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Kochi biennale hopes to revive Kerala’s lost glory

The three-month event will use heritage buildings and other structures to regenerate the region’s history and open its culture to the world

KERALA tourism is looking forward to the second edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) to recoup the loss suffered due to bird flu and flawed liquor policy. The 108-day contemporary art festival, which started on Friday, is arguably India’s biggest congregation of art and artists and expected to bring more people interested in art and culture tourism under one platform.

Most of the venues are abandoned spice warehouses and trading centres for tea. This year, the biennale’s theme centres very much on Kochi and Muziris, which were important trading centers of spices. “So far, India has been very poor in marketing its art and culture market. Venice, Liverpool and Sydney are known to receive millions of visitors and rake in lot of money. Let us hope that we make gains to offset the loss suffered due to bird flu and other problems,” Sanjeev Nair of Team Hospitality said.

Nair said major tourist destinations like Kovalam are short by 40-50% tourists this season and the impact on the economy could be huge. House boat tourism in Allepey has almost touched nil due to the bird flu alert issued by various governments to their people. “Weekend arrivals of domestic tourists in Wayanad and Munnar have declined due to the liquor policy. Liquor is not available on Sunday as it has been made a dry day as part of the new liquor policy which envisages complete prohibition in ten years. Conferences and business tours have also declined,” he added.

The first edition of the biennale was visited by four lakh visitors and KMB Foundation expects it to increase this time due to the visibility and success of the first, Boney Thomas, research coordinator of the KMB Foundation said. KMB sources estimate more than eight lakh people to visit the sites as part of the biennale.

The three-month event will use heritage buildings and other structures to regenerate the region’s history and open its culture to the world. A fresh coat of paint, acrylics splashed across walls and strange graffiti across street walls have brought a fresh lease of life to an old Jewish settlement that was once know as the terminal market for spices across the globe.

“Kochi and Muziris were the two windows to the world through which trade, religions and culture came to the Indian sub-continent. Judaism, Christianity and Islam came to India through Muziris. Jainism and Buddhism flourished near the ancient trade centre. Chinese and the Arabs had their colonies in both ports. We adopted Koch-Muziris as the central themes because of the universal outlook of the people and place,” Boney added. The biennale will also feature cultural programmes, cinema, seminars and lectures, besides partner projects and collaterals.

Foreign tourist arrival to Kerala during the year 2013 was 8,58,143, which shows an increase of 8.12 % over the previous year’s figure of 7,93,696, as per the data of Kerala tourism department. Foreign exchange earning for the year 2013 was R5,560.77 crore, which recorded an increase of 21.63 % over the previous year.

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