EU National Institutes for Culture - EUNIC


Hoogli Heritage Hub

The goal of the Hoogli Heritage Hub project was to create awareness on cultural heritage and Indo-European histories in the area and to engage with public spaces on the river front from a contemporary perspective. This was achieved through a series of programs between Nov 2021-Jan 2022.


COVID-19 has been extremely challenging in India where social distancing is for many a distant luxury and public spaces play an important role. This project wanted to activate the local art scene in the Europe on the Ganges area, called the Hoogli Heritage Hub. The public spaces and the river front are cherished green lungs in an environment often threatened by rapid and unplanned developments and they are also strong sources of local identity. This project engaged with the residents of the HHH area by inviting them, through cultural activities and interactive performances, to share their take and views on how to ensure that the public spaces are suported as inclusive resources.

The project's main activities included a collaborative music performance on a barge on the Hooghly with musical performance by the famous Fado singer Sonia Shirsat and her team from Goa, and the renowned Bhatiyali singer Saurav Moni and his team from Bengal.

A children’s workshop on creative story-telling and stop animation of Danish writer HC Andersen's 'The Emperor's New Clothes' invited children of the Patachitra community of Naya on interpreting the story and integrating these local crafts in visualizing and developing the film with puppets, mid and fore ground scenes, etc. An animation film on Hans-Christian Andersen's 'The Emperor's New Clothes' was developed by Perlefilm, a Danish organization in collaboration with traditional craft-persons and artists from rural Bengal, facilitated by Banglanatak.

The programme also included a collaboration by Alliance française du Bengale and the French Insitute in India with the fashion designer-artist Abhishek Dutta, building up a textile collection which inspires people to conserve the river. The sustainable fashion collection is about fluidity as well as structured elements inspired from the Indo-French colony of Chandannagore in the Hooghly district of West Bengal. The French motifs are the integral part of the collection along with hand-woven Indian textile and craftsmanship.

With a story-telling through Patachitra performance, the project shone light on the colonial history and cultural diffusion along the hooghly river.

The exhibition A River and the World - The Story of the Hooghly depicted a timeline of Hooghly River in which the river itself becomes a witness to and an active participant in the history of the region. The timeline depicted the major historical events, spanning over the past four centuries, along the river, and it encapsulates the physical and cultural transformations taking place in that timeframe. It captured how the river became the conduit to connect the rural Bengal on its banks with the globe through international trade and businesses, facilitating an encounter that was akin to ‘globalisation’ that became the buzzword in the late twentieth century. The Hooghly becomes the narrator of the changes of the lived spaces and the communities around it in the proposed timeline.

An online panel discussion moderated by Manish Chakraborti with lessons from Germany, UK, USA and The Netherlands elaborated on the urban development of the Hooghly Heritage Landscape, presenting case studies as to how reuse and heritage-led planning is a tried and tested solution which has worked successfully to revive other great waterfront cities around the world, aiming to move towards preparing a creative reuse led plan for the future development of the Hooghly Heritage Landscape.

Challenges and Learnings

This project marked a beginning of a long journey which is related to the city of Kolkata and its longstanding relationship with Europe. It succeeded in widening the awareness and saw a great involvement from the people of the city. Some of the programs were presented at heritage sites. The project received good reviews from the press and attracted a lot of curiosity and interest from the people of city and its suburban areas and districts. However, the main challenge is to maintain a sustained interest and motivation of the stakeholders and the government to not only invest but move towards effectively planning to save and revive the losing heritage.

This is the first time that an exhibition has been made with the comprehensive history of the river Hooghly put together beautifully. Before this we all knew the history in parts. A publication should definitely be thought about after the exhibition is over.

Sumona Chakravarty, Curator, DAG Museum in Kolkata on the exhibition’ A River and the World - The Story of the Hooghly’

  • Cultural heritage
  • Public space
  • Public art

Co-funded by the European Union Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.