost.
As always I began with the Kala Ghoda installation — the black horse that is the centrepiece of the KGAF.
The black (kala) horse (ghoda) installation changes every year, but I don’t think that is going to happen any more for a permanent bronze sculpture of a riderless, black horse was installed on 3rd January 2017. Standing at 25 feet above ground, the new kala ghoda is impressive, but that morning it looked like just another installation at the KGAF. More so, since the theme for the 2017 KGAF seemed to be ghodas or horses as I found out when I walked through the Rampart Row.
With a few exceptions, the visual art installations at KGAF 2017 was about horses and more horses in all shapes, sizes and materials. They were everywhere. Presenting a selection of the ghoda installations that appealed to me below along with details. Clicking on any of the photographs will start a slide show and you can see the entire set by navigating the arrow keys:
There were very few non-‘horsy’ installations and other artwork at the KGAF. While most were not very impressive, they provided a good visual break and relief from all the horses around. Besides, it was a chance for the sponsors to showcase their stuff in the case of some installations. Take a look.
The arts and crafts stall were spread out over two locations — Rampart Row and Cross Maidan. However, I was only able to see the stalls at the former location. The unofficial theme for stalls seemed to be footwear for nearly every other stall was selling them; I stopped counting after a while. 🙂 Most of the stalls were new, as in I was seeing them for the first time at the KGAF. Browsing through what the stalls had on offer was fun as was buying some of the stuff on offer. Some of the things that caught my eye are given below.
So that was my short, sweet and interesting interaction with KGAF 2017. It was much less than in the previous years, but I’m glad that I could at least see some part of it. There were many things that were similar to the previous editions and many things that were different.
For example, the selfie crowd was there, as was the shopping crowd. So were the numerous photography groups with their multiple lenses, camera and other assorted gear. Also seen were the small numbers of people who walk around soaking the festive atmosphere and actually reading the information board at each installations, and also visit each stall. Yes, they were all there.
And yet there was something different as well. The crowds were lesser in numbers or maybe it was a day and time of the day when it was not so crowded. Whatever the reason, it felt good to be able to walk around without .
It was also a pleasant surprise to see the horse theme, making me wonder why it wasn’t done earlier. Even though I didn’t always understand what the installation was all about, it was nice to see the creativity around the depiction of horses.
Be it the ‘professional’ installations or the ones done by school children, each one interesting in their own way. However, I felt that the ghoda theme could have been expanded by bringing in a section on the horse in India from earliest times.
From mythology to folklore to poetry to literature to Indian horse breeds to its depiction in art, I feel a section on this would have worked very well and complemented and enriched the theme. It would also have been nice to compare the depiction of the horse in various folk art traditions and contrast it with both classical and contemporary traditions.
The KGAF is not just about the visual arts or installations that I have written about here. It is much more than that with a host of events for children and adults alike, including hands on workshops.
The KGAF website claims that it is the “country’s largest multicultural festival” and has events in the areas of cinema, dance, food, literature, heritage walks, music, theatre, and urban design and architecture. In other words, there is something for everyone. But unfortunately, I was not able to attend even a single event this year. Part of the reason is because I was travelling and part of the reason is because of my experiences in previous years (you can read why here).
But maybe its time to start attending the other events again. While i will never attend the KGAF heritage walks as long as it is in the format it is being offered, it is time to look at other events afresh. I know that I missed a great set of sessions under the section on “urban design and architecture”. I don’t want to miss something like this again in my city so next year for sure, when KGAF 2018 comes rolling in, I will attend other events as well. 🙂
PS: Did you attend Kala Ghoda this year? If yes, what did you think of it?