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Published on: Dec. 8, 2023, 10:21 p.m.
Interdisciplinary alchemy
  • Folk music recital comes alive at the festival

By Suman Tarafdar

As many as 150 events, 300+ artists, 10 curators, another 15 special curators, 12 venues. Add 15 commissioned works, one picturesque location and you get India’s most diverse, interdisciplinary festival, returning for its sixth on ground edition – and eighth overall. The Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF), which has set benchmarks by blending performing, visual, culinary and performance arts and craft, has become a byword for showcasing not just the best in these spaces, but also empower their practitioners while taking forward these priceless heritages.

SAF returns to Goa on its usual dates of 15-23 December. And promises another smorgasbord of culture at its best. “Inclusivity and sustainability have always been at the heart of previous editions and the 2023 festival is no different, with independent and collaborative projects that highlight sustainability and inclusivity,” elaborates Sunil Kant Munjal, chairman, Hero group and founder patron of the Serendipity Arts, under whose aegis SAF is organised. “Like our previous editions, the festival will continue to have region-specific projects, workshops for people with special needs, and a dedicated segment with children’s programmes. We are also pleased to continue giving South Asian artists a platform to amplify their voices and to create a community where young minds can engage, ideate, and co-create.”

Interestingly, this year is working with a large number of international collaborators and cultural institutions on projects across the arts. “The beauty of our interdisciplinary festival is that it is a potpourri: you will always find something that piques your interest,” explains Munjal. “Almost anyone who has ever been to the festival comments that it is wonderfully creative, entertaining, informative and welcoming with its army of volunteers.

Most visitors tend to become regular repeat visitors and find satisfaction in immersing themselves in multiple art forms at one place at one time including getting to attend workshops with senior artists and listen to academics and subject matter experts in the conferences and conclaves that take place as a part of the Serendipity Arts Festival.”

Munjal’s vision has always imagined the festival as an interdisciplinary one. “We wanted to bring back the original idiom of Indian culture to the forefront, but we were clear that we didn’t want to go the traditional way of treating craft forms, or any of the art forms for that matter, in silos. We were firm that our festival has to foster a collaborative environment where artists, craftsmen, creators and innovators work closely together to blend traditional craftsmanship into contemporary idioms. This foundation of incorporating inter-disciplinarity into a multi-dimensional festival has resulted in the promotion of cross-pollination of ideas and techniques.”

Smriti Rajgarhia, director of the festival, feels that inter-disciplinarity encourages experimentation and innovation. “How distinct crafts, performances, and arts come together while pushing the boundaries of traditional practices creates new artistic expressions.

  • Munjal: promoting Interdisciplinarity

    Munjal: promoting Interdisciplinarity

Local appeal

Of course, the festival has a special place for the culture of Goa. We continuously aspire to make the festival more inclusive, accessible, and sustainable, while finding ways to engage with local communities of Goa, its art, craft and amazing history, says Munjal. “Our programming will continue to inform and engage, getting people to experience Goa not just as a venue, but as a city with a cultural history.”

Agrees Rajgarhia, who points out that the festival needs to actively find ways to engage with local communities of Goa, its art, craft and amazing history through our programming to inform and engage locals, as well as, other attendees to experience Goa not just as a venue, but as a city with a cultural history. “For instance, this year, we have several Goa-specific projects and activities. There is Postcards from Goa, which is a promenade production that seeks to tell stories that contextualise the queer experiences in Goa and retrofit them to locations in Panjim, along a scenic and culturally resonant walking trail. An interesting workshop Feni Deconstructed: A Sensory Experience.  A Goan singer-songwriter will be playing jazz, Blues and some native Goan folk in Joanne Fernandes and the Local Tribe. Another notable project is Goa Familia: Let The Sound Linger, which is dedicated to encapsulating music and song as the quintessence of the Goan spirit.”

  • Rajgarhia: SAF is pushing boundaries of creativity

    Rajgarhia: SAF is pushing boundaries of creativity

Earlier this year, the festival travelled to other Indian cities, a long-stated desire of the festival. “We have tried, in recent years, to take specific aspects of the Serendipity Arts Festival to different cities so that people there also get a glimpse of our dynamic programming,” points out Munjal. “We had a fantastic #BeyondSerendipity campaign this year, during which SAF commissioned projects travelled to cities like Puducherry, Kolkata and Delhi. The responses to the plays and performances we presented in these cities were overwhelming. We plan to make this initiative an integral part of our yearly calendar and subsequently add a new set of cities with every chapter.”

For regulars, all the ever-popular features continue, from River Raag to the enchanting walks around Panjim, the food experiences – the mesmerizing performing arts and of course the music stage. Just in case you can’t make it to Goa, well, look out - India’s most alluring festival could well be coming to a platform nearer where you are.

  • Henry Naylor in Afghanistan is Not Funny

    Henry Naylor in Afghanistan is Not Funny

Highlights of SAF 2023

Crafted Expressions: Embodied Traditions In The Indian Performing Arts is an exhibition that shines a spotlight on how craftsmanship enriches the auditory and visual realms of the arts.

Climate Change and Other Small Talk: Offering a global perspective on climate change, this is a theatrical podcast made by nine creative teams from across the world.

Jump: A play that unfolds on the rooftop of a building, putting the spotlight on the global pandemic of depression, loneliness, suicide, love and longing.

Don Quixote in Bharatnatyam: A music-dance-theatre production rooted in Carnatic music, this production breaks new ground by marrying contemporary elements with classical forms.

Indus Creed: Collaborating with young talents, Indus Creed blends rock with a classical string trio and exciting guests.

Music in the Art Park: A chance to explore Goa’s rich musical history in, this series focuses on jazz, a genre deeply rooted in Goa’s identity, blending Portuguese Fado, classical Indian, American jazz, and Bollywood.

Manthan: A Confluence of Kaavad Katha and Mohiniyattam is a performance that unites two ancient traditions. As the weaving of stories unfolds, reality encounters the imaginary, the teller encounters the tale, and the dancer encounters the dance, resulting in the dance of their stories. 

Shakti: An abstract Indo-Japanese dance theatre performance that delves into the various dimensions of femininity, examining the historical context of the concept and its relevance in today’s world.

Ghee and Our Connection: A workshop that looks at what ghee meant to our ancestors.

Goa’s Coconut Vinegar: A comparative tasting of a forgotten culinary gem, showcasing Goa’s historical relationship with this fermented substance 

Feni Deconstructed: A sensory experience which will take you on a fascinating journey of the local liquor.

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