Art in Cochin – the Kochi-Muziris Biennale

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What’s this?

Today is the last day of the 2016 Kochi-Muziris Biennale, an international contemporary art exhibition (the first of its kind in India) in Fort Kochi, Kerala. It is the festival’s third edition, and opened on 12 December 2016. I took this photograph of a sign outside one of the venues, the beautiful Aspinwall House. The type-face used indicates the highly contemporary nature of the biennale. The language you see written below the English is Malayalam, the official language of the state of Kerala – it’s such a lovely script, I think, so soft and round and curly. 

I’d first visited the Fort Kochi area five years ago and described parts of it as the Indian version of my local area of Carlton, a genteel suburb of Melbourne with attractive tree and boutique-lined streets and expensive old houses. It’s a lovely place to wander around.

I was very happy that my second visit to Fort Kochi coincided with the Biennale, which I’d admired from Australia on Facebook. I spent the day wandering from design shops to exhibitions of both contemporary Indian and international artists, displayed in art galleries and beautiful old buildings with creaky wooden floors and white-washed walls.

In addition to the many Western tourists in the area, there were lots of very arty looking Indian tourists around too – women in expensive-looking hand-loom kurtas, elegantly dressed men carrying novels and groups of art students busy with sketch books and cameras.

Where’s this?

Fort Kochi, Kochi (also known as Cochin), Kerala.

Whilst Kochi is a major, modern-day port city of the state of Kerala, Muziris (as referred to in the Biennale’s title) was its historical counter-part, established somewhere in the Kochi area (its exact location isn’t known) during the 1st century BC. 

Perhaps it’s appropriate that such a contemporary international art exhibition be held in Kerala, India’s most progressive state in terms of social welfare and quality of life. It has an extremely high literacy rate, and also India’s lowest infant mortality and highest life expectancy rates, amongst many other admirable qualities – such as India’s first school for transgendered people and the provision of free wifi for everyone (coming soon!).

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