Mumbai has become synonymous with the madding crowd and commercialization. People are so used to the working lifestyle here that most of them find it hard to imagine living a slow-paced life. The old colonial buildings in South Mumbai are just any other office building on a regular day outside which people can be seen taking a break from their work, sipping chai, devouring on roadside snacks or puffing a smoke. The beaches and the seafront areas quietly observe the vehicles rushing past by them on the weekdays, embracing few love birds and college students, only waiting for the weekends to be filled with the crowd. Ask any Mumbaikar after they return from a holiday away from the city, they will say how slow the life is in other parts of the country/abroad and that it is now difficult to enjoy the life of such kind for a longer period. However, it would be wrong to perceive Mumbai as machine-producing robots. From what may seem a life of constant hustle-bustle to many, Mumbaikars have somehow learned to embrace this lifestyle and find strength and hope from the daily grind. And where there is a struggle, there is art! There are rebels and people desperate to find their expression. And of course, being a business capital, the city has given freedom to many, who are above the struggle-for-survival bar to explore their interest in the field of arts.
In between the pulsating Mumbai- A city that never sleeps, art is like a skipped beat, a moment of joy breaking the monotony and bringing people closer while spreading awareness about the socio-cultural affairs of the city as well as the country. No wonder, Mumbai is the hub for art lovers that provide a platform to many aspiring artists to showcase their talent even on international level. The Kala Ghoda arts festival is trying to conserve that spirit of Mumbai, passionately for 20 years, making it the biggest street festival of arts in India.
Being a person who prefers walking over taking a cab, reaching to the event from Churchgate station itself felt like a part of a heritage walk as the road is flanked by the colonial buildings taking me back to old Bombay days ( Bombay is an old name for Mumbai). Kala Ghoda, the location of the event, is surrounded by prominent buildings like Rythm House, Jehangir art gallery, Sassoon Doc library and the Max Muller Bhawan, which itself is an assurance that the place cannot let down the visitors and has something to offer to everyone, be it a theatre enthusiast, cinema, architecture, music, painting, literature or even a food lover! (Did I forget to mention the new selfie lover generation?)
The famous Bollywood celebrities, musicians, dancers, comedians grace the festival with their performances while the authors, painters, filmmakers, etc engage with the budding artists in the various events held throughout the festival. The small scale entrepreneurs and local artisans grab this as an opportunity to showcase their crafts by selling handicrafts, jewelry, clothing, home décor, ceramics, etc. Many of the stalls, in fact, see a lot of customers throughout the day. The 9-day long festival becomes a haven for both, the artists and the connoisseur of art bridging a gap between the two by exchanging each other’s ideology, struggle and interest. The various events held during the festival are free of cost and welcomes people from all walks of life not only from the city and country but from all over the world making it stand true to its tagline- Of the people, for the people, by the people.
Although I was unable to attend the various scheduled events due to lack of time, I made sure to go through the art installations. Many of them left a deep impression on me and made me appreciate the effort put in to spread the message on a public platform. On the other hand, it was disheartening to see many people attending the festival without understanding the message being tried to convey. I heard many youngsters remarking that they hardly understood anything about it without even reading the explanation given beside each art form. Art- a combination of reality and fiction is rather based on the simple philosophies of life, trying to retrace our roots. Anyways as the saying goes, the teacher arrives when the student is ready- the aesthetic art that can jolt a person’s deepest desire and feelings in subtle ways, is appealing mostly to people who are willing to learn and expand their horizons. One thing that I would take along from this festival is that the art lies in details and patterns that are everywhere. It is how an individual perceives things and expresses them that give art so many forms and colors.
Apart from celebrating the 20th anniversary of the festival, it commemorated the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and also tried to spread his teachings. The art installations conveyed the message for dreamers, educated about the existing social stigmas, depicted various moods and phases of life, tried to decipher the roles of people, memories, dreams, and time while also reminiscing the journey of the festival so far. Below are few of them that may leave you spellbound and appreciate the art as well.
The Cloud of Diamonds
The installation depicts how consciously/subconsciously, we form a cloud of diamonds built from our aspirations and experiences in life. The ladders denote the path to reach the cloud. Sometimes, the way to the cloud is simple but we often take a complicated route that is denoted by crisscross ladders. The carriage symbolizes the world we live in with friends and community playing an important role to help us reach towards our destiny, thereby warning us to choose people carefully. It acts as a platform that life provides to climb the ladder and the wheels at the base denote the circle of life with its sole purpose to help us reach toward that cloud of diamonds. Are you moving toward your cloud of diamonds?
Roots to sky:
A tree made from a scrap of bicycles denotes the importance of healthy childhood days that shape our adulthood. Just like the strength of the roots determine the growth of a tree, the simple joys of childhood like playing, riding bicycles, dancing, singing, painting, etc strengthens our cognitive and decision-making skills and helps us to face the highs and lows of life.
An hourglass with sand in the upper part depicts the present moment, slipping away with time and settling down as memories. The wings reflect the aspirations to soar higher and evolve as a better human being.
The Infinite Spindle
Reflects the infinite loop of life with our memories and dreams intermingling with others, denoting solidarity.
The tree itself portrays hope as it is also known as a wish-fulfilling tree. The trunk wrapped in receding colors from bright to dark symbolizes the truth of life. The books, degree, medals etc. show the joyous moments in the life of privileged ones, while the dream catcher depicts the unfulfilled dreams of underprivileged children who have been victims of trafficking, abuse and child labor. The mirror on the trunk reflects the face of an individual observing it as if asking him/her if they are contributing their bit to the society.
The structure when rotated upside down reveals the irregular colors of the bar opposite to the hourglass in the perfect shape of a horse. It depicts the mystery of time and journey conveying the message that everything makes sense with the passing of time bringing out a new spirit and healing all the fragmented emotions.
The horse head made from stained glasses is dedicated to the journey of the Kala Ghoda Festival responsible to bring out the colors of the city.
Denotes the continuous progress of time weaving with the memories and experiences.