PANAJI: Goa’s sparkling beaches have always lured people from far and wide, but on the banks of the Mandovi, in one of India’s most relaxed state capitals, there is a buzz. Where cruise boats and ferries share space with floating casinos, and advertising signs cast their neon glow on the river, there is a transformation as larger-than-life caricatures of Goan characters, murals and other artworks on the streets of Panaji have given a new life to the city that sits at the confluence of the river and the Arabian Sea.
“Nowhere else, not even in New York, will you be able to experience art for free. Culture is free and that is the way it should be,” says Renata Lanciaprima, an Italian who spends six months of the year in Goa and Greece, after attending an Indian classical dance performance.
If Renata found “paradise” in the hour-long dance performance, for British tourist Ian Lowry it was the workshop on organic chocolate and the photographs on display with the stories behind it that left him rather surprised.
The second edition of Serendipity Arts Festival is a treat to all the senses as it brings together the visual, performing and culinary arts, with some discussions. And there is a place for everyone—from users of wheelchair to blind and hearing-impaired people and slow learners, the multidisciplinary arts festival has a different hue.
For Suman Munjal, who travelled to Goa with his family of 11 including his 88-year-old mother who uses wheelchair, it was a rare occasion to see such a myriad collection of art at a single location. His favourite: The tribute to Goan musicians in the Indian jazz scene and the music that brought back memories of the sixties.
“There was a wheelchair ready at the entrance and I didn’t have to worry about anything,” says Munjal.
But it wasn’t just about accessibility, says architect and consultant Siddhant Shah. “It is not just about providing ramps, reserved parking and getting persons with disabilities into an air-conditioned space. They also need intellectual access at the festival and they look for something to take back too,” he says.
The biggest challenge, according to Shah, was to convert the museum-like space from a ‘Please Do NOT Touch’ to ‘PLEASE TOUCH’ space. It took everyone by surprise. After all, who does not want to feel the tactile creations of artwork.
So, when 13-year-old Nympha Fernandes along with her friends from the National Association for the Blind walked in, she was happy to feel her way through the exhibition.
With Braille catalogues and maps and an activity booklet for slow learners, the festival, with various arts on display featuring more than 70 works, has been able to draw attention.
Like Sameesksha Mamgain, a certified Iyengar yoga teacher, who drove down from Pune to pick up tips on photography. “There is a lot of similarity between photography and Iyengar yoga. Alignment is central to both the disciplines,” says Sameeksha, as she stared in awe at the photographs on display at Adil Shah Palace. What made her trip worthwhile was the opportunity to talk to the artists about their techniques.
For Anjali Nair, a third year applied art student from Pune, watching the artworks and interacting with the artists just broadened her horizon. “I feel inspired to do much more now. There are so many options across art disciplines that I hadn’t thought of,” she says.
As Ray and Vanessa Beer, who are visiting India for the very first time, say: “The opportunity to participate in the festival and not having to pay has been refreshing.”
With inputs from Nida Sayed – Published in Times of India