Middle Eastern artists will be on show at Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2020

First list of artists for the major exhibition, scheduled to take place in December, was released on Tuesday

'Quipu Mapocho' created by Cecilia Vicuna, 2017. Matias Cardone / Christian Chierego Hernandez
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The Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2020 has announced its first batch of participating artists, with creatives from Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt included in the upcoming exhibition.

The fifth instalment of the event will take place from December 12 to April 10, 2021, across various locations in Kochi, India. The programme will include a major exhibition, as well as performances, screenings and workshops.

Titled In our Veins Flow Ink and Fire, the biennale exhibition will be curated by Singaporean artist Shubigi Rao and explore ideas across social, political and artistic practices. In a statement, Rao emphasised the role of art and creativity in dealing with global problems.

“The biggest challenge facing us is, of course, the unprecedented magnitude of the global pandemic … and yet it is a creative act to think through problems, to navigate obstacles, to work with people to collectively and inventively dismantle challenges,” she said.

“These imperatives continue to be present in my curatorial work for the next Kochi-Muziris Biennale … I have to say that I see challenges as creative opportunities, and a chance for people to work differently with common cause,” she added.

Cairo-born artist Iman Issa, who works in Berlin, will be part of the show. She has exhibited at major institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim Museum in New York, as well as the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.

Issa’s conceptual sculptures tap into political and personal references in objects, reimagining artefacts from museums and archaeological sites. Her work also reflects on the construction and destruction of public monuments, along with their impact on historical memory.

Lebanese artist Ali Cherri, who splits his time living in Beirut and Paris, will be part of the show. His work focuses on ideas of heritage and archaeology in relation to the Arab world, as seen in his 2015 film The Digger, in which he captured the millennia-old necropolis of Jebel Al Buhais in Sharjah and the tombs of Jebel Hafeet.

In October last year, Cherri presented his sculptural works Graftings as part of the group exhibition Phantom Limb at Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai. His sculptural assemblages comprised of artefacts representing looted objects from ancient Middle Eastern sites.

'Graftings' (2019) by Ali Cherri. Courtesy Ali Cherri; Galerie Imane Fares
'Graftings' (2019) by Ali Cherri. Courtesy Ali Cherri; Galerie Imane Fares

Artist collective Decolonising Architecture Art Residency from Palestine, which is co-directed by Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal, will also participate. Their ongoing project, Refugee Heritage, which was also part of Phantom Limb, puts forward the idea of including refugee camps in Unesco's World Heritage List.

DAAR also presented their work Concrete Tent as part of the exhibition Permanent Temporariness at New York University Abu Dhabi in 2018. The large-scale tent-shaped structure highlighted how refugee camps are no longer temporary sites, but rather, have become semi-permanent urban areas that become symbols of displacement.

Speaking of the event, biennale director Bose Krishnamachari said in a statement: "As humanity combats this pandemic, I believe that art and culture will not just allow for healing, but will also create a space for togetherness. We have trust in this ability of art, and we think that the biennale in Kochi can be a site for self-reflection and further imagination."

Other artists in the list include:

Arpita Singh

From West Bengal, India. Lives and works in New Delhi.

Cecilia Vicuna

From Santiago, Chile. Lives and works between New York City and Santiago.

Colectivo Ayllu / Migrantes Transgresorxs

Artist collective founded in Madrid, Spain.


Sami artist collective established in Guovdageaidnu / Kautokeino, Sapmi, Norway.

Gabrielle Goliath

From Kimberley, South Africa. Lives and works in Johannesburg.

Joan Jonas

From New York, United States. Lives and works in New York City.

Martta Tuomaala

From Lieto, Finland. Lives and works in Helsinki.

Melati Suryodarmo

From Surakarta, Indonesia. Lives and works in Gross Gleidingen and Surakarta.

Mithra Kamalam

From Calicut, India. Lives and works in Baroda.

Pio Abad and Frances Wadsworth Jones

From Manila, Philippines and London, United Kingdom respectively. Live and work in London.

Priya Sen

From Kolkata, India. Lives and works in New Delhi.

Richard Bell

From Charleville, Queensland. Lives and works in Brisbane.

Sahil Naik

From Goa, India. Lives and works between Baroda and Goa.

Samson Young

From Hong Kong. Lives and works in Hong Kong

Seher Shah

From Karachi, Pakistan. Lives and works in New Delhi.

Slavs and Tatars

Artist collective working in Berlin.

Thao Nguyen Phan

From Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City.

The u-ra-mi-li project

A scene from the film 'kho ki pa lu' / 'Up Down and Sideways' (2017) by Anushka Meenakshi and Iswar Lalitha's The u-ra-mi-li project. Courtesy The u-ra-mi-li Project
A scene from the film 'kho ki pa lu' / 'Up Down and Sideways' (2017) by Anushka Meenakshi and Iswar Lalitha's The u-ra-mi-li project. Courtesy The u-ra-mi-li Project

Artist collective working in Pondicherry.

Thuma Collective

Artist collective founded in Yangon, Myanmar. Live and work in Yangon.

Vasudevan Akkitham

From Kumaranallur, Kerala. Lives and works in Baroda.

Yinka Shonibare

From London, United Kingdom. Lives and works in London.

Zina Saro-Wiwa

From Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Lives and works in Los Angeles.