The key purpose of MOPA is to have a cultural center that can give this city and visitors a complete experience of the South Indian performing arts. A museum, a magnificent addition to any community, provides an ideal combination of preservation, education and tourism. It is a long-term institution in the service of society and its development, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for purposes of study and enjoyment, material evidence of the culture of a people and their environment.
Indian arts like music and dance have been passed on from generation to generation through an aural system of learning wherein the disciple learns through a direct and intensive interaction the teacher. Very little prominence has been given to creating or maintaining written or any other records for future generations. Needless to say, in the process of evolution (as is bound to happen in any system of art), there has been constant change in grammar, content, style and presentation. Sadly, many of these details have been lost due to the absence of records. It is absolutely essential to create an archive of a system that dates back centuries, so that future generations can trace the origins and development in an organized manner.
Firstly, there is no museum in Chennai that is dedicated to the preservation of South Indian arts. Other than live concerts and the occasional talk or lecture, there is no center of reference or archives for the same. The Music Academy has audio archives built by the donations of music enthusiasts over a period of time. The Saraswati Mahal Library in Tanjavur is an archival collection of a valuable collection of manuscripts related to the performing arts. But there is no other facility in this State that looks at the preservation of this subject holistically.
MOPA will not only help showcase the history, the content, the changes over the centuries and external influences on every aspect of the art forms, it will also look at the impact on the current generation and exiting trends.
Chennai is often called the cultural capital of India, given the year-round lineup of events – music, dance, theater and literature. Other than the several existing venues, almost every hall, temple courtyard, school foyer or even a large terrace over a residential building or home converts to a performing space! Yet, there is an urgent need to have a well-equipped and professionally-managed venue that not only does justice to artistes and audiences, but also matches international standards in facilities offered and the overall experience. A functional and aesthetically designed center can have a powerful impact on a community’s quality of life.
Currently, Carnatic music is the focal point of MOPA but we see it as part of an integrated system along with classical dance and theater, as all 3 are closely linked and share the same roots. Folk art systems are also an integral part of this ecosystem and as we expand, we hope to cover all aspects of South India’s performing arts.
Heritage preservation is most effective when its physical elements and stories are protected and when its significance is etched in the memory of the community. Yes there are some, like ancient palm leaf manuscripts and treatises on music and dance, rare recordings of great musicians of yore (that need to be digitized and preserved), rare musical instruments, costumes used by dancers, and related items.
We do not see this as a competition – it is more a unifying attempt, at bringing like-minded individuals and organizations dedicated to culture and heritage preservation, towards a common goal – of establishing a center that will do justice to the preservation and propagation of the rich artistic legacy of this region.