Aimed at “reviving the rich cosmopolitan, multicultural heritage of the Jew Town”, the Water Town Fest is being held alongside the Biennale. Home to the Paradesi Jews, the once-thriving neighbourhood of Jew Town at Mattancherry reportedly has only six members of the community as its residents now. Among others, the festival includes music performances, workshops and a food carnival. A photo exhibition titled “Pause” comprises works by renowned photographers such as Nick Ut, Boris Eldagsen, Mark Edward Harris and Giles Clarke.
Building a Library
Occupying the ground floor at the waterfront cafe Pepper House is artivist Aqui Thami’s Sister Library that comprises hundreds of novels, texts, zines and publications by women writers and artists from across the world. There are familiar titles as well as rare books that Thami has acquired over the years. Viewers can’t borrow from the travelling library but they can add to the collection — at the activity space. For a month, starting January 20, workshops will be held at the venue, and the interactions will be recorded, screened and added to the library collection.
At the MAP Project Space is a room where Cuban artist-activist Tania Burger was to perform. Though she pulled out of the event — to stay on in Cuba to fight the government’s controversial law that would increase cultural censorship — the room is still dedicated to her. Painted on a wall is a statement she issued: “We are all waiting for the regulations and norms the Ministry of Culture will put forward to implement Decree 349… the instructor from the Ministry of Interior … (threatened) me yesterday, saying that if I didn’t leave Cuba and if I did ‘something’, I would not be able to leave in the future.”
An art collective based in Sabah, the Pangrok Sulap, often engages with local communities to produce work in cities where they are exhibiting. On December 14, during a performance at the Biennale, the group unveiled their woodcuts that tell stories of the people of Kerala, calling it “Malayali’s Own Country”. A truck, meanwhile, carries the banner of the Kochi Biennale. “We want to raise issues such as the destruction of mother nature. We’re influenced by the DIY punk scene, which is against inequality and repression against the unfortunate,” says Jerome Manjat, one of the members of the collective.