Primarily famous for the sun and the sand, for its churches and nightlife, Goa’s Panjim city readjusts itself to an entirely new setting for about eight days every December, to host the Serendipity Arts Festival. This year’s edition was held from 15-22 December, with a range of art events, exhibitions, talks and musical performances feature on the event’s week-long billing.

“Goa is a pretty amazing place, it is scenically fantastic and December has a great weather,” said Sunil Kant Munjal, founder and chief patron, Serendipity Arts Foundation, on his choice of making Goa the base for Serendipity. “Goa celebrates all kinds of different cultures and is very inclusive of people belonging to different cultures, this is exactly what we are trying to show in this.”

On the second edition of this yearly arts festival, Munjal said, “The scale is much larger than previous year’s. We have more venues, more projects and we hope to get a larger participation from the masses as well. Last year, we had about 50-odd projects. This year, we have 73. Not really a large number, but in each one, the size and complexity is much larger. This time we are also looking at food as an art form. We also have a bigger focus on the performing arts along with many visual arts shows.”

Detritus: Matter Out of Place, an art exhibition where the participants have made used waste as their primary medium, stood out as one of the more exceptional shows at Serendipity 2017. The material used for this work includes a mishmash of old rags, stuffed toys and discarded tyres. The 12 artists, who together worked on Detritus, have sought to grant fresh meanings to an unlikely subject.

“The idea was to show the way particular artists have used the materials, and the processes through which the work has been created,” said Vidya Sivadas, curator of Detritus. “It is the politics and aesthetics of the material which is interesting to me.”

Many of the sculptures and installations included in Detritus, like Ruby Chishty’s Free Hugs, Kausik Mukhopadhyay’s Squeeze Lime in Your Eyes, and B.V. Suresh’s Chronicles of Silence,  stood out.

At the historic Adil Shah Palace built by the Muslim ruler Yusuf Adil Shah of Bijapur around 1500, which was later invaded by Portuguese troops, Sonic City, an artwork by singer Shubha Mudgal had been installed. The visitors at the show found themselves surrounded by photographs of Delhi. One could also listen to ambient sounds of the city: sounds emitted from overhead speakers, of birds chirping, calls of hawkers, intermixed with folk and classical melodies.

More than 80 photographs were showcased at The Music Stopped But We Were Still Dancing, an exhibition that revived memories of Goan musicians from the early jazz and “hot dance” eras. Displayed here were personal photo albums of around a dozen families, archival music tracks and videos of the significant Goan band leaders of India’s jazz age. This show is based on author Naresh Fernandes’ research for his book on jazz, Taj Mahal Foxtrot. The curator Prashant Panjiar, who is based in Goa, spoke to Guardian 20 about the current jazz scene in India. “Jazz doesn’t have much following in India at present,” said Panjiar. “There are both young and old musicians who are still performing jazz but the number of people playing jazz music as opposed to rock etc. is much less now.”

Now You See It: The Invisble River of Konkani Surrealism, another brilliant exhibition that at the festival, was on view at the Bento Miguel House. This is a century-old building which once housed both shops and apartments on its upper floor. Curated by Vivek Menzes, the show had on display a myriad of artworks ranging from paintings, photographs, sculptures, sketches, installation pieces and a performance. This exhibition provided the much-needed context for today’s artists from Goa, to be understood and appreciated as products of the state’s distinct cultural evolution.

Artist Kalidas Mhamal, in his show entitled Now You See It, displayed sculptures, which were part of the series Caste Thread. The fibreglass sculptures, five headless busts really catch the eye. There is both the Hindu thread and Christian cross hanging on each of the busts. Busts were given name too.There is one Damodar Dominic, Mahabel Manuel, Laxman Lukas on display. “Thousands of Goan Hindus were converted to Christianity by force or arson,” says Mhamal. “Since there was no caste system in Christianity the higher caste Brahmin converts refused to be treated equal to the so called lower class converts, they wrote letters to the bishop stating that they be allowed to keep their higher caste, they appeal to bishop that they should allow to wear Janave (caste thread) which was symbol of their caste. Pope sent a decree allowing them to continue to wear their holy thread provided it was blessed by Bishop.”

Seeya Pandit, a volunteer at the festival and a painting student at Goa College of Art said, “The festival was truly a remarkable one. I got to meet a lot of artists and tried to understand their work.”

 

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