On Monday evening, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Kerala, India, recovers from the pandemic after long delays. After being postponed twice, the event’s organizers announced that while Monday marks its official return, the opening of its main venues and programming has been delayed yet again due to “organizational challenges” and Cyclone Mandous until December 23.
Last held in 2018, this year’s KMB will host more than 90 artists and collectives, many hailing from West Asia and Africa, such as the Lebanese-born Ali Cherri, Iman Issa from Egypt, Alper Aydin from Turkey, the artist Palestinian-American visual. Jumana Manna, and the Beit Sahour Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency.
What is an Art Biennale?
The Kochi-Muziris Biennale is an international contemporary art exhibition held in Kochi, Kerala, every two years. The first edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale started on 12/12/12 and was held in spaces of Kochi, Muziris and the surrounding islands.
There were shows in existing galleries and site-specific installations in public spaces, heritage buildings and disused warehouse structures. Indian and international artists were invited to exhibit artwork in various media, including film, installation, painting, sculpture, new media and performance art.
By celebrating contemporary art from around the world, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale seeks to invoke the cosmopolitan historical legacy of the modern metropolis of Kochi and its mythical predecessor, the ancient port of Muziris.
Along with the exhibition, the Biennale offered a rich program of talks, seminars, screenings, musical performances, workshops, and educational activities for schoolchildren and visitors of all ages. In cooperation with the Muziris Heritage Project, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale seeks to link the past with the modern present.
The ancient city of Muziris, located 30 km from Kochi, was a prosperous seaport and financial centre in the 1st century BC. Believed to have been swept under the sea during the Periyar River flood of 1341 AD, Muziris was a key link in the trade routes of the Indo-Roman and Indo-Greek Empires. Muziris attracted legions of Roman, Greek, Chinese, Jewish and Arab traders from across the sea, whose architectural and cultural influences can still be found in the area.
The region is unique as it is said to house the first church in India (Mar Thoma church), the first mosque (Cheraman Juma Masjid) and the oldest European monument (Portuguese fort). Several archaeological sites remain today, which are currently being excavated and restored by conservation architects with the support of the Kerala State Government and the Central Government of India.
The collection of archaeological and historical data on ‘Muziris’ proves that it was a true commercial and cultural centre, with far-reaching international associations dating back more than 2000 years. Realizing its potential impact, the Indian government started an ambitious project to cover a larger area, including North Paravur and Kodungallur Taluks, which have several protected monuments.
Today, the area is littered with numerous monuments from this era that speak volumes about its rich heritage. These archaeological and heritage activities have been designed to engage local communities and encompass broader development objectives.
The Muziris Heritage project is not just about tourism, it is about making a meaningful difference through conservation, restoration, history, environmental projects, research, development of crafts and art forms, occupation and other community activities.