India Today - - LEISURE - —Chinki Sinha

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.


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