The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2013

Today was the last day for 2013 edition of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF). Even as I get ready to publish this post, the handicrafts stalls must be getting dismantled as the area has to be clear for regular traffic by tomorrow morning. The installation and street art too would be dismantled to go where?, I wonder. Most Mumbai-based bloggers have already published posts and photographs on the KGAF 2013. And now, it’s my turn to share my thoughts and perspective on this one-of-a-kind art and cultural festival in Mumbai.

I have been visiting KGAF since its inception and have seen it grow to the extremely popular and iconic event that it has become today. While I enjoy all the events on offer at the KGAF, it is the installation and street art that I look forward to every year. To be honest, I didn’t start as a fan of installation art, but the creativity that is showcased is something that I find it hard to ignore. And this year, the installation art at the 2013 version was a sensory delight.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2013 3Bangles, metal wires, insulated wires, plastic bottles, paper, papier-mache, clay, cloth, CDs, assorted hardware from computers, plastic mugs, corrugated cardboard sheets, metal pipes, spectacle frames, coins, photo frames, metal chains, cardboard cartons, plywood, PoP, jute sacks, cane, bamboo, marble, glass bottles, plastic tuns, cars, rickshaws, a bicycle, petrol tanks, dolls, living plants, driftwood … just about every material imaginable was used for the installation art at KGAF 2013. I had a hard time stopping myself from reaching out and touching or climbing onto many of the artworks clearly signposted with “Do not Touch” or Do not Climb”.

And though most of the installation art fit into themes similar to previous years — Mumbai city, social issues (corruption, violence against women, child sexual abuse), broader environmental issues, cinema — there were also those that did not fit into any of the themes and managed to hold their own.

A selection of some of the installations that appealed to me from the KGAF 2013 are given below.

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2013

“Dhanda” means business. And this installation epitomises the attitude of Mumbai city. Created by Baaya design in bold neon colours, it also shows how slums and high-rises co-exist in this city as ultimately only “Dhanda matters here!

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2013

Mumbai is often referred to as “Mayanagari”, and also a city where one’s dreams come true. Here, the different glasses in the installation titled “Sapnon ka Number” by Shailesh Rathod represents the dreams of the people who come to this city.

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2013

Mumbai’s dabbawala’s are an institution in themselves, and this very real looking installation has the dabbawala carry the entire city on his head !

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

Created by Pankaj Borde, this installation of beautiful, glittering bangles are representative of violence against women

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

Detail from an installation on the plight of children unable to communicate sexual abuse

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

“Corrupt Us” by Vikram Arora is a mocking salute to corruption in which “netas” are saluting a money flag (not in picture)

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

“Kya yeh hamara kal hai?” by Varun Gupta is a chilling reminder of the excess use of plastics and the effect it could have on our planet

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

No surprises here at this installation on celebrating 100 years of cinema

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

This installation is a reminder to the taut and stressful lives that we all lead

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

Everything in this picture is made of corrugated paper and that rocking chair could take my weight and those of all the others who tried it out !

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

Vespa scooter or Wasp-a scooter? What do you think?

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

“Sanyyam” is a gentle reminder to be aware of and control our senses. A tortoise has been used to depict this with human sensory organs replacing the tortoise’s usual appendages.

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

These giant ants made from the petrol tanks and headlights of bullet motorcycles was sheer creative genius, I say. And creepy too !

Though there was no clear-cut theme mentioned, I almost renamed the KGAF as the Kala Ghoda Skull Festival. So many of the installations had skulls as part of the larger installation or the installation was a skull itself ! See the photograph below, which is a collage of some of the skulls I saw:

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts FestivalIt was not just the installation art that caught my eye; there were other eminently “camera ready” moments too. :-)

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

Loved this scene of people receiving a foot massage from students of the Victoria Memorial School for the Blind

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

I am not too fond of people photography, but this one was too good an opportunity to resist !

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

Candy floss in the making…

KGAF Mumbai, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

Now, how could I not photograph these colourful little lights ?

The 9-day KGAF packs in activities for children and adults alike and accommodates events in music, dance, visual arts, literature, theatre, food, films, street, heritage walks and a host of workshops. And since these events are very popular, not to mention absolutely free, it attracts people from all over.

In my opinion, compared to last year, this year’s KGAF was better in all aspects — the events on offer, the installation and street art, the food at the venue, the stalls and the behaviour of the visitors. Of course, this year too there were more cameras than people at the KGAF, and the visitors were more interested in posing with an artwork than actually reading about it or trying to interact with the artists present there. But I did not witness any shoving or pushing and in fact, saw people politely waiting for their turn to photograph or sometimes even moving out of the frame to give someone else a chance at getting a good shot ! I also saw people not littering and actually taking the effort to find the right type of dustbin for disposing waste.

I have always maintained that the KGAF is a metaphor for the city that hosts this festival. So is this a sign of a city that is maturing ? Only time will tell.

I spent 3 half days at the KGAF this year — on the Saturday if commenced, and on a Tuesday and Friday. This gave me enough chance to walk around and soak in the atmosphere, see each installation art, visit the stalls, catch up with some of my fellow bloggers, and bully Arunima of Picture Story Book into giving me some photography lessons  :-) And of course people watching as well. I had a wonderful time and can’t wait for the 2014 edition of the KGAF to come by.

What did you think of KGAF 2013? Do let me know.

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You can read my previous posts on the KGAF from the links given below:

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50 thoughts on “The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2013

  1. Sudhagee..when did you go?? I went on Saturday..and it was AMAZING!! I am so so glad I was there….it was super fun :) and we have fun at the kids session as well :)

    • RM, can you believe it that I had published a draft version of the post? :-( Your comment on when I visited KGAF (Feb 2, 5 and 8.) puzzled me as I had mentioned it in the post or so I thought. And when I checked I found that not only had I published an earlier draft, it was also incomplete. Eeps !

      Please visit the post again as there are more photographs and a complete picture of my visit as well. Wish I had coordinated with you as then I may have got a chance to meet you all again. :-)

    • Suranga, this year’s KGAF was much better than last year’s in every aspect. The installations were better, the stalls were better, the crowds were much better behaved. Remember, how we were pushed and shoved last year? Also met so many bloggers this time, and you were missed. I wish you had been able to make it this year. Hope to see you at the 2014 KGAF. :-)

  2. I first saw ur post in the morning, but couldnt comment. and now I come back, and the post is longer!!! yes, this year the KGAF was so much better, wasnt it? and i enjoyed it all the more since i met so many bloggers this year! wanted to go this weekend, but samhith was sick, so we gave it a skip… had enjoyed enough anyways!!! and as usual, u manage to put it all in so concisely… unlike me who goes on and on! how do u do it?

    • *with an embarrassed and mortified look on my face* I had published an incomplete and error-full post by mistake yesterday night and didn’t notice the mistake till today morning. Quickly rectified it and that’s why you saw a shorter post in the morning and a longer one when you commented.

      I loved the KGAF this time. The installations made sense to me, at least most of them and the crowds were better behaved. Or it could also be because I avoided the evenings and weekends this time around.

      As for the “concise post”, I had 40 photographs that I wanted to share in this post. It took me a week to think and plan and then write it all out. And then what do I do? Publish an incomplete post ! Sheesh :-(

  3. Been there on the 2nd day. I still cannot comprehend the need for people to pose near the installations and get photographed! And they dont care if someone else photographs them too! Yes, this year the shoving was not there!

    • That’s is something which even I cannot understand. I saw one young couple pose near the installation on child sexual abuse with a ‘V’ sign and broad smiles. It was sick to say the least. Memories are one thing, but what can it mean when the context is not understood or appreciated?

  4. Trust you to come up with a ‘theme’ for this year’s KGAF. They look spooky. Somehow I have never liked the looks of a skull :P I am so glad to hear that the crowds were better behaved this year. I had borne the brunt of the most rowdy and insensitive one last year. Of course my friend had taken me there in the evening. Loved the candy floss! Not just the pic of one in the making but also to eat it. Hopefully next year, I should be visiting it with you :)

    • Zephyr, the skulls were everywhere and there was no way anyone could miss them. They were literally of all sizes, shapes and materials and I just got to know, thanks to Vaishaki’s comment that they were part of the Mood Indigo Festival. So that explains the skulls.

      And yes, it’s a ‘date’ next year :-P.

    • Thanks, Niranjan. The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is indeed colourful and vibrant and since Mumbai lacks festivals like these, we try and make and most of this occassion :-)

  5. Thanks for the blog with pics I missed it but after reading about it I felt I caught up a little went for 2 sundays at cross maidan for music/dance festival

    • Thanks, Arnavaz. I could not attend single music or dance event. The interesting ones were all in the evening and I was wary of the crowds. So I gave it a miss this year, preferring to concentrate on the installations at the Rampart Row area. Maybe next year…

  6. I had already seen some of the images of the festival but Sudha your selection wins the first prize. :)
    I hope that you are right about photographers become more mature and patient. I feel a little ashamed of my camera few months ago in Agra in a cultural festival, the way I saw some photographers standing in front and blocking the view to rest of audience, as somehow they have a divine right ..

    • Thank you for the first prize, Sunil. :-) That really made my day.

      This year, I definitely did not notice any “bad behaviour” from the camera carrying public. But I did notice something else that was quite disturbing — the need to pose and be photographed with each installation. Now while I can understand, getting photographed with the Mumbai Dabbawala or the Black Bull, I fail to understand the need to be photographed in front of an installation on child sexual abuse with a wide grin and a “V” sign.

      I’m still trying to figure out why this is happening.

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  8. Glad to know this year’s experience was way better than last year. Maybe all the visitors read your post on last year’s KGAF and decided to behave better this year :) One can hope, can one not? Loved the pictures and the post too. I hope to visit KGAF one day with you.

    • Now that is something that I would love to believe, but also know is not possible. :-) And yes, one can always hope !

      Why don’t you make a trip to Mumbai in February next year? We can visit KGAF together, have pina coladas and also have a moviethon. And I promise to take time off from work :-)

    • Very glad you liked it, Suresh. I remember an installation at the Kala Ghoda Festival in 2003 and one of the first that I came across. I can’t remember what it was called, but it was a mix of kitchen utensils stuck together. It remains among the more bizarre stuff that I have seen till date.

      I am still not very fond of installation art, but cannot deny or acknowledge the creativity that powers each piece.

      I hope that you get to visit the KGAF one year.

  9. last 2 yrs kala ghoda was way better…but this time it was a huge disappointment…the only things i liked were the ngo stalls and the broken doll house…the skulls were a part of mood indigo 2012…guess the sponsors were not up to the mark this time…:(…but this post lessens my disappointment a bit…so kudos to u…:)))

    p.s. the bangles installation was actually an far view abstract monalisa frame…unfortunately i cant post the picture here…:(..but for more u can always check this out…:)… https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151227699646968.449509.618906967&type=3

    • Welcome here, Vaisakhi and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Thank you also for sharing your photographs. They’re beautiful captures. :-)

      I will have to disagree with you on the point that this year’s Kala Ghoda was a huge disappointment. I loved the insatalltions this year, at least most of them. Last year’s was a disaster, in my opinion in every respect. In 2012, the crowds were poorly managed, the installations were puzzling and sometimes vague as well. This year, the performances being shifted to Cross Maidan saw a significant drop in crowds, giving enough time and space to be able to appreciate the installations.

  10. HI, I am a first time visitor of yr blog. Thanks for sharing all the lovely pics of Kala Khoda arts fair. I used to frequent it when I lived in Mumbai.

    • Awww…. I should have told you. The KGAF is an amazing experience and a photographer’s delight as well. You will love it. And note these dates now — Feb 1 to 9, 2014. They are the dates for next year’s KGAF. And I’ll remind you in advance as well next year :-)

  11. Even I felt this year the festival was much better – the installations as well as other events. I spent 3 half days but felt longing for more.
    PS.: Not sure if you remember, we had met there. Anu Shankar introduced us. :) We have also started updating KGAF on our blog.

    • Of course I remember meeting you, Bindhu. :-) I am seriously wondering if I should take time off from work during the Kala Ghoda so that I can also attend the events and take walks, instead of just spending time at Rampart Row.

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  13. I had been there twice this year, once with my friends and the second for photography, and it was my first time as well. I was so amazed and I believe that KGAF has always been under-rated, I read articles about it in the newspaper and that’s how I came to know about it.
    Anyway coming back to your post here, love your photographs and they way you’ve put together this entire article. :D

    • Welcome to my blog, Ayesha, and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I have been visiting the KGAF since its inception and have seen it grow form a small and colourful beginning to what it has become today. Though they advertise and there is quite a bit of pre- and post-publicity as well, can you believe that there are people who still do not know about it?

      I met one such young woman outside the Jahangir Art Gallery who was bewildered with all the activity happening around. She asked me what was happening and when I told her, she said “I’ve been in Mumbai all my life and I never knew of something like this. I happened to be in this area due to some work and saw this.”

      I was left wondering if she was living under a rock or what !

  14. I had been hearing about Kala Ghoda festival and did see some pics but I get the full impact of the festival from your post. Excellent pictures and excellent info as usual from you. I wish I could attend the next one–it seems such a unique opportunity.

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