Saturday, February 07, 2015

A Billionaire visits the Biennale

By Shevlin Sebastian

Photo: Bose Krishnamachari (left) with MA Yusuff Ali. Taken by PK Jeevan Jose 

Only a billionaire can travel like this. First he gets onto a helicopter from his home at Kadavanthra. This lands at the Parade Ground at Fort Kochi. From there he gets into a white BMW, which takes him to the Aspinwall House, the main venue of the Kochi Muziris Biennale. The driver is wearing a gleaming white uniform with the letter Y above the shirt pocket.

The passenger is none other than MA Yusuff Ali, the managing director of the EMKE Lulu Group. He is accompanied by his wife, Shabira. Not surprisingly, Biennale founders Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu and curator Jitish Kallat also accompany him.

Yusuff Ali walks briskly, and watches the sites keenly. Then he says, “Sometime ago, a member of the Royal Family called me from the United Arab Emirates. He asked me whether Kochi is my home. I said it is. Then he told me that his family members are coming to see the Bienalle. That's when I knew that the Bienalle had made a mark.”

Then he pauses and says, “The Bienalle is a place where you can learn a lot of things.” And he gives an example of the video by Adrian Paci called 'The Column', where a marble block is taken from China to France on a ship. On the long journey, Chinese carvers transform the stone into a 'Made in China' classical Greek column which is to be delivered to a buyer at the destination.

This is a practical solution,” says Yusuff Ali. “It saves time. For a businessmen like me, timely delivery is also a very important concept.”

Yusuff Ali says that he wants to extend all help to the Biennale. And when the international convention centre, which his company is building, near Bolgatty Palace, comes up, he promises that he will set aside one section to exhibit Biennale works. “This will attract tourists,” he says. “To offer my support, I am also giving Rs 50 lakh for this year's edition. And next year....”

He turns to Bose and says, with a smile, “Can you announce it.”

Bose says, “Next year, Yusuff Ali Sir will be giving Rs 1 crore. We are grateful for this. He is a role model for other businessmen. I am also happy that he has shown his love and affection to the artistes of Kerala as well as the world.” 

Away from the media scrum, Shabira gazes calmly at her husband. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi) 

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