CAA, NRC leave awkward footprint on Goa Art festival

Panaji, Dec 19 : The ongoing nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) appear to have left an awkward footprint at the ongoing Serendipity Arts Festivals, one of the country’s biggest curated art shows, which is underway in Goa.

Two exhibits, with oblique references to turmoil in the Northeastern regions and the CAA, both curated by well-known contemporary artist Sudarshan Shetty were abruptly closed for viewing by the organisers of the Serendipity Arts Festival on Wednesday.

The exhibits are a part of an artistic installation ensemble curated by Shetty titled ‘Look outside the House’ which showcases “indigenous inventions and informal industries that have origins in catering to real life circumstantial needs with lasting social impact on communities at large”.

One of the exhibits which was found itself out of bounds on Day 4 of the festival which began on December 15, involves visual depiction of Miyah verse, a unique contemporary Assamese genre of poetry which captures the angst of discrimination towards Assamese Muslims.

Several display screens broadcasting verses of Miyah poetry by Dalit and some poets of from the Northeast, articulating the anxieties faced by the Muslim community in the region, which is most affected by protests against the CAA and the National Register of Citizens, was suddenly off limits for viewing on Wednesday, the fourth day of the festival.

Another of Shetty’s exhibitions which was barred for visitors at the festival, innovatively showcases ink ‘upcycled’ from carbon from air-pollution emissions and enables carbon-negative printing and production.

As part of the immersive experience offered by the curator, visitors could scribble graffitis of their choice with the help of pens loaded with the unique black ink on empty canvases.

By the fourth day of festival, the graffiti was liberally scribbled with slogans against the CAA and NRC by visitors to the gallery among other jottings, and was also barred for audience viewing according to a perplexed Shetty.

Incidentally, Shetty’s third exhibit, ‘Goggles for the Blind’, an innovation by a Northeastern youth, which uses ultrasound and infrared sensors to help visually impaired detect obstacles on their path, could not make it to the festival, due to the ongoing chaos in the region.

“Due to ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Northeast, we could not procure the Goggles for the Blind, in time for his show,” reads a printed note in place of the exhibit at the festival’s display gallery.

According to the curator himself, the organisers of the event told him that “technical issues” were responsible for their inability to display the two exhibits involving the Miyah verse display and the carbon ink graffiti boards.

“I have been told that both the exhibits were taken down because of technical issues,” Shetty told IANS on late on Wednesday.

Despite several efforts to contact the organisers till late on Wednesday night, there was no comment forthcoming from the Serendipity Art Festival’s organising team.

Interestingly, on Wednesday four musicians from the ‘Dastaan Live’ band were arrested and later released on bail, after a complainant claimed that they had upset Hindu religious sentiments during their performance by hurtful references to the word ‘Om’. Dastaan Live’s performance was a part of the Arts festival’s music vertical and was curated by well known Bollywood music director Sneha Khanwalkar.