CHENNAI: A group of men and women is taking the city by storm, with a week-long 72-kilometre walk along the perimeter of good ol’ Cooum. Yes, you read that right. They are taking a leisurely stroll along this water body, which elicits grimaces of disapproval from people in the city. But this group has challenged our sentiments by deciding to look at it from an artist’s viewpoint, far isolated from the collective scorn it has gathered over the years.
But why Cooum of all places? Well, they don’t quite have an answer to that, The initiative is called ‘Walk along the river’. “We’re not here to rally or make a clean-this-river kind of campaign. We are just here to walk,” says Madhavan P, the executive director at Goa Centre for Alternative Photography (Goa-CAP). Madhavan is the curator of this little project which has brought in artists, filmmakers and photographers.
In 2011, he had organised a similar march replicating Gandhi’s Salt March from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi.
And on Tuesday morning, the group set off to Tiruvallur to physically mark the starting point of this age-old river, which in recent times has become a name infamously associated with its stench. And this is precisely the kind of thinking the group which is covering 10 kilometres everyday for a week, is battling against.
“We are going to absorb everything we see, open up our senses to the river and interpret it artistically,” said Madhavan.
Covering a portion of Cooum everyday, they’re setting up a geo-tagging space (with pictures, videos, poetry), where they plan to create an online map of the river, except this is no cartographer’s map.
This is purely an artist’s map, an offbeat guide to the Cooum. This will be up on their official website walkalong.com.
Forts, universities, graves, museums, hutments and hundreds of ancient Chola temples lie in wait for their feet to tread. And they’re quite welcome to have interested people join them, even if only for a day or for few hours.
And as a culmination, a Cooum festival will be organised by these walkers, who will display their artwork on the river bank in the month of October.
“We want to experience Cooum as it is, so we have not done any heavy ground research. It’s all surprises from here,” said Madhavan, hours before the trail began. The interest group has artists like Sarah Ramya, documentary filmmaker from Chennai, and others from across the country — from Himachal and New Delhi to Kothagiri.