The biennale, as a festival of contemporary art, will throw up fresh ideas and artistic concepts. However, Kerala society has shown a historical reluctance in accepting new ideas.

City Mayor Tony Chammany on Monday threw his weight behind the Kochi Muziris Biennale, a three-month-long festival of visual art, beginning on December 12, 2012, saying it would propel Kochi onto the cultural map of the world. He was speaking at a seminar organised here on the socio-cultural benefits of the proposed biennale.

“The biennale, as a festival of contemporary art, will throw up fresh ideas and artistic concepts. However, Kerala society has shown a historical reluctance in accepting new ideas. At a time when about 150 cities across the world have embraced biennales, it is mandatory for a thriving city like Kochi to have it too. The corporation is eager to elevate Kochi to the elite list of cities holding biennales and to reap its economical, cultural and trade benefits…. Kochi being a heritage city with a cosmopolitan culture will be enriched by the biennale, which will bring world-class art galleries to the city. However, there is a need to fend off the ambiguities concerning it,” said Mr. Chammany, acknowledging he was duty-bound to execute the grand project as the mayor of the city.

Artist Balan Nambiar, acting chairman of the Central Lalit Kala Akademi, said there was lot in common between Venice, where the oldest biennale in the world is held, and Kochi.

“Both are port cities and are dotted with water bodies and ancient monuments. Having seen 18 Venice Biennales, I think Kochi could also be developed into a great tourist spot like Venice. The proposed biennale is sure to boost the image of the city,” he said.

Accusing a segment of Kerala-based artists for refusing to update themselves and accept international art, he said the biennale would also provide a great opportunity to immensely talented local artists.

Artist Riyas Komu, programme director of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, said the biggest challenge of the project was to ensure the proper conduct of the three-month-long art event. “The scale of the project throws up challenges like shipping, storage, insurance, customs clearance, lighting and climate control of works of art readied for the biennale. It is an Olympics of art and culture.”

Citing public-private partnership (PPP) as the favoured model for biennales around the world for fundraising, he said the foundation was also in talks with corporate institutions for support. “At least five lakh people are expected to arrive for the biennale, which would eventually give a fillip to employment opportunities besides ensuring city branding.

Benny Kuriakose of the Muziris Heritage Foundation threw light on the alternative, community view adopted for the restoration of ancient monuments and structures in the Muziris area.

He said that the 150 sq. km area in focus as part of the project would provide a great opportunity to children in non-formal learning of history. “The livelihood of the local populace is what matters to us, and the success of the project is that it is being implemented without legislation. There is staunch support of the community in all the restoration and renovation work carried out by us,” he pointed out.

Tasneem Mehta, managing trustee of Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai, presented a national perspective on the biennale and Muhammed Afzal Edappakath, from the political affairs and public diplomacy department of the embassy of the Netherlands in India, said the biennale was pivotal to the city and the country, as it would help project India’s soft power which went a long way in cultural diplomacy.

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