KMB’s Unwavering Bond with Kochi’s Cabral Yard

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Kochi: Among its dozen-odd venues, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) have had on an average in each of its three editions by far, there is none like Cabral Yard that has changed contours and even function at the subcontinent’s biggest contemporary art festival which is readying for the next show.

A verdant rectangular plot of 1.6 acres in Fort Kochi, it had featured pivotal installations in the first two chapters of KMB (2012 and ’14), while the 2016 edition saw the plot house a pavilion that hosted performing arts programmes that ran alongside the Biennale. This time, starting December 12, Cabral Yard will house a multi-functional structure that doubles as a ‘knowledge laboratory’ as envisioned by KMB 2018 curator Anita Dube.

This plot is situated by the bend of the road that runs alongside Aspinwall House, invariably the main KMB venue. The yard got its name after Pedro Álvares Cabral, the first Portuguese sailor who reached Kochi way back in 1500 AD. The then Cochin king accorded a warm welcome to Cabral the sailor along with his fleet (after facing hostility up in Malabar’s Calicut). So much so, the Portuguese subsequently got the consent to set up a base in Kochi, where they launched a spice factory.

Today, Cabral Yard, as a property of real-estate major DLF, is in the midst of yet another construction. The upcoming Biennale Pavilion will be the venue for Biennale lectures and workshops besides letting the visitors perform extempore in a free-spirited way. It will also be the place for the KBF’s novel project called ABC, that is Art By Children, which aims to groom younger talents. KMB 2018 has 10 venues.

The Kochi Biennale Foundation, which organises the KMB, finds the pavilion an important space. “It is where people gather and participate/view a lot of activities. Cabral Yard fits well into such demands,” says Bose Krishnamachari, founder-president of the KBF. “It holds talks, screens films, display exhibits, holds educational and entertainment activities and much more.”

It will have two food courts: a community cafe by the Kudumbashree volunteers and by Edible Archives that is essentially an infra project. Besides, Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn will be holding a six-hour daily workshop for 30 days inside the Cabral Yard.

Overall, Cabral Yard depicts the varied quests of people over the centuries. In the medieval times, it was a plot for explorers on a conquest and then a commercial venture (courtesy English trader John H Aspinwall), while in the KMB decade the land brims with the spirit of artistic experimentation.