Namaste everybody, this is your girl Em Collins and I’m here to write a bit about our experience in the city of Cochin in Kerala. Among the popular sites we got to see like the Chinese Fishing nets along the fish market and the Jewish synagogue, the intricate and colorful street art was one of my favorite parts about this cool beachside city. When stopping for a slice of chocolate cake with my colleagues at the Kochi Art Café, I was able to read more about the Kochi Muziris Biennale, an art festival held all over Kerala. The Kochi Biennale Foundation works around the year to strengthen contemporary art infrastructure and to broaden public access to art across India. Guest artists among local artists will display their art pieces and latest paintings out in open areas and down alleyways in the city for all to see and enjoy. These art pieces are forms of self-expression and show the range of diversity in identities. Since our course focuses on exploring three Indian identities including caste, gender, and religion, I enjoyed looking at other facets that are just as important. The range of painted murals I got to see was very interesting, some focusing on the collaboration of different religious icons and others featuring women and wildlife. The mural I especially looked forward to seeing after learning about it in my Hindu
Traditions class in the fall was the one of Shiva, representing Hinduism, Jesus Christ, representing Christianity, and the Kaaba, representing Islam, combined all in one picture. It is a popular icon that represents the religious integration that is present in all of the parts of India we have seen. It was also fun to explore the city and try to find as many of the alternative pieces designed by the graffiti artist “Guess Who.” This free art was located in multiple places, some on brick walls, some in vacant buildings, and other pieces in small cafes found in the pockets of neighborhoods. Coming across the intricate designs was always a surprise because some were in more private places while others were casually among parking signs and clothing stores. Another art form we were lucky enough to get a taste of while in Cochin was the Indian dance-drama Kathakali. I wrote my paper about this form of theatre and was very excited to finally see it in person. Both the make-up and the costumes were elaborate and colorful and the physicality of the movements and emotions of the actors was very enjoyable to watch. In reflecting about our travels, I am really happy Cochin was one of our stops so we were able to explore even more contemporary art and culture!