Kochi: A galaxy of thinkers, scholars, architects and urban planners from India and abroad discussed and deliberated upon a fascinating and diverse range of subjects as part of the Annual Conference on Metaphysics and Politics organised by the Backwaters Collective and Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) with the objective of building a liberal, inclusive and democratic society.

The seventh edition of the conference, held during July 12-15, saw the assemblage of prominent scholars and writers like Ashis Nandy, Gopal Guru, Julius Lipner, Ajay Skaria, Ganesh Devy, V Sanil, Vivek Dhareshwar, Venkat Rao and Roby Rajan.

Over the four days, the participants shared their views and participated animatedly in discussions on diverse topics. From dharma to the Kannada intellectual tradition, from Gandhi to Ambedkar, from tribal art to the Mahabharata – the conference saw a host of refreshing ideas underpinned by profound thoughts and worldviews.

The contributions of social reformer Shree Narayana Guru were discussed and surveyed through a feminist lens by prominent Malayalam author K.R Meera.

Dilip da Cunha, an architect and urban planner, introduced a fascinating project, ‘Soak’, which channels design to completely rethink the narrative of land-water divide. Caste and the categorical segregations within the Humanities were also subjected to a searching intellectual scrutiny.

The intriguing part of the conference was the participation of ‘artist-thinkers’. Shahabaz Aman interspersed his ghazal performance with ruminations on oppression, pain and poetry.

Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna, along with sharp political commentary, talked about the “art-experience” and how it is within art that the highest possibilities of democracy are found. The points discussed were emphasised by a riveting performance in an intimate setting. Sumangala Damodaran and academician and musician, gave the concluding “concert-lecture” on music, politics and resistance.

KBF President Bose Krishnamachari said the conference led to considerable debate within the group, and furthered one of the critical aims of the Foundation, which is to help build a new society that aims to be liberal, inclusive, egalitarian and democratic.

Acclaimed artist and KBF Secretary Riyas Komu said the conference provides a platform where thinkers can take risks and create new forms of interactions. “The association with the scholars that visit this forum is a further exploration of an agenda – to find ways to shorten the gaps between theory and practice,” he noted.

By Manoj

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