A MULTICULTURAL PRISM
The locality of Mattancherry, in Kochi, is both the muse and site for artist-curator Riyas Komu’s new show, which features the work of 13 artists.
The exhibition, beginning August 12, features the work of painters, photographers, poets, videographers and designers, as well as work from researchbased collectives. Exploring the contemporary spatial, social, historical and temporal shifts of the location by way of investigating the history of labourers and working class and internal migrations, the show is intended to provoke, says Komu, a co-founder of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
“If you are fortunate enough to take an early morning walk through Mattancherry, you could easily ‘travel back in time’,” says Komu. “When you walk through the narrow lanes and branches of Bazar road or Jew street, or the many churches, mosques and temples all connected as part of a visible network” you see that “this multiculturalism is prior to our ideas of cosmopolitanism”.
While India’s political elites are experimenting with nationalism, Mattancherry shows a different way forward with equal citizenship, rights and privileges for religious minorities, lower castes and the poor, he argues.
The poet Anitha Thampi will also profile 30-40 working-class men and women from the area for a book to be published at the end of the year. Anvar Ali will be looking into the music tradition in Mattancherry and will evoke the inimitable Mehboob Bhai. Saju Kunhan will map Mattancherry through a very interesting process of transferring images on wood. Jalaja PS’s paintings of labourers will adorn the walls in Mattancherry and Fort Kochi, while Route Cochin, a research-based collective, is looking to unlock some aspects of the larger history of the place through the Dutch bread called Breudher.
“The exhibition is an extension of my own ongoing investigation into Mattancherry. But here I have included a few fellow travellers who share different backgrounds to respond to Mattancherry. The idea is also to make this a survey and not another representation. A survey that’s set to continue through several projects,” says Komu.