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With the doyen of Indian pop and jazz music Usha Uthup regaling the audience aboard the gaily decorated barge MV The Auspicious sailing up the Hooghly, the first Kolkata Festival (on till Feb 10) got off to a grand start. The inaugural event was attended by the city’s elite, including members of the consular corps, chairman of Kolkata Port Trust Vinit Kumar, and cultural ambassadors such as Bickram Ghosh and Tanusree Shankar among others.
Designed to bring forth the cultural heritage of the city, the multi-faceted festival includes the arts in all forms, installations, performances and cross-cultural interactions, and is being organised across venues ranging from the streets to museums to trams. It is an initiative by the Art and Heritage Foundation, supported by the Kolkata Port Trust and the Rotary Club of Calcutta Avyanna, and backed by the tourism department of West Bengal.
The iconic Howrah Bridge, which has been the symbol of Kolkata’s connection with the rest of the world, was illuminated by the Kolkata Port Trust to mark the special occasion. The inaugural function was followed by a cultural programme titled Kolkata Rising, curated by veteran dancer Tanusree Shankar and percussionist Bickram Ghosh, in collaboration with the Victoria Memorial.
Until Feb 10, there will be a series of exhibitions on the city. Kolkata Unseen is a large-format photography display, with images crowd sourced and curated by the city-based collective FOTOJAJS. You can catch the exhibition at various corners in the city, including the area encircling Academy of Fine Arts and Rabindra Sadan/SSKM), Victoria Memorial lawns, Princep Ghat, important road junctions, railway stations, ferry ghats and even on the hand-pulled rickshaws.
A public art project is being held at the old Port Trust Colony, off Taratala Road. The young people who have grown up in the fringes of the abandoned buildings and playgrounds have filled the empty spaces with their own imagination. Assisted by the artists’ collective Sunny De Wall, in association with local organisation Jungle Crows, they have expressed their feelings and observations through graffiti, murals, prints and sculptures.
An art project that will pull at your heartstrings is an exhibition called the Across the Lines. Hidden away from the main streets and across the railway lines, the residents of Kolkata's Pavlov Hospital association with mental health and human rights organisation Anjali, have collaborated with artist Srikanta Paul assisted by Ruma Choudhury and Tanmay Chakraborty to create an immersive artwork that expresses their dreams and aspirations. The hospital, currently a site under construction, is a home of sorts to people overcoming mental health issues, as well as people who are left without a home even after they become well.
Between Feb 7 and 9, you may explore Chitpur, a neighbourhood to the north of the city and older than the city proper. Conducted by the Chitpur Craft Collective, the walk will take you through the lanes and by lanes, studios, shops and heritage buildings of this historic neighbourhood. You may also attend free workshops covering bamboo art, Urdu calligraphy and Dimsum making.
Music is an integral part of Kolkata culture. Turn up at Mohor Kunja where, on various days, there will be presentations ranging from classical music to rock concerts to hip hop. The city’s popular rock band Lakkhichhara Live will be held on Feb 6. On Feb 7, the Hip Hop Block Party on Feb will have DJs, turntablism, MCing and B-boying. Headliners include Esskayjay (Kolkata), Big Skinny (Kolkata), DJ Deep (Melbourne), Park Circus (Kolkata). Besides, there will be an MC Battle hosted by Axis, a B-boy battle and a Cypher hosted by The Cypher Projekt.
No event in Kolkata is complete without its culinary spread. So do not miss the day-long New Market Food Festival on February 10. The street food of Kolkata has evolved through the influence of various communities who have settled down in the city through centuries. So be prepared for surprises.
These are but glimpses into the myriad activities that have been lined up for the maiden city-centric festival. To know more, check The Kolkata Festival.
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