The Kochi-Muziris Biennale’s co-founder stepped down amid sexual harassment allegations.
Kochi-Muziris Biennale co-founder Riyas Komu. Photo by Fotokannan, via Wikimedia Commons.
The artist Riyas Komu, a co-founder of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, “has stepped down from all his management positions connected to the Biennale,” according to an official statement, following allegations of sexual harassment. Komu is the subject of a post on “Scene and Herd,” an Instagram account devoted to outing to sexual predators in the India art community.
The post’s anonymous author, a female artist, claims that after inviting her to Kochi under the pretext of being interested in her work, Komu invited himself into her hotel room and
began kissing me and feeling me up while I struggled to even process what the hell was going on. I was so petrified that I just let it happen. It stopped just as abruptly as it had started. And then he left. It didn’t stop there. I was violated by him again during my stay in Kochi. The work that I had hoped to do never even materialized.
In its response to the allegations, the Managing Committee of the Kochi Biennale Foundation (which was founded by Komu and Bose Krishnamachari in 2010 and runs the Biennale) says that it met on October 19th to discuss how to respond and is “collectively committed to ensuring zero tolerance to any harassment or misconduct.” Komu has stepped down “till the matter is resolved,” the foundation states. In a statement posted to his own Instagram account, Komu wrote that he is “deeply upset that this incident has been understood and presented in this manner. However, as the person has expressed hurt, I would like here to offer my apologies and I am opening myself to the possibility of conversation.”
Update: Anita Dube, the curator of the 2018 edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, issued a statement in response to the allegations against Riyas Komu. It reads in part:
What was considered (for centuries) the perks of masculinity, is being called out today as totally unacceptable to women, as a violation of their human rights. I stand in complete solidarity, salute those who are brave enough to put their name at stake, support those who are disempowered and remain anonymous.
In Riyas Komu stepping down, the Kochi Biennale Foundation has taken remedial action, and begun the process of structural change, taking into consideration suggestions from the employees and the curatorial team.