Kala Ghoda: Much more than an art festival in Mumbai

by Shikha Doctor
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Kala Ghoda is an art district in south Mumbai. Some of the city’s most prestigious heritage buildings, museums, art galleries and educational institutions such as the National Gallery of Modern Art, the Jehangir Art Gallery, the Arts Trust and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya are housed in Kala Ghoda.  It has Mumbai Port’s docklands to its east, Regal Cinema to the south, Fountain to the north, Oval Maidan to its west and the Bombay Stock Exchange to its north east.
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Kala Ghoda means a Black Horse in hindi. The place got its name because of a black stone statue of King Edward VII. Then, the Prince of Wales, he mounted on a horse which was placed in this area. It was built by a Jewish businessman and philanthropist Albert Abdullah David Sassoon. Although this statue was removed from the precinct in 1965 and subsequently placed inside the Byculla Zoo, the name stuck to the area.
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The Esplanade Mansion, India’s oldest surviving cast iron building is also in Kala Ghoda.  It was formerly known as Watson’s Hotel. Films were introduced to India with a screening of the Lumiere Brothers Cinematograph in 1896 at this site. The offices of art publication, Marg, are on the third floor of the consequential Army and Navy Building.
And now, let me give you a brief introduction to some of the oldest art galleries, museums and art publication of Mumbai which are situated in and around the fort.
Jehangir art gallery is one of the oldest art galleries of India. It was founded by Sir Cowasji Jehangir at the recommendation  of  Homi Bhabha and K.K. Hebbar. Build in 1952 and managed by the committee of management, the cost of building this massive art space was funded by Cowasji Jahangir. It was designed by G.M Buta for G.M Buta and associates.
The gallery was inaugurated on 21 January 1952 by the then Chief Minister of Bombay B.G. Kher. The gallery was dedicated in the name of Sir Cowasji’s late son Jehangir. This prestigious institution’s history can be traced back or linked with the renaissances of Indian Art. One of the oldest and popular cafe Samovar was housed inside the gallery. The art gallery is also an example of early modernist idea of inward looking art gallery.
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Jehangir art gallery: The building was designed by Dura Baja and is one of the oldest architecture of the city.
 Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalya which was formally known as the Prince of Wales museum is the main museum of Mumbai and also a very important part of Indian history. It was founded in 20th century by some of the aristocratic families of Mumbai with the help of the then government. The museum was dedicated to Edward VIII (then Prince of Wales).
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Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalya
The museum is surrounded by garden of Palms trees and flowers. It houses around 50,000 exhibits of ancient Indian history and a beautiful collection of Indian miniature paintings. If you are someone who admires the ancient Indian Craft of miniature painting, then you must visit this museum.  Apart from this, many royal and aristocratic families have donated their art collections and ancient artefacts to the museum. One of the largest donors is the TATA family who have donated a huge collection of paintings by European masters which remains a major attraction for the visitors.
The Museum was build in Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. It also had some elements of Mughal, Jain and Maratha architecture.
Let’s talk about one of the very famous art publication of India: Marg. Marg is an art magazine which was first published in 1946. It has its office on the third floor of the historic Army and Navy building. The magazine, which is probably one of the oldest art magazine of India, was mainly funded by J.R.D Tata at its inception. Later, National Centre of Performing Arts (NCPA) took it over as a trust and the magazine became a division of NCPA. Since 2010 the magazine has been functioning as an independent non-profit organization.
Some of the other art galleries which are also very important are the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Chemould Prescott,  Lakeeren Art gallery, Mumbai Art Room, Sakshi, TARQ and many more, together they have played a big role in the inception of The Kala Ghoda Festival.
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Installation by artist Ankur Rajput and Sachin Chaskar titled ‘Ladka ya Ladki’, which focuses on the issue of female foeticide. Depicting a mother carrying life in her womb, the artists hope their creation will help change the view of people toward gender discrimination.
The Kala Ghoda Art Festival is an annual 9 days long art festival which begins on the first Saturday and goes on till the second Sunday of February. It was this festival which turned Kala Ghoda as the art District of Mumbai each year. The Festival has visual art, music, literature, educational talks related to art, workshops, heritage walks, different kinds of stall including delicious food stalls, theatre etc. The event is handled and curated by Kala Ghoda Association.
Some of the famous personalities of art and entertainment industry have been a part of this splendid art festival. The success of Kala Ghoda Art Festival has led to the arrival of several other art festivals like Celebrate Bandra and Kitab festival in Mumbai.
Kala Ghoda Art Festival undoubtedly brought a great change in the art scene of Mumbai and India since its inception in 1999.

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