The Kochi-Muziris Biennale is an international exhibition of contemporary art being held in Kochi, Kerala every two years. The first edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale began on 12/12/12 and was set in spaces across Kochi, Muziris and surrounding islands. There were shows in existing galleries and site-specific installations in public spaces, heritage buildings and disused warehouse structures. Indian and international artists were invited to exhibit artworks across a variety of mediums including film, installation, painting, sculpture, new media and performance art.
Through the celebration of contemporary art from around the world, The Kochi-Muziris Biennale seeks to invoke the historic cosmopolitan legacy of the modern metropolis of Kochi, and its mythical predecessor, the ancient port of Muziris. Alongside the exhibition the Biennale offered a rich programme of talks, seminars, screenings, music performances, workshops and educational activities for school children and visitors of all ages. In cooperation with the Muziris Heritage Project, The Kochi–Muziris Biennale seeks to link the past with the modern day present.
The ancient city of Muziris, located 30 km from Kochi, was a prosperous seaport and financial centre in the 1st Century B.C. Believed to have been washed under the sea during the 1341 AD Periyar river 1flood, Muziris was a key link in the Indo-Roman Empire and Indo-Greek trade routes. Muziris drew legions of Roman, Greek, Chinese, Jewish and Arab traders from across the sea, whose influences, architectural and cultural, are still to be found in the area. The region is unique as it is said to be home to India’s first church (Mar Thoma church), first mosque (Cheraman Juma Masjid) and the oldest European monument (Portuguese fort). Today a series of archaeological sites remain which are currently being excavated and restored by conservation architects with the support of the State Government of Kerala and Indian Central Government. The archaeological and historical data gathering on ‘Muziris’ provides evidence to show that it was a veritable business and cultural centre, with far reaching international associations dating back more than 2000 years. Realizing its potential impact, the Government of India initiated an ambitious project to encompass a larger area including North Paravur and Kodungallur Taluks, which have various protected monuments.
Today, the area is replete with numerous monuments from this era which speak volumes of its rich heritage.These heritage and archaeological activities have been designed in a manner that involves local communities and encompasses wider development goals. The Muziris Heritage project is not about tourism alone, it is about making a significant difference through conservation, restoration, history, environmental projects, research, development of crafts and art forms, occupation and other community activities.