Mudra Foundation interview – 3

Things that come together naturally. It takes time, but it is interesting. Congregating in Odisha from all over the world, a place of free and creative expression.

We interviewed Mrs. Masako Ono and Mr. Sumaran, the core staff of Mudra foundation, about how the past Odisha Biennales went, and about the one scheduled this year (2017).

Odisha Biennale

Official page
A comprehensive art festival held once every two years in Bhubaneshwar focussing on performing arts such as classical and contemporary dance, that calls together artists in various fields such as video, fine art, design, and fashion. Starting from a pre-event in 2012, it has been held after that in 2013 and 2015, and the the one to be held in 2017 (28th October – 5th November) will be the third.

Odisha Biennale 2017

Date : 28th October 2017 – 5th November 2017
Venue : MINDTREE / MOPA Studio, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, India
(Details at the end of this article)

Here is the photo gallery for 2013.
Glimpses of the 2015 performances (Photos in random order)

Photo by Mudra Foundation
Photo by Mudra Foundation
Photo by Mudra Foundation
Photo by Mudra Foundation
Photo by Mudra Foundation
Photo by Mudra Foundation
Photo by Mudra Foundation
Photo by Mudra Foundation
Photo by Mudra Foundation
Photo by Mudra Foundation
Young people who gained an international sense growing up

The Odisha Biennale is a platform for exchanging culture across countries, and a good impetus for young people of Odisha to get to know their own culture.
Sumaran is a 22-year-old who found an opportunity participating as a student volunteer staff in 2013 and now works as part of the main staff at Mudra Foundation. Speaking of his personal experience, he says, “When I first participated, I knew almost nothing about the local art and culture of Odisha. I was able to gain knowledge through the course of the Odisha Biennale.”

Although he is now able to conduct his affairs using English, ordinarily communicating over emails or instant messages with Japanese producers and Italian photographers, Sumaran could only speak Odia back in 2013. Afterwards, having become a permanent staff member, and even demonstrating his extensive abilities as a proofreader and editing assistant, he is steadily increasing his strengths while honing his original talents.

Odisha’s young people are of a gentle temperament, and are a little attentive – of a perceptive type who are highly sensitive. Masako says that raising people like Sumaran is also one of the reasons why she feels that this is worth doing.

In this Biennale, Sumaran isn’t volunteering, but is in charge of directing a section. There are also volunteers under him. I look forward to his growing even further.

Internship recruitment here.
Volunteer recruitment here.

Collaboration, exchange in the true sense

It will certainly be a stimulus for the young people of Odisha, but only a few of them personally realise that. However, being surrounded by people for various countries through this opportunity, if they are able to share this point of view, such as when people from outside say that the brass craft of Dhokra is wonderful, the local people who hadn’t yet recorded that fact in spite of it being there will take notice. Changes are being born, just a little, from 2013.

“The visitors to the Odisha Biennale are primarily Indians or people from Odisha in terms of numbers, but it’s not just because they have an advantage – I think it is of great mutual benefit (a win-win) for visitors and artists from Japan. The worlds of India and Japan are exact opposites, but they are full of things that they can learn from each other”, says Masako.

“Even from an economic point of view, if Japan isn’t able to respond to Indian people as customers (as consumers of Japanese products or as tourists) from now on, then the period after this is going to become increasingly difficult – is something that is often being said lately.”

“I think that any friendship or relationship that starts with love is the most beautiful.”

“Because the economic disparity in India is vast, when you come to visit the Odisha Biennale, I think it is a considerable shock. But after you become friends, a sense of fellowship is born, and you can do something together in the future. I would like not only Indians, but Japanese as well, to apply this”, says Masako, saying that the reason being that there is more time to talk to everyone compared to other Biennales.

Anyone can participate in the workshops. After the performance, artists have the occasion to interact with the audience and critics. “It’s in the country so there’s nothing to do”, she laughs. “Drinking, talking to each other… There are people from Spain in this year’s project, so my Spanish friends might come too. There is an amazing sense of unity, and I think the network will expand”, she said, explaining the atmosphere of the Biennale.

“Opinions clash, but as they clash, we create.”

“If it was any other Biennale, I would have absolutely no motivation to do it. There are curators and critics even in Japan, but here, everyone listens to opinions and interject too. I think it is good if when Japanese critics say that it is good, Indians say that it is boring. Rather than saying that I want to make the Biennale big, I think that things that come together naturally even if it takes time, things that are spontaneous, are the strongest.” Good things are good. Masako said that there is an atmosphere where that can be said.

Until the last time, Masako says that she was directing the Biennale with herself at the core. The plan for 2017 is running with Masako’s husband Manas and Mr. Kunihiko Matsuo from the Japanese team at the core. (See the Japanese side here.)
With regard to the program administration, opinions clash in a balance that is mutually considered interesting. Something that was discussed for a long time already was to waive the entrance fee this year as well. Odisha does not have a base of attendees who will pay for art yet. (It was administered without entrance fees in the past, both in 2013 and 2015.) Even then, the footfall during 2015 was 250-300 attendees per day. They are expecting 400-500 people per day in 2017.

“The concept is to come together in Odisha from across the world, a place for free, creative expression.”

Looking at the Biennale’s program, it seems to be able to appreciate performances by artists without the barriers of “traditional” and “contemporary”, mainly from India and Japan, but also those from Europe and Africa who are internationally active and have gathered here. It is a good opportunity for Japanese artists to come in contact with foreign artists and audiences. By participating in the workshops and events held during the Biennale, I definitely want them to get the chance to interact globally.

Glimpses from past workshops


Odisha Biennale 2017
Date : 28th October 2017 – 5th November 2017
Location : MINDTREE / MOPA Studio, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, India

(Featured artists and details are continuously updated on the homepage. The ones being announced at present are given below.)

Body ± Cloth =

Performances (in alphabetical order)
· Antymark (VJ, projection mapping)
· Fujima Rankoh Fujima Lan Huang (Japanese dance)
· Gombe Cultural Troupe (African)
· Hemabharathy Palani (Japanese dancer)
· Masako Ono (Odissi dance, contemporary dance)
· Moya Michael (contemporary dance)
· Ronita Mookerji (contemporary dance)
· Rui Rui “In heaps” Yoshihiro Fujita / Kazuaki Maruyama (contemporary dance)
· VEDANZA (contemporary dance)

· Workshop by all participating artists, master class

Development program
· Program to nurture technicians and critics who support the performing arts from the back-end to raise the overall standard of the scene in Bhubaneshwar
· Workshop by lighting artists, acoustic engineers, video artists, from basic knowledge to cutting-edge technology
· Workshop on dance critique, inviting dance critics, writers, etc.
· Recruiting students in Bhubaneshwar who are learning Japanese to support accompanying interpreters and communicators

Artist in Residence
· Ichiko FUNAI (contemporary artist / costume designer)

Meeting Cafe
· Establishing a “cafe” at the main venue here people can enjoy interacting with audiences, participating artists, experts, technicians in a frank atmosphere.

Cultural Heritage Tours
· Guided tours by experts to world heritage sites such as the Konark Sun Temple and around the historic ruins of Buddhist sites of Udayagiri and Lalitgiri.

“Ödisha Biennale in Japan” (proposed) is scheduled to be organised in Japan in the following year (in November 2018) as a collaborative project with the Bunka Fashion College.

· ODISHA BIENNALE 2017 ‘s theme show ‘body ± cloth =’ young dancers and choreographers (deadline, screening : 31/07/2017) Details
· Internship Details
· Volunteering Details

Objectives of the Odisha Biennale
1.The objective is to manifest the strength of the artists’ skill and global creativity as a bridge across cultures, highlighting how collaboration can help marginalised cultures regain cultural recognition, engage with other international artists, innovate, embrace coexistence in equity and promote diversity. The collaboration will be showcased during ODISHA BIENNALE 2017.
2.Mudra Foundation is also interested in the link between creative practice and social development through worldwide connections and contributing to the underprivileged communities. We aim at bringing together an international vision of art and cross-cultural exchange. ODISHA BIENNALE will organise workshops for children lead by local and international cultural practitioners to create awareness and promote access to contemporary culture for all ages.
3.This project sets the basis of a number of creative activities that, internationally acclaimed artists from the globe will support local artists from Odisha, to develop not only a production of art, but also a deeper sense of interculturality and a wider understanding of the importance of culture and communication for solving nowadays challenges at global scale. It aims to promote the interest of people in art and culture with a view to stimulate innovation, creativity and promote cultural diversity and expression.

Text : Yoko Kobayashi (translated by Aumurto)
Images : Mudra Foundation

This post is also available in Japanese.