Fort Cochin and Mattancherry look like living fossil towns with their dilapidated warehouses and crumbling buildings, which are what you see as the boat closes in on the jetty. These were once the hubs of commerce, and gradually lost out to the mainland city of Ernakulam, which has grown by leaps and bounds even as Cochin sinks into commercial oblivion. Well, Cochin has always been a tourist hot spot, but with the Kochi-Muziris Biennale being held there, it’s getting swamped with even more visitors than usual. The Biennale has taken Cochin and Ernakulam by storm.
The organizers have staged a marketing coup by associating the event with the region’s unique history of international maritime trade, which is why Muziris was included in the hyphenated name. Also, local art forms have been woven into the tapestry of the Biennale, with many traditional music and dance shows being put on. Best of all, much of the art is not displayed in swanky galleries but in the decaying warehouses, which is itself some kind of statement about art and history though the cynic may say it’s just expediency. It’s a novel experience to breathe in the musty air and feast one eyes.
One of the most visibly uplifting aspects of the Biennale is the street art on display. Here are some samples from Fort Kochi (also the photo on top).