A trading port, Kochi bears the marks of centuries of international trade. Derelict colonial era warehouses create a compelling street-scape. Some of these spaces are still in use, storing sacks of rice. Men with manual scales weigh out portions for sampling and keep careful carbon copy ledgers of their sales. Goats, chickens and hand drawn carts abound. Next door, another warehouse has been reappropriated, converted to a sleek bar and gallery.
Kochi has cafes that could rival any hipster hang out in East London. Quite by accident we stumbled across Kashi Art Cafe - which, according to its menu, is equally dedicated to providing simple and delicious food as to educating the general public about contemporary visual art forms. From what we tasted and saw, it was succeeding on both fronts.
Throughout Fort Kochi and Mattancherry street art adorns many of the external walls. The pictures are faded, or all but washed away, but they are otherwise untouched. There is no tagging or competing efforts. Street art has not been a feature of our trip at all, which made these works particularly stand out. With a very little digging we learnt that the street art is a legacy of India's first biennale (a biennale is a contemporary art festival, held every two years, usually international in focus, centered on a theme and shown in a range of locations through a host city).