Kochi is home to both Malabari and Foreign Jewish communities. 

The term, as misunderstood by many, is not referred to Jews of European origin, even though Kochi was once home to them. The usage is more connected with the concept of racial purity which is one of the cornerstones of the Jewish faith rather than the colour of skin. 

According to the oral traditions, it was the destruction of erstwhile Muziris port that led the Jews to migrate into Kochi. Upon reaching Kochi, the King gifted them a place to settle while also granting them occupational and religious freedom. 

They shared close connections with the Dutch and this made them wealthy and influential. This relationship that they enjoyed with the Dutch might have led the locals to call them white Jews.

The close proximity of the Jewish synagogue and the King’s palace talks volumes about the special liking that he had for the community. 

In fact the genesis of the name Mattancherry is believed to have a strong Jewish underpinning to it. 

PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION BY BIJU IBRAHIM: COMMUNITIES OF KOCHI

Places have souls and Mattancherry in the city of Kochi has a mystic one. Biju Ibrahim discovered this while documenting the lives of Kochi’s 38 communities through black and white pictures. Distinct in layers of identities – caste, faith, language, ethnicity and region – these communities have been welcomed over centuries and have, in turn, infused Mattancherry and Kochi with a rare and rich heritage. Historically, it has been home to Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus. The sea and port attracted sailors, traders from Arabia and Gujarat, preachers of Semitic faiths, colonisers such as the Dutch and Portuguese, political refugees and migrant labourers. A cross-section of India lives here in a radius of 5 kilometers. 

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AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER

BIJU IBRAHIM

He captures the essence of rustic geographies, the people who are now becoming archive of the earth, the mythic & mystery of spaces & places, alleys of now filled with the density of then or before.

ART ORGANISATION

URU ART HARBOUR

URU art harbour is a cultural hub situated at Kochi. URU seeks to be a space for collaboration and a continual hub for artistic, cultural, and intellectual exploration. Founded by Riyas Komu and Zoya Riyas.

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