Acclaimed international performing artist M.I.A., two-time Grammy nominee who figured in the Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential persons, is in Kochi to collaborate with the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, slated to open on December 12.
The London-based recording artist and performer will visit the biennale sites during her week-long stay in the city to give shape to her work for the art show lasting three months from December.
M.I.A., of Sri Lankan Tamil descent, was born Mathangi Maya Arulpragasam in London. She shot to fame soon after the turn of the millennium with her singles, ‘Sunshowers’ and ‘Galang’ and with chartbusting albums like ‘Arular’, ‘Kala’, and ‘Bad Girls’. Her works have won rave reviews for their avant garde music and thematic mishmash of political, cultural and social references straddling various regions.
The artiste, said to be starkly political and humanitarian, made her first visit to Kochi in early July this year to scout the biennale sites. During her five-day visit then, she toured the Muziris Heritage project sites, the archaeological excavation sites of Pattanam, and took a boat ride along the backwaters to understand the ancient trade route of Muziris in close quarters. Known to have possessed a liking for heavy percussion in the early days of her career, M.I.A. had then taken time off to visit noted percussionist Peruvanam Kuttan Marar.
M.I.A was in the news last for supporting the cause of Palestinians, the Tamils of Sri Lanka and Wikileaks. Meanwhile, the biennale on Monday received support from the Union Minister of State for Food and Consumer Affairs K.V. Thomas, who gave a call to leverage the visual art fiesta to boost Kochi’s cultural and economic growth. “This is a novel experience that has so far been confined to Europe and certain other parts of the world. It has never taken place in India.
The biennale has the potential to transform the culture and the economy of not only Kochi, but the entire state,” he said after dropping in at Aspinwall and Pepper House, two major venues of the event.
Mr. Thomas, who also visited the office of the Kochi Biennale Foundation at Fort Kochi, told the media that such an event would not only bring into focus the importance of old and dilapidated buildings but also make them ‘viably functional’.
He said the biennale could play a major role in preserving heritage structures while promoting the arts. “For this, the financial angle is important. The biennale is expected to generate the necessary resources. In Rajasthan, they have turned palaces into hotels. In Kerala, the biennale can mark a new beginning in restoring the grandeur of heritage structures,” he said.
Mr. Thomas said that West Kochi itself had no fewer than 16 languages and had for long been home to people of different religions living in harmony. “The biennale will bring into focus this special feature,” he said. Commending the biennale organisers, he said criticism could always be there, but that shouldn’t come in the way of its successful conduct.
In all, 88 artists from 24 countries, including India, will showcase their art at the biennale. The grand festival will also feature stage shows, film screenings, talks and seminars.