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    The streets of Panaji wore signages announcing the arrival of the sixth physical edition of the Serendipity Arts Festival that opened to the public on December 15. The nine-day interdisciplinary festival offers a melange of activities, workshops, performances, exhibitions, culinary experiences and talks across multiple venues, transforming Goa’s capital into a cultural hub.

    The latest edition of the Festival features over 150 events, incredible works of more than 300 artists, 10 curators and around 15 special curators. Alongside, there are around 15 commissioned works, exploring diverse practices and artistic creations through different lenses.

    The Festival was inaugurated by the guests of honour Goa’s Minister for Art and Culture Govind Gaude, Minister for Tourism Rohan Khaunte at a musical evening hosted by Smriti Rajgarhia, Director, Serendipity Arts Foundation and Festival.

    The opening day of the Festival began with Sangita Jindal, chairperson, JSW Foundation, inaugurating ‘Crafted Expressions: Embodied Traditions in the Indian Performing Arts’ at Azad Maidan. The visual arts showcase is curated by Anjana Somany and supported by JSW.

    This exhibition unveils the captivating world of performing arts and shines a spotlight on how craftsmanship enriches the auditory and visual realms of the arts. Divided into three broad sections – traditional puppetry, costume-making, and instrument-making – the exhibition delves deep into each facet, exploring their unique narratives.

    Talking about the exhibition, Anjana Somany says, “Celebratory in tone, the exhibition shines a spotlight on craftsmanship’s role in shaping India’s dynamic auditory and visual realms. I am excited to bring forth an innovative approach that aims to broaden the understanding of the expansive scope of craft practice.”

    For Sangita Jindal, chairperson, of JSW Foundation, “Craft traditions are tangible trajectories that allow us to traverse journeys in the past and the present”. While inaugurating the exhibition, she said: “These meanderings often reveal paths that lead to a future of possibilities — a cyclic process of rediscovery and innovation. It is with this belief that I am delighted to support the craft pavilion at the Serendipity Art Festival 2023.”

    Another highlight of the day was an incisive culinary workshop ‘Ghee and Our Connection With Our Ancestors’ that witnessed full-house attendance. Led by Chef Aditya Raghavan, the workshop delved deeper into the historical significance of fermentation as a form of preservation, besides highlighting the traditional method of churning butter from dahi.

    The performance ‘Afghanistan Is Not Funny’ spotlighted the universal theme of loss, destruction and refugee crisis any country experiences when ravaged by a war. With humour as a medium of instrument, British comedian Henry Naylor took a packed audience on a nostalgic journey with him through powerful visuals and a compelling performance to the war-torn Afghanistan of 2002 with his photographer friend Sam Maynard. The act was a powerful reminder of the unimaginable pain and devastation a country and its people face in the aftermath of never-ending violence.

    Curated by Veeranganakumari Solanki, ‘The Pineapple Orchestra: A Performance’ coalesced the narratives of colonial history and contemporary perspectives through the unique sound of bow-activated string instruments where fresh pineapple tops spin to pluck the strings. The mesmerizing performance captivated the audiences’ attention throughout.

    Given the Festival’s unrelenting commitment to inclusivity and accessibility, the day also marked a talk with Shivani Shah and Shivani Dhillion with Siddhant Shah of ‘Access for All’ to discuss the benefit of parents and caregivers. An inclusive workshop titled ‘Dot, Line and Colour’ was also hosted to bring together mental health, art and colour therapy together in a creative manner.

    One of the Festival’s highlights is ‘River Raag’ – a unique sunset cruise featuring classical performances, allowing viewers to experience the magic of music and the fainting beams of sunset on a soulful journey across the River Mandovi. This cruise will depart from the Santa Monica Jetty throughout the festival at 5pm. It is a ticketed event, so don’t forget to register yourself.

    Bringing down the curtains on the opening day was an eclectic performance by tabla maestro Zakir Hussain who led an ensemble featuring Ranjit Barot, Rakesh Chaurasia, Zubin Balaporia, Sanjay Divecha and Sheldon D’silva, leaving the packed and enthusiastic audience at the spacious Arena at the Nagalli Hills Ground in awe and admiration. Through intricate rhythms, soul-stirring melodies, and genre-defying improvisations, this collaboration, enriched by diverse instruments and genres, offered a memorable experience that showcased the prowess of the artists while exploring the intersections of their individual styles.

    The 2023 edition has several project and institutional partners, such as Institut Français (India), the British Council, Boxout, Japan Foundation, Pro Helvetia Swiss Arts Council, Sampad, Paper Boat Collective, Art South Asia Project, JCB Literature Foundation and more.

    The official hashtag for SAF 2023 is #ComeTogetherAtSAF, a sign of celebration and sharing of a vision that has been widely supported. This is the Festival’s 8th edition, of which two were digitally presented in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

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