Serendipity Arts Festival 2018: A curtain-raiser to India's largest cultural extravaganza

With over a dozen experts for curators, over 1,500 artists and no less than 90 projects, the Serendipity Art Festival in Goa is set to be the most extravagant celebration of everything Indian.
Niloufer Sagar
Niloufer Sagar

At the upcoming Serendipity Festival in Goa, the spread of cultural events on offer is more mind-boggling than you’d ever hope to find at any of the most indulgent beachside carnivals this season. Billed as ‘India’s first multi-disciplinary arts event’, the festival boasts of a jaw-dropping line-up of over 90 dynamic projects — each of which highlight traditions of music, dance and theatre, alongside culinary arts, craft, and visual arts.

Set to be hosted across 10 venues, the festival hosts’ stated purpose is to energise Goa and transform Panaji into a vibrant cultural space with multiple exhibitions, performances and immersive arts experiences. No less than 1,500 artists are expected to descend upon the host city, even as this third edition of the festival will make room for special events to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Panaji, redefining heritage sites and architectural icons through community-focused projects. 

“Our vision is that the festival becomes a catalyst for change — for artists, the community, the public and the country, impacting daily life and ultimately changing the way we interact and respond to creativity and the arts across demographics,” says Sunil Kant Munjal, founder of The Serendipity Arts Foundation. The most exciting aspect is the manner in which the festival will present artists, artisans, indigenous and folk art forms, performers and other creative practitioners — all on one stage, emphasises Munjal.

Smriti Rajgarhia, director of the festival, reinforces their purview of “a strong focus on inter-disciplinary practice and dialogue between disciplines”. She offers, “Our vision is to create a strong foundation for arts development across the disciplines, and we hope that the rich diversity of events this will inspire diverse audiences from across the country to visit Goa this December.”

Highlights at the festival include theatre for children, large-scale installations, outdoor music concerts, culinary workshops and tastings, as well as a range of projects across disciplines, including St+art curated by Hanif Qureishi, Out of Turn curated by Asia Art Archive and Meenakshi Thirukode, and a film programme by Sabeena Gadihoke. Here’s a look at some of the other groundbreaking projects 
to be hosted at the festival:

Serendipity Barefoot School of Craft: Made in Goa
Curated by Annapurna Garimella, with Dean D’Cruz as co-curator, the Barefoot School of Craft is an architectural project initiated in the festival’s 2017 edition. The first stage was accomplished through the selection of 15 models in competition. Earlier this year in May, a residency transformed the vision into a design for a pavilion that will function as a working and collaborative space, bringing together architects, craftspeople, the curator, students of BSC and visitors. The pavilion will serve as a space for the local community to make and buy products, and present new Goa crafts. Until February 2019, with workshops and talks every week. Venue: Next to Municipal Garden. 15 to 22 December, 10 am to 6 pm.

<em>Lee Wen performs Lifeboat 3</em>
Lee Wen performs Lifeboat 3

Matters of Hand: Craft, Skill and Design
This exhibition will highlight how material handcrafts in India are experienced through objects of utility in collaborations between craftspeople, designers and artists, as well as independent works. Techniques and process represent regional rural and urban craftsmanship, using materials such as wood, marble, metals or natural fibres. Curated by Rashmi Varma. Venue: Adil Shah Palace. 15 to 22 December, 10 am to 6 pm. 

Tityache Khabbari (Marketplace News) 
Enjoy the experience of a Titya (Tinto; literally a “market at three roads”), with stalls serving organic and Saraswat thalis, freshly made fish dishes, pickles, meat and desserts through an artistic representation of colour, vibrancy and flavours to communicate a tableau of a Goan story. Curated by Odette Mascarenhas. Venue: Children’s (Art) Park. Daily, 10 am to 6 pm. 

Drishtu by Navtej Johar
Curated by Ranjana Dave, this solo  show will traverse between form, image, and abstraction while engaging with some conventional stances, phrases and gestures, including the form of bharatanatyam. Drishtu, a full-length solo, will incorporate movement, text, music, objects, and the moving image. Venue: Dinanath Mangeshkar Auditorium, Kala Academy. 16 December, 4 to 6 pm; 17 December, 6 pm to 8 pm.

<em>Kapila Venu</em>
Kapila Venu

StopLookGo by Avantika Bahl & Deepak Thomas
Another project curated by Ranjana Dave, StopLookGo is a site-specific intervention. It is performative in nature, but the premise also questions the line between functionality and performativity in movement. Each participant gets to react to a set of instructions with their own vocabulary, throwing up a set of discoveries to respond to, and thereby making the work unique and original. Venue: Promenade. 19 December, 4 pm to 6 pm; 20 December, 2 pm to 4 pm.

Ranjana will also curate an untitled performance by Deepak Kurki Shivaswamy and Manju Sharma, with sound designer Abhijeet Tambe, aimed at capturing phases that the palace has been through over time. At Adil Shah Palace Courtyard, 18 December, 4 pm to 6 pm; 19 December, 6 pm to 8 pm.

In another project, titled To be Danced in Rooms, also curated by Ranjana, Anoushka Kurien will present a solo, performed live with video. Collaborators: Darbuka Siva, Deepa Vaswani. Projection & light design: Raymond Selvaraj.  At Adil  Shah Palace, 21 December, 4  pm to 6  pm; 22 December, 2 pm to 4 pm.

<em>An Adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello</em>
An Adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello

To Die Upon a Kiss: An Adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello
Curated by Leela Samson, To Die Upon... is a kathakali performance, based on the tragedy Othello by Shakespeare. Concept, script, direction and choreography: Sadanam PV Balakrishnan. Venue: Large Open Air Theatre, Kala Academy. Date: 16 December. Time: 6 pm to 8 pm. Balakrishnan will also present Lokapalanmare, the first scene from the kathakali play (Attakatha) Nalacharitham by the 18th century scholar, Unnayi Variar. At Ghanekar House. 17 December, 6 pm to 8 pm.

Vividh Varna
Curated by Leela Samson, Vividh Varna comprises Gotipua, Danda Nata, Sambalpuri and Ghumara, representing the folk culture of different regions of Odisha. Gotipua is a traditional dance form performed in Odisha for centuries by young boys, who dress as girls to serve in Vaisnavite religious festivals. Ghumura, on the other hand, is a traditional dance of Kalahandi in Odisha and performed with great pomp and ceremony in every village of Kalahandi. The thundering effect of the music and the conquering spirit of the players in action make others believe it to be a war dance. Venue: Large Open Air Theatre, Kala Academy. 18 December, 7 pm to 9 pm. 

<em>Holi Ki Raas Leela</em>
Holi Ki Raas Leela

Leela will also curate Kuchipudi Nrithya Sandhya featuring Mosalikanti Jaykishore, Mosalikanti Padmavani, Shobha Korambil, Ashrita Keshav, Ala Gopal, Niveshan Munsamy, Avijit Das, Lalitha Sindhuri and Mrutyumjaya Pasumarti. Venue: Dinanath Mangeshkar Auditorium. 15 December, 4 pm to 6 pm. Other events curated by Leela include Movement and Stills (DB Ground on 17 December, 7 pm to 8 pm); Karalsman (Large Open Air Theatre on 19 December, 7 pm to 8 pm); and Holi Ki Raas Leela (DB Ground on 18 December, 7 pm to 8 pm).

Revolutions Per Minute
Tag-lined ‘Early Hindustani Music Recordings by Goan Musicians’, and curated by Aneesh Pradhan, this exhibition will showcase music recorded in the first half of the 20th century on 78 rpm gramophone discs, representing a legacy that continues to be a rich resource for musicians, scholars, students and listeners. The show will track the journey of these musicians, particularly their career as performers for the gramophone industry. Venue: Adil Shah Palace. 15-22 December, 10 am to 6 pm. Aneesh will also curate Songs Of Nature, exploring the manner in which Qawwals, Bauls of Bengal, and the Langa and Manganiar musicians of Rajasthan have responded to motifs from nature. At DB Ground. 16 December, 8.30 pm to 10 pm.

<em>Raja Kumari</em>
Raja Kumari

Tajdar Junaid, Boombay Djembe Folas & Raja Kumari 
Among performances curated by Sneha Khanwalker are one by Tajdar Junaid, the Kolkata-based singer and multi-instrumentalist whose characteristic accompaniment is the charango, a small 10-stringed lute that lends an instantly identifiable resonance. Venue: DB Ground. 17 December, 8.30 pm to 10 pm. Also curated by Sneha, Boombay Djembe Folas will feature an energetic group of drummers who play traditional rhythms from West Africa, featuring Anand Bhagat (djembe, balafon), Tejas Parekh (dununs, sangbang), Prathamesh Kandalkar (djembe), Tre Munroe (kenkeni) and Neil Gomes (guitar, violin). To cap things off, Raja Kumari, the LA-based singer will play a mix of R&B, hip-hop and Asian samples. At DB Ground. 18 December, 9 pm to 10 pm. 

Self Morph: Sound Museum
Also curated by Sneha Khanwalkar, Self Morph is a sound experience — at its core, the museum is a space for sound which invades your entire being, leaving visitors with a transformative aural and physical experience. Apart from sound installations, there will also be performances of artistes who ‘play’ with noise. Venue: GMC Courtyard. 15 to 22 December, 10 am to 6 pm.

Common Ground: New Futures for Passing Images
Curated by Rahaab Allana, this exhibition will seek to broaden engagement with the term ‘vernacular’ in subject and technique, to think about how, with overlapping histories, one can enhance our lens-culture. Featuring works by Abhijit Pal, Ashish Sahoo, Edson Beny Dias, Sukanya Ghosh and Uzma Mohsin. Venue: Adil Shah Palace. 15 to 22 December, 10 am to 7 pm. 

<em>C Sharp C Blunt</em>
C Sharp C Blunt

Gentlemen’s Club & other plays
Curated by Atul Kumar, and set in an underground club scene in Mumbai, Gentlemen’s Club follows the lives of drag kings who perform in the city that never sleeps. The protagonist Rocky, aka Shammsher, pays homage to the legendary Shammi Kapoor and the golden era of Hindi cinema. Joined by a motley crew of women who revel in drag, this cabaret-like show takes the audience into a grimy world that gives you the license to be whoever you want. Using dance, music and projection, the play weaves a provocative tale of women and their celebration of masculinity. Presented by Patchworks Ensemble, devised by Puja Sarup, Sheena Khalid and Vikram Phukan. At Club Nacionale. 19, 20 & 21 December, 6 pm to 8 pm (all days).

Atul will be curating a handful of other shows, including C Sharp C Blunt, a one-woman show, starring singer-actor MD Pallavi in her first ever solo performance. At Dinanath Mangeshkar Auditorium. 22 December, 4 pm to 6 pm. 

Notes on Chai will offer a collection of snippets of everyday conversations interwoven with abstract sound explorations, devised, directed and performed by Jyoti Dogra. At Black Box. 19 December, 4 pm to 6 pm.

<em>Mandeep Raikhy in Queen Size, pic by Hari Adivarekar</em>
Mandeep Raikhy in Queen Size, pic by Hari Adivarekar

Queen Size is a choreographic exploration of the intimacy between two men, performed by Lalit Khatana and Parinay Mehra, choreographed by Mandeep Raikhy, with soundscore by Yasuhiro Morinaga. At Adil Shah Palace Room. 19 December, 4 pm to 6 pm. Admission: 18+. 

Agent Provocateur is a dance-theatre performance exploring the effects that a climate of growing intolerance has on the body and its impulses; devised & performed by Arpit Singh, Surbhi Dhyani and Harsh Karangale, choreographed & directed by Sujay Saple, with live original music by Harsh Karangale aka Bitmap. At Black Box, 18 December, 6 pm to 8 pm. 

Love Prufrock, a Third Space Collective production, is derived from TS Eliot’s The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, and uses the interplay of the human body to understand the poem’s protagonist and the structures surrounding him; performed by Anannya Tripathyi, Dhwani Vij and Rahul Tewari, directed by Neel Sengupta. At Black Box, 20 December, 4 pm to 6 pm. 

<em>Niloufer Sagar in Elephant in the Room</em>
Niloufer Sagar in Elephant in the Room

Say, What focuses on the interaction between two people who slide between using and abandoning codified language; choreographed by Avantika Bahl, performed by Avantika and Vishal Sarvaiya. At Adil Shah Palace Room. 17 December, 2 pm to 4 pm. 

Elephant in the Room is inspired by Indian mythology and pays homage to Lord Ganapati; directed & performed by Yuki Ellias, written by Sneh Sapru. At Dinanath Mangeshkar Auditorium, 18 December, 4 pm to 6 pm. 

Lost Wax Project features four bodies tracing a trajectory of thought within a circular space; choreographed by Preethi Athreya, with a cast including Dipna Daryanani, Kamakshi Saxena, Maithily Bhupatkar and Preethi Athreya; voice by Bhairavi Narayanan; and soundscape by Darbuka Siva. At The Quad, Kala Academy. 20 December, 6 pm to 8 pm.

Rahaab Allana and Ravi Agarwal
Visual Arts: Ranjit Hoskote and Subodh Gupta
Culinary Arts: Rahul Akerkar and Odette Mascarenhas
Dance: Leela Samson and Ranjana Dave
Theatre: Atul Kumar and Arundhati Nag
Music: Aneesh Pradhan and Sneha Khanwalkar
Craft: Annapurna Garimella and Rashmi Varma


A Spoonful of Sweetness
Curated by Rahul Akerkar, this workshop will be led by Vijaya Pastala, engaging participants in an olfactory and gustatory experience to learn methods for tasting and evaluating honey, and recognising basic aromas and flavour families on a Honey Tasting Wheel (at GMC, 15 & 16 December, 11 am to noon; free). Rahul will also curate a handful of other workshops, including Coffee & Pepper, led by Mithilesh Vazalwar and Rizwan Amlani, on the outcomes of different roasts and brewing techniques of the same coffee (at GMC, 15 & 16 December, 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm; free). Wine and Glass Tasting, led by Sanjay Menon, will be on food and wine pairing, experimenting with six flavour profiles (at GMC, 17 & 18 December, 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm, 11 am to noon; free). Food Critiquing & Understanding Food, led by Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi and Shivesh Bhatia, will look at the forms of ‘food writing’ while examining the ways writers, photographers, critics and food media practitioners depict food, cooking, and eating (at GMC, 17 December, 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm; free). Chai Nashta will study the concept of high tea in different Indian cultures (at Children’s Park, 15 to 22 December, 3 pm to 6 pm). Spice Lab, led by Joerg Drechsel and Sanjaya Mariwala, will explore the way spices are combined in cooking; through dry rubs, wet grinds, oil tempering, infusions or other ways, in an interactive spice lab ‘tree’ (at GMC, 15-22 December, 10 am to 7 pm; free).

Grandmother’s Recipe: Feni as Medicine 
Curated by Odette Mascarenhas, this workshop led by Karishma Alvares and Adrian Alvares, will involve street theatre in which a traditionally rooted grandma and her grandson elucidate the beneficial nature of feni, narrating the role it plays in lives of Goans (at GMC, 21 & 22 December, 11 am to noon; free). Odette will also curate The Assamese Pickling Affair, conducted by Monalisa Baruah, which will present flavours of the North East and pickles of Assam, made of herbs, spices and meat (at GMC, 19 & 22 December, 11 am to noon, 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm; free). The Traditions & Celebrations workshop, led by Joanna D’Cunha and Sangeeta Pai Dhungat, will introduce audiences to different kinds of celebrations in Goa, as seen through melodies, stories and rangoli from food powders (at GMC, 20 & 21 December, 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm; free). The Sugarcane and Art workshop will find Mansi Trivedi working on sugarcane as a canvas for art (at GMC, 20 & 21 December, 1.30 to 2.30 pm; free). 

Serendipity Arts Festival will be held at venues across Goa, 15-22 December.

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