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A diverse world of art in the capital of Goa

A diverse world of art in the capital of Goa

The Goa public and culture enthusiasts visiting the city from across the world were treated to an impressive array of programming including visual arts exhibitions at Adil Shah Palace, large-scale photography and craft installations across public spaces, children’s music performances, panel discussions, film screenings, culinary workshops, outdoor theatre performances, held in the Panjim Municipal Market and the Kadamba Bus Terminus as well as dance and music performances in the evening in Kala Academy and DB Football Ground.
Serendipity Arts Festival began in Goa and the first two days saw a diverse mix of the performing arts celebrating iconic dance and theatre, both western and Indian, alongside unique music programmes showcasing traditional Indian music, and artist led discussions on contemporary arts practice. These were accompanied by children’s workshops, culinary workshops, and a music performance on the river.
“This year’s Festival programming is designed to create a balance between artistic rigour and accessibility. Projects will unite art-forms from different parts of the country, diluting regional divisions and encouraging cross-cultural exchange. The festival intends to be a cultural catalyst which makes the arts accessible, inclusive and enjoyable for diverse audiences and the public,” said the organisers.
For starters, there was a brilliant theatre performance titled ‘Walk Back to Look’, a performative response to the rhythm of the public site, by offering a counter beat—be it a crowded bus stand or a chaotic vegetable market. The performance centres around stillness, walking and listening. A performance with minimal dialogue, the only words might be handwritten notes and placards. This was held at the Panjm Market and the Kadamba Bus Terminus.
Then there was the ‘Mahabhrata’, the epic war dramatised through puppetry at the open Air Theatre, Kala Academy. This performance with puppets, masks, shadow puppets and materials looks at the Mahabharata as a dynamic narrative which has evolved over a few thousand years through the sung verses of Togalu Gombeyatta’s Sillakeyata Mahabharta and remains relevant in the new search of contemporary puppet- eers.
There was also ‘Sonnets c. 2018’, a devised, bilingual performance, using Shakespeare’s sonnets as a starting point. The play is an attempt to reclaim the sonnets and to reinvent them, to account not just for contemporary sensibilities and notions of sexuality and gender but also to place them firmly in the here and now, of the grizzly urban life of bustling metropolises.
Moving to the Crafts discipline, the ‘Serendipity Barefoot School of Craft: Made in Goa’, at the Municipal Garden is a unique architectural project that was initiated in the previous edition of the festival. The first stage was accomplished by creating a vision, through the selection of fifteen models in an architectural competition, which were displayed at Serendipity Arts Festival, 2017.
The Adil Shah Palace hosted the ‘Matters of Hand Craft and design in India’, exhibition, which explores how the handmade in India is experienced through objects of utility ranging from recent innovations and artisanal expression to ubiquitous objects found in public and private spaces.
‘Ephemeral: New Futures for Passing Images’, was also held at the Adil Shah Palace. There was also an interesting Visual Art related event titled ‘Talking Culture: My Colour on your Plate’.
What impressed the audience were the dance events such as the ‘Kuchipudi Nrithya Sandhya’ at the PWD Complex. Stemming from the roots of the ancient Sanskrit text Natya Shastra, Kuchipudi is a classical dance-drama of India. The performers conveyed the selected story through dynamic movements and expressive eyes, aided by an ensemble of musicians. The traditional attire of a sari, the braided hair adorned with fresh flowers and delicate jewellery, along with the soft sound of the ghungroos formed the ancillary elements of the dance.
‘Bali’ was another performance that captivated the audience. An excerpt from the Indian epic Ramayana, Adishakti’s Bali is a retelling of the various events that led to the battle between Bali, the ruler of Kishkindha and Ram, the King of Ayodhya and eventually, the death of Bali. The play weaved multiple stories through the point of views of Bali, Tara, Sugreeva, Angadha, Ram and Ravan and talked about how each of them made decisions and took actions based on the ethics that defined their lives.
There was also ‘Lavani Queens’, the popular Maharashtrian lavani dance form. It is a form of song and dance that entertains the audience, engages them and makes them an integral part of the performance. Lavani also aims at commenting on socially relevant topics using ‘Hasya’ (humour) rasa. Lavani deals with the subjects in a direct and unabashed style. Lavani Queens had a mix of male and female artists who performed on various new and old lavani songs.
Among these shows, one performance stood out and raised the par was ‘To Die Upon a Kiss’… at the PWD Complex. The Kathakali performance was based on the world famous tragedy Othello by William Shakespeare. Constituting one of the most prominent classical dance forms of India, Kathakali is characterised by elaborate make-up, face-masks and costumes. The characters presented edited scenes of Shakespeare’s play, touching upon the broad themes of downfall, betrayal and love.
Like the rest of the events, the festival also witnessed some of the best music acts in the country such as the ‘The Bartender’- that saw classic Bollywood tunes remixed and set to jazz. The Bartender is the brainchild of Mikey McCleary—award- winning songwriter, composer and producer whose eclectic mix of music sensibilities gives his music a unique edge. The band performed vintage music in a sensual, jazzy manner reminiscent of a bygone burlesque or Gatsby-esque era.
There was also ‘Songs of Nature-. This performance explored the manner in which Qawwals, Bauls of Bengal, and the Langa and Manganiar musician communities of Rajasthan have responded to motifs from nature. The similarities and dissimilarities in their responses to the same stimuli from nature was showcased during the concert. Ensembles led by vocalists also highlighted the individual peculiarities of each of the three musical traditions.
River Raga, a unique music event treated audiences to a river cruise and traditional classical music by Dhanashree Pandit Rai (Vocal), accompanied by Kalinath Mishra (Tabla) and Niranjan Lele (Harmonium).
A catalyst for cross-cultural exchange, fostering a sense of unity across disciplines and artforms whilst also erasing regional divisions in the country, The Serendipity Arts Festival this year offers equal opportunities to artists, artisans, indigenous and folk art forms, performers and other creative practitioners from all over India. The event aims foster the development of thriving artistic communities across India by making the arts inclusive, educational and accessible.

This article was first published on Herald Cafe on 18 DEC 2018

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