An open letter to KGAF heritage walk organisers

Dear Kala Ghoda Arts Festival’s Heritage Walks organisers,

Greetings from a participant in your 2014 Heritage Walks :)

I almost ignored the Heritage Walks section of the 2014 edition of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF). Not because I suspected the quality of the programmes (they are always good!), but because my previous experience with your Heritage Walks was not very nice.

It was in 2010 (or maybe 2011), when I participated in two walks — (i) Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) and (ii) Ballard Estate. The CST walk called for registrations via email for 30 available seats; and I was lucky to get one of them. When I arrived at the meeting point outside CST on the day of the walk and at the appointed time, I found a large crowd gathered there. Most of them had not registered and were determined to be on the walk one way or the other. And they succeeded as your people were just not able to turn them away. This meant that we ended up as a pretty large group and I barely got to hear what the guide spoke.

The Ballard Estate walk turned out to be even more chaotic. This walk had no pre- registrations and interested participants just had to turn up at the World War I memorial in Ballard Estate at the appointed day and time. About 150–200 people turned up that day for the walk. I left 5 minutes into the walk when I found that I could neither see the tour guide nor hear a word of what she spoke.

Thereafter, I restricted my KGAF participation only to the events on Rampart Row every year. Till I came across these words on your website with regard to the 2014 Heritage Walks.

Participants are welcome on FIRST COME – FIRST SERVE [sic] basis… (Maximum people – 50 on first come first serve [sic] basis)…
Note: Only 1 token would be handed over to one person. No email registrations would be accepted.

The “First come – First serve” [sic] and the “Maximum people – 50″ clinched it for me. After choosing which ones to go for, applying for time off from work, and reaching well in time to stand up in the queue for the registration tokens, I managed to participate in 5 Heritage Walks and Tours at the KGAF 2014.

Every heritage walk revealed yet another interesting aspect about this beautiful city of ours. Unfortunately, every heritage walk also revealed how much things had not changed with regard to organising and conducting them. The words on your website just remained mere words and didn’t translate into action.

Let me elaborate with details from each walk:

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The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014

The 2014 edition of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) ended today or rather would have by the time I publish this blog post.

A 9-day festival of all things art, the KGAF 2014 offered various programmes in the area of children, cinema, dance, food, heritage walks, literature, music, street, theatre, visual art, workshops, and urban design and architecture. This was the 16th edition of the KGAF and like previous years, every event and programme on offer was free.

Like every year, I made a beeline for the visual / installation art. And unlike previous years, I also made an effort to register and participate in some of the heritage walks as well as a workshop on offer. This meant that I was able to discover something more about this beautiful city of mine and fall in love with Mumbai all over again. :)

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

This ghoda or horse incorporates many of the symbols that Mumbai is associated with

Let me take you through the highlights of what I saw and experienced at the KGAF 2014. First up are the visual art /installations and stalls, followed by some captures from the Heritage Walks / Tours I went on.

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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 (I wonder where they go). 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 of 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 of the KGAF 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 are given below.

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The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2012

Today is the last day of the 2012 edition of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) in Mumbai. This much-awaited, one-of-its-kind annual festival comes like a breath of fresh air to a city that is starved of events like this. The week-long KGAF packs in programmes and performances in literature, theatre, films, music, and dance. In addition to this, there are heritage walks, street art exhibitions as well as street performances, and workshops on various topics for adults and children alike.

While I attend quite a few of the ‘cultural’ performances and participate in a heritage walk or two every year, what I really look forward to every year are people-watching and the handicraft melas. The latter brings in artisans and their art and craft from all over the country, and is an opportunity for me to stock up on gifts for friends and family. I also look forward to seeing the installation or street art at Rampart Row, the venue of the main KGAF, not because I love installation art, but because I am always amazed at the creativity that gets shown year after year. Just see a sample from this year’s KGAF.

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The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival: A metaphor for Mumbai

Tomorrow is the last day of Mumbai’s much-loved and much awaited annual Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF). The Festival is organised by the Kala Ghoda Association, a not-for-profit organisation, with the aim of “physically upgrading the Kala Ghoda sub-precinct and making it the Art District of Mumbai”. All events of the KGAF are held within a one kilometre radius of the Kala Ghoda area in South Mumbai.

The KGAF makes space for all kinds of arts and through its various components ensures participation of a very large cross-section of the population. According to the Festival’s website,

The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is an expression of the inclusiveness of art where all gather in a joyous spirit of celebration of the finest talents producing momentous and uplifting work.

In its 13th year now, the KGAF 2011 had children’s events, workshops, literary events, heritage walks, film screenings, theatre, music, and dance performances, and a street festival as well. In addition to all these events, artists from across the country set up stalls to showcase and sell their products.

An art installation of a cow depicting scenes from “A Day in the Life of India”

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