VENITA GOMES| NT BUZZ
Those coming to Goa have different stories to narrate about their experiences here. There are those who have sweet memories to share and some have the opposite to say. But Smriti Rajgarhia’s Goa experience was completely different from usual travel stories. She did not come to enjoy a holiday, but to know more and understand the cultural ethos of the place. She found Goa to be a melting pot of art, where various art forms could find a platform that would take art to a different level and help it grow. “Goa has rich culture and heritage and I am not one of those people who came to Goa for holidays. The best part about Goa for me is the capital city- Panaji. When we saw Panaji, we were so excited because it was such a beautiful space and had layers of history. That’s when we decided that we have to do something here,” says director, Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF) Smriti.
The place inspired and influenced the Serendipity Art Trust (SAF) team to come up with an art festival and that is how SAF made its way to Goa. Saying that they were clueless about what had to be done and how the entire mandate would work in terms of support from artists and giving them a space of their own, they managed to successfully host the first edition of the festival last year. Smriti has worked with large collections of Indian art that represent art in India from 1800’s to this date. She has been engaged in spreading education and awareness of arts through repositories of information for over a decade.
The SAF last year had around 53 projects and over 350 artists who participated in the festival. This year the festival will be bigger. There will be around 1,000 artists participating and 70 projects including a lot of visual art that will be displayed at the festival.
SAF is a multi-disciplinary arts event set over period of eight-days that will take place in Panaji from December 15 to December 21. There are several Goan artists and institutional figures who will showcase their works at the festival. The aim is to bring about a positive change in the arts in India on a large scale.
This edition of Serendipity Arts Festival will feature projects curated by Ranjit Hoskote and Riyas Komu who will be curating Visual Arts; Manu Chandra and Odette Mascarenhas experts in the field of Culinary Arts; Theatre will be curated by The Lillete Dubey and Anuradha Kapur. Musicians Shubha Mudgal and Ranjit Barot will be taking over the musical projects.
More about the second edition
Speaking about some of the new projects this year, Smriti says: “We have a couple of different projects this year. We have a project called Dhamaal which is being curated by Subha Mudgal and Anish Pradhan. It has 75 percussion artists from all over the country performing together on one stage. It shows the diversity of the country. It shows how music brings people together.”
There is also another project by Subha Mudgal on brief podcasts. The podcasts can be downloaded in order to learn history of music. For example, if one wants to understand what the ‘Sufi’ tradition in India is and how it began in Punjab then they can listen through the 20-minute podcast. “I think this is a brilliant way to express the art. Getting in technology is the way forward now especially with the youth. It is the youth that will be taking the culture forward. I think the format of the podcast for me is very interesting to watch out for this year,” says Smriti.
Venues of art installation
The venues of the festival range from historic Portuguese structures to modern architectural marvels, and include both indoor and outdoor spaces like Adil Shah Palace, Captain of Ports Jetty, Bento Miguel, Children’s Park, Old Goa Medical College, Entertainment Society of Goa, Kala Academy and DB Bandodkar Grounds.
their work from Goa
As the festival has several artists coming from various parts of the country there are several Goans who will be showcasing their work. 35 Goan artists will be displaying their work at the festival. The organisers are in process of displaying work of Goa’s legendary artists as well as contemporary artists.
An exhibition on Goan art will be curated by Vivek Menezes; which is based on the idea and term called ‘Konkani Surrealism’. “Surrealism was a movement which was very famous in western art and it trickled into India at some point of time. Vivek has worked extensively on the project and will be dealing with the same for the festival,” explains Smriti.
The Goan elements
‘While in Goa why not be like the Goans’, with this concept in mind the eight-day festival will showcase some of the finest Goans cuisine, local bands and moreover Goan art. “Coconut plays a vital role in Goa’s cuisine. We are also planning on addressing the Goan cuisine with the help of Odette Mascarenhas who will curate an entire section and narrate the history and stories of Goa’s coconut over the ages,” says Smriti.
The festival intends to bring about a constant change in Art. Explaining how they are planning to address this aspect of art, Smriti says: “The first thing is to address the idea of patronage. When we say patronage, people think about is money but it’s not. An artist gets satisfied if you give him your time. If people see an art work and react to it that is the first level of patronage. The whole intention behind the large festival is to atleast start going out to see arts and develop interest in art.” The outcome of the same would result in people changing their mindset towards arts and start understanding and taking note of every aspect of art around them.
One-stop for art
Being a tourist destination several domestic and international tourists come to Goa every year. Many have the mindset that Goa is just a destination for beaches and to break this stereotype the festival aims to showcase a different side of Goa. Giving an example how they plan on making Goa an art hub, Smriti says: “the famous Biennale art fairs that happen around the world also happen in smaller cities like Edinburgh, Venice and Adelaide. These places are festival homes where the world descends. Once that happens the space gets lot more attention. As Goa is seen as a cultural space we wish to promote it.”
Selecting art and artists for the festival
The whole process of selecting artists is done through a curatorial system. There are around 14 curators who recommend first, following which their recommendations are then looked into. This year Goan artist Subodh Kerkar and Orijit Sen are working on special projects for the festival.
Recently a small project called ‘Serendipity fringe’- a single performance event was taken up by the organisers in Delhi. Smirti adds: “We are planning on taking a little bit of Serendipity to Dubai but very small part, one exhibition. We want to take Serendipity Arts Festival, Goa to the world for them to understand it better.”
With the kind of the good response the festival received last year the organisers plan on raising the standard of the festival this year with new concepts and newcomers. “This year we want it to be an experience that people take back with them. If even 10 per cent of the people, after attending the festival start going to galleries or performances, I think we will have achieved our goal of impacting people via the arts,” concludes Smriti.
(Serendipity Arts Festival 2017 will be held in Panaji from December 15 to December 22. Details: www.serendipityartsfestival.com.)