The Biennale will be all encompassing in the coming few months. Just the next few days will have singer and dancer Sithara Krishnakumar (December 14) and indie musician Lifafa (December 24) performing. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t much happening outside its immediate ambit. The annual Cochin Carnival, which kicks off on December 11 and is on till January 1, has everyone buzzing. There’s also the second edition of Kochi Design Week at Bolgatty (December 16-17) to look forward to. Plus, food and fashion pop-ups, heritage walks, film screenings, and ancillary art events. Here are a few to check out:
Cochin Heritage Carnival
Spread over three weekends in December, the first edition of the carnival by Johann Binny Kuruvilla’s Kochi Heritage Project aims to celebrate the city’s tangible and intangible heritage through walks, experiences and screenings. “In 2018, I’d started a page to document the history, art and architecture of Kochi. Back then, we didn’t have city walks, so I started that and it created a lot of interest,” says Kuruvilla, who had taken a break during the pandemic, but is now back on popular demand.
Must trys: Type Walk (December 11, 8.30-11 a.m.) — exploring type faces in Broadway with Prajwal Xavier, a lettering artist, followed by a calligraphy session. Street Food Trail (December 17, 5-7 p.m.) with Kuruvilla, where he will cover local favourites in Mattancherry’s Konkani, Gujarati and Muslim quarters. “We’ll stop at places like Kava Kada, which has been serving a delicious spiced coffee [with cardamom, ginger, cloves, black pepper] for over 60 years. And Chaman Lal Sweets, which features a special sweet every day.” Architecture and Urban Design Walk (December 24, 4-6 p.m.) led by Azna Parveen, a faculty of NIT Calicut, who has studied the architecture of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry. Register on kochiheritageproject.in
Screenings to catch:Maidanam, a 40-minute documentary (being streamed on FIFA’s official website) traces Kerala’s passion for football through fascinating stories. “One of the stories is that of Rufus D’Souza, who has been training kids in Fort Kochi for free for the last 50 years. He will be at the screening [December 11],” says Kuruvilla. On the first day of Hanukkah, Sarah Thaha Thoufeek — a story about the friendship between Sarah Cohen, the oldest Jew in India (she passed away at 96 in Jew Town), Thaha Ibrahim, a local tailor, and Thoufeek Zakriya, a calligraphy artist — will be screened (5-6.30 p.m.), with an interaction with the director Sarath Kottikkal. “It’s a limited screening as the documentary has been selected for a few film festivals,” says Kuruvilla.
Untaboo — The Shadow Artists
Via Kochi, a local magazine, is encouraging an ‘alternative’ discussion — bringing people together to share the stories we hold back. In January, a month that will be celebrating art in all its forms and mediums of expression, thanks to the KMB, will also see Untaboo. The sixth edition ‘brings strangers together, and digs into honest conversations’ will feature artists whose efforts society does not often deem as ‘real’ art — from tattoo artists and boudoir models to belly dancers. Details: viakochi.com
Place at the Table (Where is Amma?)
Tanya Abraham’s exhibition explores the position of women as the subaltern and explores the narrative replete with the politics associated with customs and traditions. The fulcrum is a series of short films involving the kitchens of six women in Mattancherry. “This then extends into video and audio installations, and photography,” says the curator. “In the public space outside the gallery, we will also have nine large panels that are found works. When visitors scan the QR code, they can listen to sound work that harks back to memory.” From December 11, at the Devassy Jose & Sons warehouse.
One Zero Eight
The One Zero Eight pop-up from the 2018 KMB is now getting a permanent location. Housed in a 250-year-old, double-storied heritage building, it aims to be the central point to connect, collaborate, and create larger conversations around Indian handloom and indigenous arts, crafts and design. Stop by the concept space — conceptualised by experiential designer Wasim Khan, Himanshu Shani, founder of fashion label 11.11 / eleven eleven, and Ramesh Menon and Alpi Boylla of Save the Loom project — on launch day (December 12) to browse ‘Colours of Resilience’.
The exhibit curated by Shani will feature designs by 14 national designers who’ve worked with handspun and handwoven mundu and thorthu material from Kerala. “We will also be conducting workshops, seminars, and masterclasses, from a sari draping session by Rta Kapur Chishti and an Anuj Sharma Button Masala garment making class to an indigo dyeing workshop and an origami session by Aditi Anuj,” says Menon.
Goya x Thomas Girard
“Thomas, a French mixologist who has worked at some of the world’s 50 best bars — from London to Paris, Cyprus, Singapore — is also a dear friend. So, when we heard he’s visiting India, we couldn’t not do something with him,” says Anisha Rachel Oommen, founder of Goya Journal, the online food and culture publication. Girard will be at their pop-up at Pepper House on December 30 at 6 p.m.
An Indophile who loves using Indian and South Asian ingredients, he is curating three cocktails to celebrate the region and the art district. The standout: the curry leaf negroni. “Thomas loves its distinctive and unique flavour, and he infuses that into a negroni.” This will be the Goya Journal’s first outing at the Biennale, an event that Oommen says has always been reflective of India’s political, social landscape, and “is reflective of our storytelling at Goya” too.
French Toast x By Eight
At their Cochin Club address — the third outpost for this popular Kochi bakery and kitchen — the Biennale will see them collaborating with Nayaz Lamik of By Eight pizzeria to bring his selection of sourdough pizzas. “He’s closed his Panampilly Nagar outlet for three months, and will be serving up his popular pizzas in Fort Kochi because we thought we’ll have a crowd that will appreciate them.
The Margarita is a crowd pleaser. But also check out the sausage and sriracha, and the buffalo meat pizza,” says Ayaz Salim, founder of French Toast. Meanwhile, at French Toast, with its gorgeous garden seating, there will be off-menu specials like croissant sandwiches and croque madame.
The Biennale gift shop
Annah Chakola, Kochi-based designer, is planning to tell a story with each item at the Biennale’s gift shop. “The Biennale has never had an official gift shop before. It’s always been a last-minute venture,” says the local designer, who was asked to curate it this year.
Kerala will have its section, with different interpretations of handlooms from the state, like ponchos for kids made from the thorthu material, and a line of skincare from Forest Post, a brand from Chalakudy that uses sustainably harvested forest produce. Then there are the stories from lesser known craft clusters, such as the Siddis — an African community in North Karnataka that makes amazing quilts. “I want to work with the local story and create something that people can take away that is a little bit more meaningful,” says Chakola. Also expect khadi kaftan, upcycled totes, and reinterpretations of traditional market bags from Chakola’s own brand, Annahmol.
“With the biennale coinciding with the season for international tourists arriving in Kerala, our CGH properties are running almost full for the next few months. Occupancy rates are up by at least 25%-30% as compared to KMB’s last edition. If you are yet to book a trip, I would suggest you wait till January. The start of the biennale always inspires curiosity, so it will be busy this month. To get the best deals, wait till after January 15, and then plan to spend at least three nights here to enjoy the spirit of the festival. ”Michael DominicDirector, CGH Earth