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.
Over 500 events were organised during this iconic annual festival in the following categories: Children, Children’s Literature, Cinema, Dance, Food, Heritage Walks, Literature, Music, Stand-Up Comedy, Street and Stalls, Theatre, Urban Design and Architecture, and Visual Arts. While I wanted to attend some of the events in the Workshops and Heritage Walk sections, I couldn’t. I could only manage to view the installations at different venues — Rampart Row, CSMVS Museum Grounds and Cross Maidan.
I visited the KGAF 2016 on three separate days. The first was on the evening of the opening day itself. When I arrived at Rampart Row, it was to the familiar sight of college goers with selfie sticks, ‘serious’ photographers with even more ‘serious’ camera gear, families looking forward to an evening together, wailing toddlers… all queuing up impatiently for the security check. Once in, my eyes automatically sought out the installation of the “Kala Ghoda” or the black horse that the festival derives its name from. This installation changes every year and the 2016 version was a visual stunner. Fashioned like a giant chess piece, it was strategically placed in front of a horse-shaped cut out.
“And why should I give the keys of the building terrace to you?”
“We want to see the art painted on the terrace of your building?”
“The terrace is not safe. You could fall over.”
“We’ll be very careful. We only want to see the art work there.”
“That is what everyone says.” The office bearer of the Nabi Nagar Co-op. Housing Society at Dharavi (Mumbai) glares at my friends and me and launches into a tirade about people pestering him for keys to the terrace all the time, how it was no longer safe for the building children as they wanted to go to the terrace, how it was a nuisance, etc.
We listen to him and commiserate with him and promise to be very careful and not allow any children up on the terrace with us. But he isn’t done ranting and after what seemed like a long time, he runs out of steam and grudgingly hands over the keys to us.
As we thank him, he says with a sly smile, “The lift doesn’t work. You’ll have to take the stairs all the way up to the terrace on the 9th floor.”
On a Saturday morning in November 2014, I participated in a special, curated walk — perhaps the first of its kind — on street art. Organised by the St+art India Foundation, the walk was to showcase the culmination of almost three weeks of work done by 20 renowned artists from India and abroad in and around Bandra in Mumbai.
I had closely followed the progress of the various artworks on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. And each time an artwork was “unveiled”, the itch to go and see them for myself only intensified. So when the announcement of a curated and guided street art walk popped up on my Facebook feed, I immediately signed up for it. But then, the excitement gave way to scepticism.
Let me elaborate. I love street art — it’s vibrancy, its uniqueness, its colourfulness, and the fact that they don’t follow any set rules. But most of all I love how all the street art I have seen have been serendipitous and delightful finds. Something, I thought that a curated walk would not be able to give.
Still, the lure of seeing the St+Art in Bandra prevailed over my scepticism and I made it for the walk, as did 10 other people.
When I arrived in Nawalgarh, the first work of ‘art’ I noticed was not its famed frescoes or even its grand havelis — it was a piece of graffiti.
I was looking out of the window of the car I was travelling in, hoping to catch a glimpse of a fresco, when the car suddenly braked to let a cow pass. That’s when I saw the graffiti — a yellow rectangular patch with blue lettering on a cracked and patched surface. It was the contrast of the freshness of the graffiti against a dull and old surface that attracted me and I took a picture of it for that reason. The words (for those who can’t read the Devanagari script or understand Hindi) can be roughly translated to:
Even if it means losing your life, don’t give in to anything improper or immoral.
As the car moved ahead, I dismissed the graffiti as a one-off and resumed my search for the frescoes. Little did I know at that time that along with the frescoes and the havelis, I would be seeing other graffiti all over Nawalgarh.
I received an Asus Zenfone 5for 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…