Spend a morning getting to know the gargoyles that crouch atop the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, learn the many ways of draping a sari, or spend the afternoon with a connoisseur of cheese at a cheese tasting.
If you’re looking to do something different, there’s no better place than the HT Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. Learn a new skill, try your hand at a new craft, or just walk along and listen.
A total of 60 workshops and 20 heritage walks will take participants on journeys through time and space, revisiting the history that has shaped the city we love.
“We have added an additional venue for workshops this year, since the response to our workshops was phenomenal in 2016. Apart from the Artisans’ gallery and the Somaiya Centre, we are hosting workshops at the Jehangir Art Gallery too. It’s a much bigger venue and will accommodate twice as many people,” says section curator Ami Patel.
This year’s line-up of workshops spans multiple themes — art, music, cinema, fitness and food. Highlights include a mural painting workshop by Argentine artist Pablo Ramirez Arnol, who will paint on a 15-ft-wide canvas with participants, the cheese-tasting and appreciation session by the Canada-based gourmet cheese-maker Aditya Raghavan, and a sari-draping session by stylists Sonia Mehta and Ammisha Shah.
“The idea of our workshop is to encourage women to embrace the sari and not think of it as a difficult garment to wear. It’s a no-fuss outfit that instantly adds elegance to one’s personality. It’s also a celebration of the handloom textiles of India, a segment that we will talk about through the workshop,” says Mehta. (Participants are requested to wear skirts or trousers so they can participate in the different draping techniques).
The heritage walks, meanwhile, will trace Mumbai’s dramatic transformation into the country’s financial capital, touching upon vital areas such as the city’s rail network and movie history.
The opening walk is titled Celebrating the Life Line – Mumbai Locals.
“The tour will take participants inside CST, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Central Railway general manager AK Shrivastava will talk about how Mumbai, as a city, developed around railway stations and how, by extension, local trains are indispensable to the soul of Mumbai,” says section curator Kruti Garg.
Also on the cards is a dramatised walk around Kala Ghoda titled Poetry in Motion. Inspired by poems on Kala Ghoda by Arun Kolatkar, it will see actors enact anecdotes from the history of establishments such as the David Sassoon library and Café Military.
A walk called Dramatic Cinematic Operatic Mumbai will shed light on the newly opened Opera House, and take participants through the restoration process and its importance as one of the last surviving opera venues in the country.
“Heritage walks are an old-school, analogous way of engaging with the city. It’s learning through interaction and minimal use of technology. That’s where the spirit of Mumbai is reflected,” Garg says.
Among those who would agree with her is Abhijit Kacchap, 24, a freelance writer who says he has attended multiple workshops at the festival and enjoyed them all. “I remember one particular one, a storytelling session by Emily Hennessy, co-founder of the UK-based theatre group Pandavani 108,” he adds. “It was on a Sunday morning and I was wondering whether I should push myself to go, and I’m so glad I did. It was definitely one of my best festival experiences ever.”
The festival has been responsible for raising awareness about the heritage of Mumbai, adds fashion designer James Ferreira, who has attended multiple editions of the festival. “It’s made Mumbaikars more sensitive towards culture, and helped them understand the importance of conserving it,” he says. “I also appreciate the motive-free celebration of art that the festival promotes.”
“The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival offers a fantastic platform for people to reconnect with the cultural history of Mumbai. Against the backdrop of urbanisation and modern art, visitors get insight into heritage structures and cultural institutions, and get to engage with anecdotes and stories from a time that has moulded Mumbai’s into the urban powerhouse it is today,” says Abha Narain Lambah, conservation architect.