4th Serendipity Arts Festival explores, reinvents traditions; has close brush with anti-CAA protests

Panjim, Dec 22 (PTI) With nearly 100 projects across the disciplines of visual arts, music, dance, craft, photography, theatre, and culinary arts, the fourth edition of the Serendipity Arts Festival that came to a close on Sunday, made quality art accessible to the public.

Over the course of the last week, the festival explored gamut of Indian traditions in its music segment and experimented with them in the crafts programme.

While in the food section, it delved deep into culinary legacies, the performing arts segment directed the spotlight on the margins.

The visual arts and photography disciplines this year offered a wide spectrum of projects, each considering a distinct tenet of artistic practice, from collections, archives and historical works, to performance and street art, and lens-based practices from around South Asia.

Curated by leading Indian tabla player Aneesh Pradhan and music director Sneha Khanwalkar, the music programme explored a range of Hindustani and folk music traditions, in addition to Hindi poetry and the art-rock genre by both national and international musicians.

Highlights of this year's music projects included 'Sadaarang', a concert underlining the melodic, rhythmic and poetic variety experienced in the compositions of 18th century Hindustani musical composer and artiste Niyamat Khan; 'Dhun Mela', a folk song extravaganza bringing together groups of musicians and dancers from various states.

'I adopted an interdisciplinary approach in terms of highlighting the intersection between poetry and music. In the case of Hindustani music, this intersection is clearly seen in the compositional works of composers who bring together poetry, melody and rhythm,' Pradhan said.

Also, part of the line-up was 'Sound Interventions', a multi-artist project experimenting with interactivity, sound and performance-based installations, and a performance by renowned playback singer Rekha Bhardwaj.

Curated by Rahul Akerkar, one of Mumbai's leading restaurateurs, and chef and Goa-based restaurateur Prahlad Sukhtankar, the Culinary Arts discipline programming this year aimed at providing a unique food experience through curated workshops, talks and tastings with focus on local produce and regional flavours.

For this edition, the festival moved away from the idea of food being purely a means to sustenance, and focused heavily on the sustainability aspect of what and how we eat.

Akerkar's 'Culinary Legacies', for instance, delved into the cooking histories and traditions of various communities and looked at the culinary practices of chefs.

Sukhtankar, on the other hand, offered a series of uniquely curated Goan culinary experiences, including 'Mahua', a session exploring the history, typology and eco-system for the cultivation and consumption of the traditional spirit, as well as a series of workshops on Goan bread-making.

The festival traced contemporary craft in its fourth edition, as it examined the creation and making of Jamdani fabrics in 'Weftscapes' curated by Pramod Kumar KG, ceramic artist Kristine Michael attempted to uncover a hidden narrative of transnational modernism in ceramics within a national history.

'This exhibition discussed artistic modernism in contemporary ceramic and glass in India in response to the reimagining of past traditions through intense collaborations between passionate individual artist/designers over a sustained period of time with particular craft cluster communities or who have created new craft communities through NGO interventions in sustainability, enhancing creativity and economic independence.

'We showed the story behind the collaboration and the exciting development of new possibilities in the mediums of glass and ceramics through installations, text and film. Through this, we hoped to not only re-imagine the past but also through extended artistic debate and praxis create new means for conceiving the future,' Michael said.

Curators in the visual arts and photography segments each presented different aspects of their respective segments through projects that focused on indigenous innovations resting beyond the framework of the mainstream art world.

While Jyotindra Jain offered critical viewing of popular Indian imagery at the turn of the twentieth century, Sudarshan Shetty's project aimed at presenting indigenous inventions and informal industries that have origins in catering to real-life circumstantial needs with lasting social impact on communities at large.

Both Jain and Shetty curated the visual arts segment of the festival this year.

In the photography discipline, Ravi Agarwal explored the concept of staged photography with an exhibition titled 'Imagined Documents', while Rahaab Allana's trans-media curatorial project titled 'Look, Stranger!' drew on the aesthetic ideologies and approaches to image-making and materiality as cultivated by the 20th century German art school Bauhaus, which celebrates 100 years in 2019.

The week-long festival that was held across 10 venues in the city, however, did not remain untouched by protests over the new citizenship law.

Shetty's exhibition was 'temporarily sealed' on Wednesday, and on being reopened three works related to the newly-enacted legislation were found to be either removed, non-functional, or shut.

While the Serendipity Arts Foundation that organises the annual multi-disciplinary festival cited 'technical glitch' as the reason, Shetty said he felt 'troubled and pained at the situation we have come to', adding that he stood by 'each piece of work in the show'. PTI TRS MAH MAH