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Kochi Biennale Foundation drops inquiry against artist Riyas Komu, accused in #MeToo movement

An art world professional in a post on the Instagram account 'Scene and herd' accused Riyas Komu, who hails from Kerala, of sexual misconduct in October last year.

Written by Vishnu Varma | Kochi |
Updated: March 28, 2019 9:33:25 pm
#MeToo movement: Riyas Komu accused of misconduct, apologises Riyas Komu

The board of trustees of the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF), that runs the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, met Thursday to sign off on dropping an inquiry against artist and co-founder Riyas Komu, who had been named anonymously last year in the #MeToo movement.

In a statement on the closing day of the fourth edition of the Biennale here in Kochi, the KBF said the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) chaired by former Kerala chief secretary Lizzie Jacob ‘recommended the dropping of the inquiry’ against Komu as no complaint of sexual harassment was forthcoming in the last several weeks. Komu had resigned from all management positions at the KBF in October last year after the allegations from an anonymous survivor surfaced.

“Since no complaint was forthcoming after pursuing the matter for several weeks, the ICC recommended the dropping of the inquiry suggested by the Foundation. This recommendation has been examined and has been accepted by the board of trustees at its meeting today. We look forward to Riyas Komu resuming his roles at the Kochi Biennale Foundation,” the statement read.

Earlier this month, Komu severed all his ties with the KBF writing a mail to the co-trustees that he had been left distressed with the way the Foundation handled the matter and stood by doing nothing even as he became the ‘target of a deliberate and calibrated attempt to wreck my career as an artist of global renown.” He claimed the allegations against him were ‘unfounded’ and intended to destabilise the Biennale. He also spoke out against Anita Dube, curator of the current edition, for stopping him from functioning as the Director of Programmes.

An art world professional in a post on the Instagram account ‘Scene and herd’ accused Komu, who hails from Kerala, of sexual misconduct in October last year. She said the incident took place in 2015 when she had gone to Kochi to describe a project with Komu. She narrated events of being violated by him during her stay in Kochi. He apologised, while responding to the allegations, and said he was open to a conversation.

The Biennale, which has by now become a permanent fixture in the art world, began on December 12 last year on a rocky note with allegations against Komu. The event, which took place over 10 venues in west Kochi, is currently shrouded in allegations of financial impropriety with a contractor sending a legal notice complaining of non-payment of dues. Prominent filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan presided over the closing ceremony of the Biennale on Thursday.

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