Monday, 13 February 2017

Groove Is In The Art - Travels To Goa & Beyond


As luck would have it - and it really was luck, we didn't even know we were going to Kerala until we'd secured rail tickets the morning before - our trip to Fort Cochin coincided with the Biennale, the city's two yearly festival of contemporary art.


The exciting thing about the Biennale was that rather than staging exhibitions in purpose-built art galleries, for three months the entire city becomes a showcase for art, encouraging both residents and tourists alike to explore every corner of Cochin. 



The town beach served as a fish cemetery, a memorial to the tons of sea life plucked from the ocean every day.   


The city walls were whitewashed to create a blank canvas for street artists.....



Normally out of bounds to the general public, Cochin's private members clubs and the reading rooms of the city's intelligentsia opened their grounds, transforming them into sculpture gardens in which everybody could roam freely.





And those wonderful disused, colonial-era warehouses of Mattencherry? They were unlocked, the sealed & shuttered windows prised open and the floors and rafters swept free of cobwebs and replaced with art.


Can you imagine the health and safety implications of opening derelict 17th Century buildings with rickety staircases, crumbling beams and subsidence to the general public here in the West?


Taken in Aspinwall House, the former premises of English spice traders Aspinwall & Company, established in 1867.


And the art? Stupendously good. Some shocking - life-sized photographs of the newly-deceased dressed in haute couture; Others humbling - tributes to the Indian manual worker, a bust cast in bronze, not of an eminent politician but of a railway sweeper, one of the thousands of women risking life & limb 12 hours a day, 7 days a week  by clearing the tracks of debris and a shelf of three items of sweat-stained clothing, the sole possessions of a road worker; Some thought-provoking - photography, not of beautiful buildings or the verdant neighbouring countryside but of the mundane, building sites, water towers, garages and food kiosks; To the downright odd - from a twenty foot scale model of the Colosseum, crafted from dog chews to a life-size sculpture in paper of a public urinal.

Exhibits include, in homage to the humble barber, a barber's chair with a years-worth of hair sweepings, the Colosseum recreated in dog chews, a life size model of a public urinal - in paper, a room filled with light bulbs and another filled with photographs of all the artist's possessions.

Of course, there's far more to Cochin's arts scene than the contemporary. The city is the only place in Kerala that visitors are guaranteed to catch a performance of Kathakali - the classical Indian dance performed by an all-male cast, adorned in elaborately colourful make-up, costumes (pom poms and coin jewellery galore!) and masks. This Hindu performance art form is believed to have started in the 17th Century but its roots lie in temple and folk art said to date back to the first millennium AD.


Traditionally Kathakali takes place in Hindu temple grounds and go on throughout the night but Cochin has several dedicated theatres with shorter, more tourist-friendly performances acted out by professional Kathakali actors, who have trained for years.


 If you arrive early, like we did, it's possible to watch the actors applying their make-up prior to the performance.


You'll also get a lesson (in English) deciphering the actor's intricate facial movements, which will help you understand the story a little better.




The princess reminded me of Boy George in his 1980s heyday.

The performance we saw tells of a prince who loses his wife to the Demon King in a card game. The princess refuses to do the menial tasks demanded of her by her captor and is beaten. She appeals to the gods for help and is given a never-ending sari which prevents the demon from stripping her and humiliating her further.  In return she vows to leave her hair unwashed until she is released.


 Twelve years later, after a long forest exile, the prince meets and fights the Demon King. He wins the battle and avenges his enemy by disemboweling him and eating his heart. The princess is released and after washing her hair in the Demon King's blood, thanks the gods and returns to her prince.


During the make-up session we learned that the good guys had green faces, the baddies had red ones. and that all the actors put red dye in their eyes to heighten the drama. 


This chap is our flawed hero, the gambling prince. Check out those pompoms!


We'd seen amateur Kathakali in Kerala years before but this version was miles better and at £3 a ticket great value for money.



By strange coincidence a new series of the ace BBC show, The Real Marigold Hotel starts this Wednesday and is set in Cochin (billed in the TV guides as Kochi, the city's modern name).

See you soon!

Linking to Patti & The Gang for Visible Monday.

PS For the full set of Biennale & Kathakali photos click HERE

96 comments:

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    1. It's a pleasure to share them! x

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  2. Great timing, looks so colourful

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    1. Wasn't it a happy coincidence? x

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  3. Their make up is incredible and the story performed sounds wonderful! And a bargain too.

    The fish on the beach makes me sad though xxx

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    1. Kathakali is just amazing. I'm not really into dance but this is so dramatic and over the top and utterly mesmerising. xxx

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  4. it looks like superb event! I love you shot with wings - if you were an angel yo wings should definitely look like that

    Lyosha
    Inside and Outside Blog

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    1. It was a great time to visit!
      I need wings in my wardrobe. xxx

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    2. You do! It might be embroidery but actual wings are even better!

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  5. a post full of fine art! thank you vix - exactly what i need to come over this day. so great that you be there while the biennale was held! and the dance performance is beautiful beyond words!
    totally your wings! xxxxx

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    1. Such good timing. Definitely a good time to visit. xxx

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  6. How wonderful that the art spills over into everywhere! I expect you could spend days just looking...I would have thought that the sculpture in dog chews might have 'got at' by the stray dogs...

    The Kathakali looks fascinating and what wonderful make-up! When I saw poms-poms and coin jewellery I immediately thought of you, and I loved your outfit and you with wings!

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    1. Ha! Luckily that dog chew exhibit was inside or the pi dogs would soon have made smart work of that! xxx

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  7. I'm always so appreciative when I am in the right place at the right time to experience something that can't ever be recreated whether it be street art or live or spontaneous live music.

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    1. Serendipity, isn't it? If we'd planned to visit during Biennale we probably wouldn't have enjoyed it quite so much. xxx

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  8. I watched a few episodes of the first season of The Real Marigold Hotel on youtube - loved it! Great timing - the art sure made for a different trip this time

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    1. Such a brilliant programme - lovely to see older people being feisty and having fun rather than being portrayed as frail and as victims.xxx

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  9. the costumes, the make-up! Awesome. And art everywhere.

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    1. I thought you'd enjoy those costumes, Thorne! xxx

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  10. What a wonderful, beautiful and exciting vacation you had!

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    1. India never ceases to amaze us! xxx

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  11. What a wonderful stroke of good fortune!

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    1. I know! Definitely to icing on the cake. xxx

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  12. What a wonderful event, and how lucky you were to be at the right place at the right time. Judging from your photos, there's some amazing artwork out there. You are even part of one, I see. Another coincidence? xxx

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    1. I didn't even realise my top matched the wings until I posted the photo on here! xxx

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  13. Love your wings, they match your top so well, did the artists know you were coming?! Those sculpted fish are beautiful and the dancers superb! xxx

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    1. I think they did! We'd walked past the day before when they were painting it but I was wearing a different top! xxx

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  14. So great to see you, dear Vix. I love this street art, and the tale of the Demon King too (reading some Steven King now so it fits right in). Stay fabulous as ever, and thanks for linking up, xo

    -Patti
    http://notdeadyetstyle.com

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    1. Oh, good choice of literature! I love those creepy stories. xxx

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  15. How fascinating! - both the art festival and the dance performance; great footage too. The mural being painted by the guy looks stunning, imagine having it on a wall in your house? xxx

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    1. I'd love that mural on my wall (or even in the garden). So much talent. xxx

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  16. I am loving catching up on your travels Vix! x

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  17. Everything looks so lovely. I would have loved to sit and watch that play!

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    1. It was fascinating. There were a few children in the audience and they were transfixed. xxx

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  18. Wow, your halter top matches those wings so well it looks like part of the art! ☺ xxx

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  19. That was good timing with the art exhibition! I would love to see more stuff like that over here, art should be out in the community not locked away in one building. That photo of you with the rainbow wings is just perfect. If you were an angel, you'd have rainbow wings and pom poms on them too!! xx

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    1. Of course, that's what's missing from my outfit, pom poms! I better have a word with the Demon King. xxx

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  20. How amazingly lucky to stumble on such a gorgeous event. Your photographs are stunning, as are you with your wings. They are a perfect match. It looks so vibrant and through-provoking and surreal. I love the old warehouses. What an amazing venue. I have never heard of Kathakali theatre but it looks sumptuous and utterly superb. Thanks for the You Tube vids. I am off for a watch. Xx

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    1. I was thrilled to see those old warehouses being put to good use, even without fab art they're wonderfully atmospheric! xxx

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  21. wooooo hooo!! I finally made it over here to get caught up on your Goa posts! I'm starting backwards but oh well, I'm just glad to be here!

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    1. ...and I'm always glad to see you! x

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  22. How exciting that must have been for you. I'd have been in my element.
    In Rovinj town in Croatia on my 51st birthday (lovely coincidence) all the artists came out of their studios and lined the streets with their work. It was wonderful. We bought two paintings of ladies in hats made of lace. You won't remember but they are on the wall next to the tv.
    The boiler pics on fb are great. Philip will want to know all about them when we see you. xxx

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    1. We knew a certain somebody would appreciate those boilers! I'm not sure if they were an art installation or just left from an old ship! Who wouldn't want them in their garden? x

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  23. Wonderful art and performance scene- how interesting!

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    1. I love how each and every state of India is completely unique. xxx

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  24. Oh wow Vix, all that art and colour, no wonder you visit that part of the world yearly. So enjoying your holiday.

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    1. There's so much to see. I could spend a year there and barely scratch the surface. xxx

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  25. Fantastic, Vix! Watched your videos on YouTube, too.
    I really enjoyed that film (and now that I think of it, I wonder if that is where the Cochin chicken originated)
    xoxoxox

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Carol! xxx

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  26. I had nooo idea Kerala had such a brilliant art scene.
    The red faced villians and green faced heroes remind me of the theater of ancient Greece & Kabuki, I wonder if there's any influence there?
    All the photos are amazing but I love the first one with you with the wings of a cherubim.
    xox

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    1. Well worth a trip down south, Bibi! There's some incredible clothes shops, too but soooo expensive! xxx

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  27. Often the 'stumbled upon' events are the best! Brilliant photos :)

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    1. You're right, there's a real thrill to stumble across something random like the Biennale. xxx

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  28. sat sulking in a corner , green with envy

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    1. Green means you're a good guy! xxx

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  29. so lovely that you caught that art event, that's the kind of event which makes the whole place more enjoyable!, and I'm glad you could visit all those old buildings and clubs and places adorned with creativity and art!.
    Fab pictures!!
    besos

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    1. We loved it, it really made our stay something memorable. xxx

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  30. That looks fab - the theatre performance must have been fascinating. And all the art too, such a good insight into how the artists feel about their country as it is right now.

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    1. It really was great, so diverse and inclusive just how art should be. xxx

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  31. I love the idea of an art exhibit like this. Some are so stuffy here - in tightly controlled conditions, roped off, no flash photography - I understand the reasons why but this seems so much better.
    I love that you admired his pompoms!

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    1. Yes, even though most of the exhibits would still be amazing in the sterile setting of an art gallery having them on the streets, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of traffic and the crowds took them to another level. xxx

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  32. I love this post, Vix. The art, the theatre... You write so well and the photos are fantastic. Thanks for this!

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  33. How amazing that you were able to see such a great festival of art. Setting the works in all those different places that people wouldn't have the opportunity to access otherwise is brilliant.

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    1. We loved it! Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had the weather to be able to do the same here? xxx

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  34. Vix with Wings is the best! And Art without Boundaries too. What could be better?

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    1. I've said it once and I'll say it again, India rocks! x

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  35. What a great time to be in Cochin! Kathakali looks utterly fascinating, the make-up application alone looks like a very skilled job and how magnificent are those costumes. Thanks for the reminder about Marigold Hotel, just realized that I'm missing it, but will catch-up...gave up on that Sunday night one. xxx

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    1. Watching the make-up was mesmerising especially with the accompanying soundtrack.
      The Real Marigold was wonderful, that Karma Hotel on the other hand was appalling. we managed half an hour of lazy cliches and weak plot lines before we abandoned it. xxx

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  36. Fabulous. How lucky to be in Cochin to see the art...Real Marigold Hotel is going to be worth a watch - I am watching Karma Hospital which I almost dismissed as rubbishy storyline/acting but it does capture the colour, sounds and atmosphere of India in a sanitised kind of way. I wanted to know if you had your fortune told when you were there and if they still have snake charmers on the street. Your picture with the 'wings' is worth enlarging and covering a whole wall of your house with - it's spectacular. Betty x

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    1. As I mentioned to Fiona, we gave up on Good Karma Hospital. I was exited to be getting an Indian fix but the plot was horrible and I suppose we know South India so well that we could tell it was filmed in Sri Lanka. Thank goodness for The Real Marigold Hotel and proper India!
      I haven't seen any snake charmers for ages but those fortune telling parrots are still pretty common. xxx

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  37. Perhaps one of your finest posts to date, my dear! Wonderful, heartwarming, and deserves being published in a travel magazine or book. I can tell you were inspired by the event - lovely photos! I especially love the portrait of you through the filigree window, and of course these wings are just amazing.

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    1. Thanks, Natalia! I'm so passionate about India, I just adore every minute of our trip, cockroach infested hotel rooms, dodgy toilets and everything! xxx

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  38. What fantastic luck to find all that happening. It looks fabulous, although I confess, the Boy George guy is more than a little creepy! Fabulous pictures though, and those buildings. What an adventure. Xx

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    1. I know, we really couldn't have planned our trip better! xxx

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    2. Such amazing artwork. Glad you had a great time and took in so many colourful sights and sounds xx

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    3. Thanks, Yvonne. I'm glad you enjoyed it. xxx

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  39. I always find Hindu stories so interesting, particularly given my year in Bali living in a Hindu culture. This is a great story!x

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    1. Bali was the first Hindu country I visited, I remember being enthralled by a shadow puppet show of the Mahabharata. xxx

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  40. That was quite a story you watched on the stage! Amazing photos of those performers!

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    1. Thank you! they are an incredible spectacle. x

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  41. Wow, this looks ace! I would love to see the room full of light bulbs in real life.
    wholelottarosiesite.wordpress.com

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    1. They looked fantastic. I love when mundane objects are used to make art. x

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  42. Great that you happened to be there during the contemporary art festival! And that dance sounds so interesting. Great photos ... love the first one of the wings and the one of you through the concrete screen thing.

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    1. It was such a lucky coincidence. xxx

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  43. This is FABULOUS, Vix! All empty buildings should be filled with art. I love this post, thank you for sharing. xx

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! I wish more local councils were as forward thinking as Cochin's. x

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  44. What a great event and how lucky that you were there to experience it! x

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    1. I know! We couldn't have planned that trip better! x

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Don't be shy, if you enjoyed your visit leave a comment, I can come and visit your blog if you do.
Love from Vix
xxx