By Shevlin Sebastian
Photo: Kochi Corporation Mayor Toni Chammani speaking at the function
At the Kochi Muziris Biennale-socio-cultural benefits seminar, held at the Casino Hotel, Toni Chammani, the Mayor of the Cochin Corporation extended full support to the arts festival. “We have set aside funds for this,” he said. “The Corporation wants the event to be held. I am sure Kochi will be on the world map because of the Biennale.”
In India, Kochi has received the singular honour of staging the festival. “So we are eager for it to take place here,” said the Mayor. “The Durbar Hall art gallery has become world class because of the work done by the organisers.”
Earlier, Riyas Komu, Director of Programmes of the Bienalle, said, “There are more than 100 Bienalles all over the world. We, as a nation, are lagging behind. Through the festival, Kochi will become the cultural epicenter of India.”
The festival will host 80 artistes from India and all over the world. There will be education and public programmes to sensitise the public. And, most importantly, it will help in the development of cultural tourism. “Worldwide, more than 300 million people travel for cultural tourism,” said Komu. “We expect more than 5 lakh visitors for the Kochi Biennale.”
Meanwhile, Benny Kuriakose of the Muziris Heritage Project said that the state has set aside Rs 180 crores for the preservation of the Muziris area. “This is targeted at the 5.4 million schoolchildren in the state,” he said. There are projects to restore temples, churches and mosques including the Cheraman Juma Masjid, which is regarded as the oldest mosque in India. New boats jetties and water taxis are being put into service.
“We want to have clean canals,” said Kuriakose. “Once upon a time, the canals in Amsterdam were as dirty as ours.” A New Centre for Muziris Studies has been set up at Kodungaloor. “Apart from that, 27 museums will be set up,” said Kuriakose. “The project is being highlighted in the international media.”
Artist Balan Nambiar spoke of the impact of the Venice Biennale which he has visited about 18 times so far. “It has made a major change to Venice, in terms of boosting the economy,” said Nambiar. “I am sure the same thing will happen here. The Biennale will be a landmark in the history of Kochi”
Tongue in cheek, he also said that the controversies surrounding the project were good as it created the best publicity for the festival. “Abuse is better than indifference,” he added.
Others who spoke on the occasion included Bose Krishnamachari, artistic director of the Biennale, Tasneem Zakaria Mehta, Managing Trustee of the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai, and Muhammed Afzal Edappakath of the Dutch Embassy in Delhi.
(The New Indian Express, Kochi)