Kochi Muziris Biennale
My foreword to the Muziris Biennale report
Kochi, 20 December, 2017
I am delighted to present the third edition of this report on the Kochi Muziris Biennale. The Biennale is an initiative that I have admired right from when it was a dream nurtured by the Kerala Minister M.A. Baby and artists Bose Krishnamachari and Riyaz Komu. The festival has rapidly grown to become one of the leading global festivals of contemporary art along the lines of its European counterpart, the Venice Biennale.
The name of Muziris evokes India’s place in the marketplace of global flows of ideas, knowledge and trade; Muziris was once an eastern analogue of Venice. Muziris welcomed traders from as far away as Phoenicia and Rome; through its portals St Thomas is said to have arrived in India and Islam followed some seven centuries later. The Jews of Europe traded with Muziris all through this time.
According to one account, the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma went from Muziris to China to propagate the concept of Zen. The epic Silappadikaram was written by a native of Muziris, Ilango Adigal, and the place was a centre of Buddhism and Jainism before the revival of Hinduism under the influence of Sankara who was born not far from Muziris.
The Kochi Muziris Biennale thus makes claim to an important legacy of syncretism, of an openness to the world. It is gratifying therefore to see it live up to its promise and become a platform to showcase and debate new Indian and international aesthetics and art experiences.
And to see the alleys and streets of Kochi bustle with a new vibrance of artists, residents and visitors from all walks of life getting to see the best of contemporary art during the three months while the event is underway.
This report is divided into seven sections, covering the Biennale’s introduction, evolution, components, venues, sponsorship, impact so far and the way ahead. It is aptly titled The People’s Biennale considering the huge number of art enthusiasts from across the world who congregated in Kochi to be part of this creative confluence.
KPMG in India is proud to have been a knowledge partner for the Kochi Biennale. You might ask, what does an accounting and advisory firm have to do with art? The truth is that art and business have often flourished together, one nourishes the growth of the other. It is perhaps no coincidence that double entry book keeping was invented in Florence which we know equally as a center of artistic renaissance. The Kochi Biennale will, as a by-product, advance Kochi and Kerala as a business hub.
In our role as knowledge partner, we reviewed the economic contribution of the arts and culture in Kochi along with the impact of the investment that the Government of Kerala provided by significantly supporting arts and cultural facilities and services during the three months the event was underway.
The findings of this report indicate that the Biennale generated widespread economic benefits which are sustainable. And the Biennale provided access to great cultural experiences, promoting innovation and creativity.
On behalf of KPMG in India, I would like to congratulate all the organisers and the participants for making this dream into a vibrant reality. I wish the entire team of Kochi Biennale the very best in building on their considerable accomplishments and placing Kerala and India on the mental maps of creative people around the world.