Day 26 (Z) ~ #BlogchatterA2Z
All artwork is done by Seema Misra, Copyright Lonely Canopy.
Fort Kochi has transformed itself from a port town into an art hub. Every year the city hosts multiple international music, art, and cinema festivals attracting visitors from all over the world. This transformation has resulted in the renovation of some waterfront ‘godowns’ earlier used to store spices for export.
Fort Kochi and Mattancherry – A Most Colorful History
Fort Kochi has seen Dutch, Portugese, and British settlements, it’s famous for the use of Chinese fishing nets, has a famous Dhobi Khana (run by Tamilians who migrated here to cater to the laundry needs of British soldiers, and is marked by the presence of Memons, Jains, Kashmiris and many other ethnic groups. An entire chunk of history is concentrated in these two tiny towns – Fort Kochi and Mattancherry.
It is the ideal setting for an Amitav Ghosh novel. In fact, its has been accorded a heritage town status. There are many efforts to document the cultural history of the place. With the decline in trade, increased tourism, and dwindling Jewish population – it would need a miracle to preserve even a sliver of the original bustling multi-cultural port town.
A few kilometers from Fort Kochi is Mattancherry. The coast is lined up with old bungalows, some of which are converted into cafes and restaurants. One such cafe that caught our attention was Pepper House. It comprises of two heritage dockside warehouses with a huge courtyard in the center. One side of the building faces the canals. Earlier, this courtyard was used to sort pepper for loading in the docks through a large arched door that opens to the canal.
Pepper House has many aspects – a cafe, a huge library, rooms for art and events, and an in-house store. You can pick up designer clothes, art stuff, and quirky art studio products (such as a set of tiny comic books each inside a match-box) at the store.
The person behind this multi-purpose venue is Isaac Alexander, a local businessman. He has successfully turned the space into an arts and culture hub. We noticed posters of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014 adorning the notice boards. There were several sculptures scattered on the lawn.
Tucked away near the entrance, opposite to the side that opens into the canal, the cafe has chick wooden benches. It offered a stunning view of the picturesque colonial building. Well maintained mini garden in the courtyard area and the pretty Ajwain plants kept in bottles on each table added to the contemporary vibe.
We had French Press coffee with some delicious oats-based dessert, while enjoying the magical view through the arched gateway, of the waterfront with ships passing through. It provided an ideal photo op for Fort Kochi lovers. The maritime, colonial structure, the artsy ambiance, and the leisurely elegance of having a coffee amidst such historical ramparts – it was a quintessential Kochi experience.
Perked up by the coffee, we set out to explore the building. Predictably, we ended up in the library. This one is famous for books on fine arts, most of which have been donated by artist Bose Krishnamachari. We spent a long time digging through books on cinema.
The place is associated with local artists and art collectives such as Kokaachi (their studio is located a little away in Ernakulum). It is also an integral part of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. All these different layers made my afternoon at Pepper House a memorable one. I would love to go back and relive the artsy time I spent there.