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A Huge Collection of Firewood

By Pantaleao Fernandes

Though victor and I shared the same village, parish and school and bumped into one another often, the acquaintance ended there. The only time our paths crossed was when he designed my visiting card as the proprietor of a design and advertising firm. However, one fine day, my good friend Advocate Radharao Gracias told me that my ‘gaum bhav’ was setting up something interesting in the village and advised me to pay him a visit. But that did not ignite any interest in me until Victor called me up one day and invited me on a ‘tour guided by him around his museum’. Victor had been following my ethnographic articles in the Gomantak Times, covering rare and dying occupations of Goa. He knew therefore that I would lend him a keen ear and eye. When I landed at his place, I greeted him with a pinch of salt. I knew of his flamboyant ways and didn’t know what to expect. But then as I stepped into his premises I was dumbfounded. His passion as he narrated his story had my attention one hundred percent. As my host guided me around the exhibition area that was designed around the exhibits, contrasting emotions began surfacing from my being. Feelings of happiness and sadness tried to emerge simultaneously. Anger and a sense of peace fought each other. Outrage and satisfaction tried to reign within.

The ethnographic pieces which I encountered in the field, captured on my camera, wrote about and dumped unceremoniously were all here – picked carefully, loved affectionately and displayed tenderly. Where my quest ended, Victor’s began! As I explored the next section and encountered household grinders and other utility items, I was glad to have preserved mine, in spite of having demolished the house. But then I was also filled with deep regret for having discarded endless budkule and bhana, lamps and other treasures…either for want of space or lacking the passion and resources to restore. The tramps that roamed the villages of Goa with glittering plastics and ferreted out rare antique treasures of Goa filled me with rage! Fortunately here was an antidote, someone who bought, borrowed or humbly begged to be given a chance to restore dignity and honour to bits and pieces of history that were shredded and torn. And rescue some priceless treasures like the door of the baptismal font of the church of St. John the Baptist, which witnessed the baptism of St Joseph Vas, and fix it at the museum chapel door. The tellacho ghano, as narrated by victor was restored from complete incomprehensible scrap. I had never before seen a ghano before though later I stumbled upon some working ones in a remote hamlet of Agonda. The sugarcane juicer was another contraption that excited me and search as I might; I have not found one in Goa. In the neighbouring states, I am told, they are still in operation.

As we savoured the collection Victor suddenly commented that he simply collected firewood. Though I did not pay much attention to that phrase then, that these treasures were indeed considered as firewood by the vast majority of Goans and discarded with complete indifference, struck me later. But then firewood is also sacred to Goa – as it helps escort the departed to their heavenly abode.  And in a sense Victor did just that. Escorted the dead or dying treasures of Goa and placed them in a temple with dignity and honour. And that temple he called Goa Chitra!


pantaleao fernandes .jpgPantaleão Fernandes is a Goa-based writer, photographer, and ethnographer. Passionate about Goa and her vibrant culture, he spends most of his time exploring villages in the deep hinterlands, to experience firsthand the warm spirit and culture of the villagers and document these experiences. These excursions brought about his earlier books, “100 Goan Experiences”, “Goa Remembered” and a children’s book “Once Upon a Time in Goa”. His latest ethnographic book, “Traditional Occupations of Goa” is a rich documentation of the ancient crafts of Goa — a significant part of her intangible culture and heritage. Currently he scours the Goan villages, for hidden cultural stories which he tells with his documentary films entitled “Untold stories from Goa”.

 

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Posted in Collection, By Malavika Neurekar

In Conversation with Mr. Rafael Viegas

By Malavika Neurekar

A large number of stories posted previously have focused on the collection at Goa Chitra, whether it is was regarding visitors’ interaction with the display or the process of acquiring an individual object. The reason that ‘collection and documentation’ has been such a highly emphasized aspect of Goa Chitra Rewind has a lot to do with the number of people involved in the process. In spite of his early inclinations, building the collection was not the curator’s solo journey. All over Goa, he enlisted the help of those who could besthelp out in specific areas. Searching and collecting in the Ponda Taluka, Victor teamed up with Mr. Kanta Gawde; on his trips to Canacona, Mr. Mahendra Phaldesai provided his expertise; in Sanguem, he was accompanied by Mr. Maurice Murray; and in Pernem by Adv. Andre Pereira. Similarly, much of the Chitra collection is credited to one such man – Mr. Rafael Viegas.

Rafael Viegas and Victor Hugo Gomes are distant relatives, but they only really got acquainted with each other when Victor reached out for help with the research and documentation for Goa Chitra. Viegas belongs to that breed of Goans who saw, felt, lived the Goa that Victor so often reminisces about. Victor, who holds Rafael Viegas in high regard, believes him to be one of the last few of an exalted generation.

Mr. Rafael Viegas was born in Portuguese Goa in a family of bhatkars (landlords), who used to cultivate the land directly with the help of the agricultural labour. His father pursued journalism and against the backdrop of the imminent India takeover, Rafael steered himself in the direction of the Civil Services. With members of the family moving out of the agriculture profession, the land was eventually taken over by tenants. All the implements that were previously employed were now set aside, no longer of any practical use. When Victor realised that Viegas possessed many of the objects required for the museum, he opened up about his vision of opening Goa Chitra. Rafael donated to Goa Chitra several implements – such as the handdo or the wooden harrow.

Visiting Rafael Viegas in his traditionally Goan home and conversing with him over tea, I recognise a common streak between him and Victor Hugo Gomes. He has copies of Illustrated Weekly dating as far back as the 1960s, all stacked neatly in chronological order. He talks animatedly about the ceramic plates that now adorn the walls, and the antique coffee table in his living room, and the value we attach to ‘old’ things. Another impressive feature is his bookcase, crammed with books in Portuguese and English. I am told that at the end of every monsoon, all these books are laid out in the sun by Rafael and his wife in order to air them out. The common streak between the two men is this tendency – be it out of habit or as a conscious decision – to preserve, to hold on. He believes that the younger generation needs to develop the “vein” to be sensitive towards culture, tackling it with care and retaining the favourable aspects. Towards the end of our conversation, he echoes a concern previously voiced by several others. Parodying a common slogan of the 1960s India, he asks rhetorically “after Victor, Who?” What is the future of Goa Chitra? One hopes that the answer to this question, when it arrives, will be carefully considered and timely.

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A Folk Dancer and A Madman

By Malavika Neurekar

Victor Hugo Gomes is a man who prides himself on authenticity. Whenever he speaks about his vision, he places additional emphasis on the word people. “A people’s project.” “A museum of the people.” “Goa Chitra was inaugurated at the hands of the people.” It is this search for authenticity that brought him in contact with the award-winning folk dancer Kanta Gawde of the Nav Gawda community. The living room of Kanta Gawde’s humble home in Veling is crammed with awards, certificates, and performance masks. A member of a traditional folk dancing family, he had an affinity towards folk dance since childhood. From a young age, he felt that folk dances were often dismissed as “tribal” and therefore inferior, and the form was not accorded the status that it deserved. He recalls the Chogm bhet in 1982, an event attended by people holding important positions of power, and Goa’s floats in Delhi at the annual Republic Day parades. He was filled with resentment because he felt that the traditional dances of Goa were being underrepresented, often marginalised. So to set things right, he mobilised the members of his community, forming a dance troupe. In 1992, his troupe entered the Republic Day parade in Delhi, showcasing Goa’s traditional folk performances in all its authenticity. That year was the first time that Goa secured the first prize at the parade. “Since then, we have never looked back,” he tells me in Konkani. Kanta Gawde’s troupe then went ahead performed at the likes of Kala Academy and most of Goa’s five star hotels, bagging several awards including the Goa State Cultural Award in 2012.

At their first meeting through a common contact Mahendra Phaldesai, Victor and Kanta Gawde immediately realised that they operated on the same wavelength. What united them almost instantly was their common underlying motive: bringing to the limelight the underrepresented, sometimes misrepresented, aspects of Goa. It was in the late 1990s, when the two got in touch to work on the Goan Quest during Victor’s stint as an event manager. The Goan Quest, conceptualised by Victor, is now carried out at Goa Chitra every Sunday during the months of November to February but was then conducted at Loutolim. Kanta Gawde’s troupe helped Victor accompany the troupe on a shigmo parade with bullock carts and palanquins through a winding road. Once they arrived at the final venue, the troupe provided the entertainment for the evening, along with a host of other entertainers, a performance complete with vibrant decor, props, and sumptuous Goan buffet. On Victor’s persuasion, Kanta Gawde’s wife Shalini, a crafts-person, set up a stall to promote her trade. Shalini and other women of the community held demonstrations and sales. The entire proceeds from the sale were retained by the craftspeople, without commission or the inference of middle men.

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In 2001, Victor stopped his event management company Resonance, in order to focus on his marriage and other dreams. The Goan Quest in Loutoulim came to a halt, but the friendship between the two endured. Kanta Gawde describes how their relationship transformed as they started to consider each other family. Kanta Gawde and Victor’s father, Angustias Gomes, would often sit together, having long conversations about Victor’s vision and where it was headed. It goes without saying that when it was time, Victor let Kanta Gawde in on his dream of starting a museum. “Goa was being packaged very differently than what it is,” Victor Gomes tells me. Kanta Gawde echoes this sentiment: “Goa was getting lost somewhere.” And so Victor employed Kanta’s services once again. They traveled together all over the Ponda taluka, meeting and interacting with villagers and tribes, and slowly building up a part of the collection. Kanta Gawde mentioned that all the objects were purchased (apart from a handful that have been gifted or donated by friends), sometimes at a higher price than estimated by the owner of the object. Such is case of dongri nangor, a three-piece wooden plough that had been discarded by the dhangar who owned it. Victor Hugo reiterates that Kanta Gawde was instrumental in many of the collection trips in that area. “A kunbi saree produced here in Goa is very hard to get these days,” he says. “But Kanta managed to acquire it for me.” Once again, Victor emphasizes the role of the people here. He reminds me how the curation of objects was done taking into consideration the people who possessed these items, and the sense of personal history as well as the community’s collective history that was tied to it. Talking about their personal equation, Kanta Gawde tells me that he has known Victor as a man bubbling with ideas, but lacking stability for a long time. He is of the opinion that Victor often fell into the wrong company of people, being susceptible to manipulation. He exudes sincerity as he tells me that the stability Victor needed came after marrying Aldina and keeps reiterating the open-hearted generosity of the two.

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Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Finance & Sustenance, People's Project

When the Art World United: Part II

To read the first part of When the Art World United, click here.

The King and the Peasant

By Malavika Neurekar

Victor Hugo Gomes, made weary by the pace at which his work was taking place, woke up to an unexpected email on the morning of 21st October, 2009. It was a letter from a great Goan artist based in California, Dom Martin, which opened with a small tale:

“In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the big stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many others never understand: every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.”

The implication of Dom Martin’s allegory became clearer as Victor continued to read the rest of the email. Dom Martin had decided to part with all that remained of his material possessions in Goa, and bequeathed a generous donation to Goa Chitra. Victor trembled with excitement and a certain degree of disbelief as he continued to read. Dom Martin, assuming the role of the ‘king’ and likening Victor to the ‘peasant’ in the story, had also bequeathed upon Victor theeight panels of pen on paper drawings that adorned St. Francis Xavier’s casket at the 1974 exposition; seventy-one original artworks locked up in Martin’s Porvorim flat; and the rights to the Porvorim flat of 140 sqmt!That was not all. The Vincent Xavier Verodiano Foundation, instituted by Dom Martin in memory of his father, was established with the objective of recognising and awarding excellence in various fields such as literature, arts, medicine, etc. The foundation had already conferred the prestigious award upon Victor earlier that same year (which included a cash donation of Rs. 50,000 and a medal), and now Dom Martin had expressed his wish to pass that legacy on to Victor as well, alongside the corpus fund of the Foundation at Victor’s disposal.

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Victor was at a loss of words, and continues to be amazed even today every time he talks about that fateful October morning.In 2014, he launched the Dom Martin art gallery, which stands at the entrance of Goa Chitra, with the stated objective of promoting young local artists. All the works on displayat the gallery have been donated to Goa Chitra, and are for sale as a means of raising revenue for Goa Chitra. At the heart of this interaction is the fact that the two artists did not know each other personally or had even met. Yet, Dom Martin reached to Victor from the other end of the world based solely on Goa Chitra’s merit and the recognition of its struggles. A quick glance at the email correspondences between them reveals that both men harbour a desire to meet in some part of the world some day. An exemplification of how art transcends distance and space to make possible the coming together of like-minded souls, it is perhaps best expressed by Dom Martin himself in his piece The Aesthetic Evolution of Madness.

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The Aesthetic Evolution of Madness…

By Dom Martin

dom_martin_by_f-n-_souza_19801

If eccentricity is genius temperament then a refined madness, which motorizes one to maniacally scavenge for discarded vestiges of the past and metamorphose them into museum exhibits, rightfully deserves to be bestowed a cultural halo.  Victor Hugo Gomes belongs in this genre of madness.

In 2009, when I bequeathed my 3-bedroom flat and the entire collection of my mid 70’s art which was decaying therein, a condescending Victor thanked me profusely.  In the subsequent years, he staked out exorbitant sums of money to restore the art and the flat.

The question foments:  Did one caliber of madness underestimate, supersede or absolve the other?  The verdict is in the wallets of art collectors, which have a tendency to instantly fatten or resurrect upon the demise of artists who labored and continually exhibited within the engulfing walls of oblivion.

Other than for the uncommon commonality of symbiotic madness, Victor and I have yet to meet and perhaps, might never.  However, someday when posterity peers through time’s kaleidoscope, it might likely find our autonomous identity among the colorful, fragmented pieces.  And that, is satisfaction enough!

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Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Collection

Of Implements and Dictionaries

By Malavika Neurekar

Victor Hugo Gomes used to be an artist. He did his masters in Print Making, and studied restoration of manuscripts and paper paintings at INTACH. When it came to researching and archiving the collection at the museum, he found himself in uncharted territory. In an impromptu speech delivered at the inauguration of Goa Chakra in 2014 Victor launched into a series of old Konkani sayings. “harroithamhunn gaindol ghelo, ani chirddun mello”, he said. If the earthworm imitates the method of the python, it will get trampled and die. And so he established his own method – he started translating all the Konkani dictionaries published 1897 onwards. He compiled his own glossary of thousands of forgotten Konkani words, travelling across Goa to interview village elders and double check the meanings of the Konkani words he had noted.

Languages develop intimately with the lifestyle of the people who speak them; they breed familiarity with the customs of the land. Thus, in English, a plough is a plough. The word for plough in the Konkani dictionary is nangor, but Victor traced other ploughs called pane, kosso, dongri, and loconddi, depending on the build, the design, the material, and the type of land on which it was used. The plough collection was almost complete when Victor was travelling with his friend Russell Murray in the Sattari taluka, documenting farming practices related to nachne and rice production. Bad weather conditions forced them to retreat to Ponda for the night, but in the morning they set off to meet another close friend Kanta Gawde. The three men then decided to hike up a hill, as Kanta Gawde wanted to show them a shrine of the local mountain gods. It was during the hike that Victor’s eyes fell upon a curious object sitting on the roof of a Dhangar house. It was a dongri nagor, a three-piece wooden plough designed specifically to be used on laterite soil in the valley. The roof had grown slippery from the rain, but after much persuasion and at a modest price, Victor was able to retrieve the now extinct dongri nagor, completing the plough collection at Goa Chitra.

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The dongri nagor at the Dhangar’s house

Another interesting incident unfolded at a scrapyard in Curchorem, from where Victor Hugo retrieved a huge roller with a wooden frame and metal spikes. The implement lacked a history as nobody seemed to know anything about it except the fact that it was originally from Bicholim. With no idea of its story or its function, Victor named it ‘the spike roller’. He inspected the type of wood, the kind of soil stuck to it, the mud on the spikes, and whether there was any pollen embedded in it – all in an attempt to gather clues about its function. The object was shown to many agriculturists in Goa but no one could identify it. He set it aside, often spending long hours staring at it and wondering about its origin. It was during a chance encounter with the Gaonkar family in the jungles near Kanapur that he spotted a similar instrument of a smaller size. Victor often travels to Maharashtra and Karnataka to meet families of Goan origin that fled during the Goa Inquisition. The Gaonkar family traced their origin to Bicholim, and continue to make annual trips there for the religious festival Jolmidevacho Utsav. Victor inquired about the implement that resembled his ‘spike roller’ and was told that it was used to break or pulverize the ground to be brought under cultivation. The pieces were all falling in place. Once again, it was the dictionary that came to the rescue and filled in the final piece of the puzzle. Victor learned that the description of the spike roller fit that of a farming implement called pocruncho roll, a word found in a 1931 Konkani- English dictionary. It was described as a metal roller with spikes held by a wooden frame, and attached to a yoke and a rope to be drawn by bullocks and used to break the soil.

Xendlolea boilache rakandareche kananth ghanto vazot ravta”, was another Konkani saying that Victor explained that day. When a farmer loses his bullock and hears any sound of cow bells he thinks it is his own bullock. This had become Victor’s condition – he saw the material culture of Goa everywhere and in everything. He may not have had a name for it then, but observe the trajectory of Victor’s life and all his actions seemed to be of a man attempting to retrace his roots, a man trying to capture the essence of the land. Much the same way a child runs around with a jar to catch fireflies.

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Excerpts from ‘Land, Museum, Legacy’

By Malavika Neurekar

Rochelle Pinto and Aparna Balachandran’s Archives and Access Project is aimed at examining the complex relationship between private archiving, its legal implications, and the role of the State. In Land, Museum, Legacy, Rochelle Pinto, who is a historian specialising in pre-19th Century histories of Goa and has been a professor in the English department at Delhi University, explores the issue through a first-hand account of her visit to Goa Chitra. While delving into the functions (and diminishing economic role) of Goa’s land ownership system and its implications on private researchers/archivers, she provides an insightful look at the collection at Goa Chitra, its arrangement within the space, and the aesthetic impact it creates.

“[Resources on the web] suggest how the arrangement of objects crowded into this converted living space reduces the objectifying distance that a conventional museum would produce. An art historian who recommended the museum also mentioned how sensitively the objects had been restored. It is not surprising, then, to find that Gomes was trained in restoration, at INTACH in Lucknow, and returned to Goa, the place where he grew up, as curator of the museum of Christian Art to work on another project.

The enormity of the numbers of objects, and labour that must have gone into retrieving each one astounds me as the nature of Gomes’ work sinks in. We are familiar enough with cooking pots and other objects that have a more active life in the worlds of rural communities appearing in our living rooms as objets d’art, and briefly one wonders whether this is an aestheticisation of rural life. But this museum seems to side-step this problem.

The presence of these objects, not yet fully out of use (or so it would seem) in Goa, begs the question of why they had to be museumised. It is true, for instance, that cultivation has dropped drastically within Goa for a range of reasons. In some areas, it is uneconomical when the sale of land or its conversion brings higher margins. In other areas, people have been forced off the land. In yet others, irrigation patterns have been forcefully changed. And in areas where cultivation continues, it tends to be fuelled with pesticide. Yet, one can scarcely say that fishing and cultivation do not continue, particularly where there are small landholdings, using, one would think, much the same kind of technology that Gomes has in his museum. But for certain, there are precious pieces of hand-crafted agricultural technology that are impressive here, and are not in use anymore.

The wooden sugarcane crusher bound with metal for instance, was ‘rescued’ by him from Sawantwadi and restored. The texture of wood and its areas of damage are moving, as the enormous piece bears witness to labour that has vanished. A visit to some of our protected national monuments, where cracks have been filled in with visibly different materials of varying colours, would reveal, by comparison, the painstaking nature of Gomes’ work over the last decade.”

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While the fist part of Rochelle’s paper is largely descriptive, the latter part wanders into a more analytical territory. The future of Goa Chitra is a question raised by many. What after Victor Gomes? Victor’s answer to this is the systematic institutionalisation of the Goa Chitra brand – an objective grasped and framed by Pinto in the following passage.

What makes this collection interesting to a project on internet technology and questions of archives and public access, are the last two lines of Victor’s letter of invitation to his museum, asking an unspecified ‘us’ to look at the museum communally, to suggest what journey it could take. One of these journeys is clear – there is a vast trove of information about practices relating to the land that Victor has accumulated. Even as he works at turning these into text, it is evident that it would be appropriate for someone to pick up this thread of the project that he has begun, to explore other media through which the diverse life of his museum can move. Educational curricula and other kinds of publications, both printed and online, can bring in different audiences, releasing the trove of information around each object, and making it accessible as a legacy for contemporary inhabitants of Goa. Such a development would dilute the idea of a legacy being locked within the intellectual production of a particular kind of elite in Goa’s past and could potentially tap into the knowledge base of students in non-urban locales. In fact, this museum is an explicit commitment to the children of Goa, whom Victor sees possibly growing up without any connection to what is the vital culture of their home.

To read Land, Museum, Legacy in its entirety, click here.

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The Magic of Madness

By Radharao Gracias

Radharo Gracias’s portrait of Victor Hugo Gomes and his journey of building Goa Chitra from the ground up is an uplifting piece about hope, the transformative power of dreams, and the importance of madness to be successful.


Do you know Victor was the question hurled at me. Of course, I do was my answer. And, then came the challenge. Write what you know about Victor. And so, I got to writing what you are about to read.

Do I know Victor? And this time the answer was a huge no. Does anyone know Victor? And the answer is no. Does Victor know himself? And the answer again is no. Strange but true.

I have actually “known” Victor for decades. I have often gone and sat with him, on the innocuous patch of land his family owned, not far from his ancestral house. And he would explain his plans for it which appeared to me to be unrealistic. But then, Victor is an artist. And every artist has a right to dream and to convert the dream into reality. Every subsequent visit, I was left wondering whether it is the same place I had visited a few months earlier. Dramatic changes were taking place. Sometimes I wondered is Victor a thief? Has he managed to get hold of P.C.Sorkar’s magic wand?

At other times, looking at Victor, I thought maybe he is the first successful alchemist. The innocuous property is now a wonderland where you can see the entire past at a glance. He has certainly managed to change base metal into bronze. And is well on his way to turn it into silver and gold!

And Victor has achieved all this with no help from any government authority or rather, despite obstacles by all powers that be. I have seen him struggle trying to secure access to his property. I have seen him struggle trying to overcome nightmares induced by officials, and achieve his dream. Nothing could daunt him.

How did Victor reach this far? I have no answer. But sometimes I wonder, has it something to do with his native village. As we know, Benaulim is known for the quality of its coconuts. And its nuts too. I remember in my younger days, when I was a little mischievous with my siblings, which was quite frequently, my mother would castigate me. And one day out of anger she shouted, is my son going mad? And my immediate answer was, may be. After all, I said, my grandmother (her mother) is from Benaulim. And she had a good laugh.

I believe that sometimes to achieve success one must have a little madness; the capacity to look beyond the ordinary. A little madness can do to you much more than full sobriety can. I have never seen Victor mad but did the Benaulim effect have any role to play in such a stupendous success? My guess is as good as yours.

And there is the old adage which goes, behind the success of every man…Victor’s wife has proved the adage meaningless and outdated. I have known Aldina for long. She is always by Victor’s side and not infrequently in front. And rarely behind. So, for those of you, who believe in the old saying, just forget it.

Now, I do not know how to conclude this bit of an essay. In fact, you cannot conclude anything about Victor at all. So you can be assured that as we go along, this blog will grow with Victor.


Radharao Gracias - Copy.jpg

Radharao Gracias is an eminent lawyer, social activist, politician, and ornithologist. He was the former president of South Goa Advocates Association and a former independent MLA. He is a regular columnist and a history lover.

 

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Responsive Rage

By Pravin Sabnis

On Victor Hugo’s exit from the Christian Art Museum over differences with the museum directors, Russell Murray said “I cannot say for sure, but I think it was the anger that he channelled to pick himself up and throw himself into something new.” In the following piece, Pravin Sabnis enlightens us further as to how Victor redirected all his rage and transformed it into creative productivity.


I first met him during our college days. He was studying in the Goa College of Art and I was studying at the Goa College of Architecture. My first impression of him was that of an ‘angry young man’. Over the years, many things have changed but not that original impression of the personality of Victor Hugo Gomes. He was always engulfed in fury, speaking against injustice, against mediocrity and against hypocrites and pretenders. Initially, I thought him to be just a talker but over many interactions emerged more layers of his personality. His indignation was not at the surface. The roots of his rage arose out of great depth. It was an era of student rebellion and angry voices of a restless crowd. But Victor’s anger was more personal rather than arising from a collective synergy. His angst seemed to be of a lone ranger, but a loner he did not remain. He seemed to enjoy the company of similarly angry, restless persons but he would not easily trust anyone fully.

Victor was as sharp as he was sceptical. Despite detailed discussions and explanations by me, he refused to join our college strike. It was pertinent to note that he was not ready to be part of the herd, just because his friend was leading it. He had no quarrel about the cause; he just was not convinced about his deep doubts and apprehensions. He would not jump into something just because he agreed with the purpose or trusted the proposer. He wanted to be clear about everything. The ‘who’ and ‘how’ were as important to him as the ‘why’ of doing anything. His indignation, which seemed uncontrolled, was aligned to critical and deep thinking. His rage chose to be responsive, not reactive. The art student’s fury was intertwined with passion. I began to realise that he held the emotion of hope as well as the sentiment of restlessness. Many of our generation seemed consumed by a rebellious rage, and displayed great integrity and commitment to this unrest. Yet most were not able to sustain the fire like Victor did.

Many of the angry young men and women moved away from the path of unrest. They had their reason and justifications of pulling back…first earning to sustain, then to go up the ladder. But Victor’s passionate rage seemed to be like the embers that remain smouldering on, even when the flames have died down. Victor stuck to his ‘agneepath’, even at the cost of being forced out of his labour of love that he so painstakingly put together. His passion was not doused even at the prospect of losing out due to his stubborn integrity. Every dampener would further fuel his fire. And this confirmed that the angry young man’s rage had not retreated with age.

Victor’s emotional fury made him constantly step out of the confines of his boundaries. From putting together music shows to restoring and retrieving a losing heritage, Victor allowed his rage to fuel his progress towards transforming the negative situation. His anger at the callous and careless attitude towards a diminishing cultural heritage resulted in the impressive Goa Chitra, then Goa Chakra, and now Goa Cruti.

As he continues to stretch the footprints of his impressive legacy, Victor has learnt to spread the fire among his growing team. Now, he no longer walks alone. His partner Aldina seems to be the balance that ensures that his anger is no longer just flames, it is more like a torch that not only lights up the path but can also turn into a cutting edge. Every stimulus can trigger off a wide range of responses. One of the possible responses is anger. So often, the situation is such that the rage seems natural. We get disturbed by the provocation born of dismay, disgust or distress. So easily we respond with rage, but it is pertinent to ask whether our rage is responsive.

Indignation is definitely desirable over indifference and insensitivity. But mere fury is just hot air. However, if the hot air makes a huge balloon rise and takes people along to loftier actions, then the fury turns worthy. We need to be better at ensuring that our rage is not just a reaction… it must transform into a responsive action that can strive to overcome the very cause of that rage… like Victor Hugo Gomes has!


Pravin (2).jpgPravin Sabnis is a corporate coach with a passion to connect people to their potential. Through his enterprise ‘Unlearning Unlimited’, he has conducted over 1900 workshops. He is known for innovative use of song, dance and experiential activities. Pravin writes the Monday Muse blog since the first Monday of 2004. He also expresses his creativity through poetry, theatre and oratory. Pravin has been active in the student movement, Citizens Initiative for Communal Harmony, Goa Bachao Abhiyan and the SEZ Virodhi Manch. He is proactively involved in JCI, Rotary Club, Goa Hiking Association, Samraat Club, Nisarg Nature Club, FilmBeam and YHAI.

 

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Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Finance & Sustenance

When the Art World United: Part I

By Malavika Neurekar

Artists are famous for being individualistic and non-conformist. As a society, we have collectively constructed a cookie-cutter persona of the ‘Lonely Artist’ – eccentric, aloof, often mad. But every once in a while, the creative community reaches out to each other, recognising only too well the struggles and ambitions of their acquaintances. Goa Chitra has actively encouraged such cooperation, hosting a variety of cultural events like performances or book launches. Victor Gomes is grateful that the art community, in turn, has also extended their support in numerous ways. (Case in point – much of the art work posted on Goa Chitra Rewind has been conceptualized and illustrated by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai, and the layout has been designed by Bismarck Dias).

The sustenance of the Chitra museums has constantly been an uphill battle, and although there have been some disappointments and setbacks, the Goa Chitra story is just as much a story of hope and little victories. One of the strongest waves of support has come from the music community. Victor Gomes’s association with music goes way back to the early 2000s, when he was at the centre of the Great Music Revival. This association was carried forward with Goa Chitra – much after the jazz festivals had become a thing of the past – when musicians volunteered to perform at the museum. Joe Pereira, better known as Jazzy Joe (whose first ever concert in Goa, coincidentally, happened at one of Victor’s Revival concerts in the 90s) performed his last show before passing away in 2013 at Goa Chitra. Legendary musician and stand-up comedian like Ash Chandler and Opera singer, Oscar Castellino performed at Goa Chitra for free, which helped significantly with revenue generation. Many authors who held their book launches at Goa Chitra proceeded to donate some amount of their profit from the sale of the book to the museum as well.

Jazzy Joe Performance at the Great Music Revival '98 captured by Mario Miranda
Mario Miranda’s impressions of Jazzy Joe’s performance at Goa Chitra

As a painter himself, the fine arts have always held a special significance in Victor Gomes’s life. In 2014, Victor Gomes organised a Narrative Art Residency camp to celebrate International Women’s Day, inviting female artists from all over the world. The participating artists had travelled from Delhi, Ahmedabad, Poland, Russia, Germany, and included three local artists as well. The concept was to allow the artists to live at the museum, travel to remote areas of Goa, and interact with tribes and locals. This was to culminate into a series of works produced by them during the camp as an expression of their individual reaction to the experience. Yolanda D’souza, one of the participating artists, produced three paintings: two of which capture her interaction with the rural women, and the third one based on the agricultural implements at the museum. She states thatspending so much time in close proximity to the museum and looking at the collection evoked something that she was best able to express through her art. Mekhla Harrison, in a similar burst of artistic expression, used a blend of techniques to produce her art: black charcoal on paper depicting the tools; watercolours depicting a woman going through fire, based on a local’s narrative; women sowing rice paddy on the field; and a portrait of a village man and his agricultural tools on a red-earth background. Nirupa Naik described the whole experience as wholesome, as they got to interact actively with not only the agricultural implements, ornaments, and costumes used by different communities, but the communities and people themselves. All of the art work created during the camp was exhibited at the Dom Martin Art gallery, inaugurated that same year, and put up for sale. All the proceeds from the sale of these paintings went to the Goa Chitra fund.

musicians

Aside from the Narrative Art Residency Camp, there have been other artist-friends that have voluntarily donated their works to be set up at the Art Gallery. Norman Tagore, who donated to Goa Chitra his award winning painting of a female Rhino with its horn cut off, is grateful to Victor’s support in the past and wished to return the favour. Mohan Naik expressed a similar sentiment, stating that his decision to donate two paintings was taken because he was delighted by the Goa Chitra mission. Charudatta, a dear friend of Victor’s, donated his pieces in order to help Goa Chitra through a financially difficult time. However, it was Rajendra Usapkar who brought home the true spirit in which these donations were made: upon asking him what motivated him to donate his art work to Goa Chitra, he promptly responded that it is of extreme importance that artists reach out and lend a hand to each other. In an age where we tend to live by the ‘survival of the fittest’ instinct, there is something refreshing about the moment when members of a community join hands, allowing talent to be recognised, encouraged, and co-exist.

To see the complete list of artist supporters/donors, click here.

 

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Posted in Personal Stories

Jack of all Trades, Master of a Museum

By Francisco Colaco

I know Victor for many years now. I would call him an “eccentric”. But it is here that lies his forte: an unconventional man always in search of a goal. Being multifaceted, he would dabble in everything and succeed in nothing. A lover of jazz, he brought to Goa many prominent Indian and worlds artists. But after initial success, his events management efforts fizzled-out. Then, he opened a few restaurants. After a favourable response his endeavours died down and I am sure he must have incurred a financial loss in the bargain. I heard then that he had started an agricultural farm but there was no news of it after a time. Poor Victor, meant to court failure forever, I mused.

One day over a few drinks he told me he wanted the Konkani meaning of various words and asked me whether I could help. “Definitely”, I replied as a “xanno”. But my efforts didn’t pass muster. It was at this time that Victor disclosed that he was bent to put together a cultural heritage museum with centuries-old heritage material from all over Goa. A daunting task indeed!

But “beg, borrow or steal” this time his resolve was of steel. And with a never say die attitude he put together an obra-prima. We Goenkars are proud of him. Goa Chitra has now become a rendezvous for connoisseurs from all over the world, a world-renowned museum which consists of “Goa Chitra”, “Goa Chakra” and “Goa Cruti”. It has become the fulcral point for visitors from all over the world.

Neil on Flute, Dr. Francisco Colaco on Vocals, Jazzy Joe on Sax, Colin D'Cruz on Bass, Gillu on Guitar, Allan Moraes on drums and Xavier Peres on Keyboards.jpg
Dr. Francisco Colaco on Vocals at the Jazzy Joe Concert held at Goa Chitra
Dr, Francisco Colaco for the launch of Goa Rewound book launch at Goa Chitra.jpg
Dr. Francisco Colaco at the book launch of Goa Rewound held at Goa Chitra

Victor is passionate, like no one else, about his baby. Yet I know there will always be hardships in his way, the main one being the huge running costs of such a mammoth venture. But with his dogged determination, the help of his devoted wife, of thousands of his admirers and especially with God’s blessings his dreams will come true.


francisco colaco.jpgDr. Francisco Colaco is a consultant physician and Echocardiographer practicing in Margao. He completed his education in 1972, graduating from the University of Bombay through Seth G.S Medical College and KEM Hospital.He has trained at the University of Alabama, USA under the ‘Father of Modern Echocardiogrphy’, Dr.Navin Nanda; been a visiting professor at John Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, USA; been the president of Goa State IMA (Indian Medical Association); and lectured at several national and international conferences. He has been the recipient of many awards for his contribution to the world of Medicine, and in his leisure time, enjoys singing, dancing, and playing the guitar.

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Posted in Finance & Sustenance

Encounters with the Artist

By Sanjit Rodrigues

Finance has always been, and often continues to be, a delicate aspect of running the museum. Goa Chitra has run into extreme success as well as points of almost complete bankruptcy. Sanjit Rodrigues’s narrative, in sombre tones, perfectly captures the cyclical ups and downs of the project, the issues of its sustenance, and his own silent doubts regarding the success of Goa Chitra. 


Circa 2000. Senhor Jose Francisco das Angustias Gomes [Victor’s father] was effusive as he led me to the imposing dining table at his home. As much as he loved his home and took in his stride the onerous task of its maintenance, he was proud of the restoration work my friend[Victor] was undertaking to see it sparkle once again, his time, effort and money notwithstanding. Over our large sopero of Sopa Grossa, the conversation veered from how the house has got a great make over, to whether the latest fascination of my friend to have his permanent ethnographic exposition would be a reality, to whether his daughter-in-law-to-be would approve of it. Over another largish helping, this time, I am even more affirmative. A quiet persists. I know what such a pregnant pause would bring. A swig of the local brew and am sternly reminded that my mumble is nothing different. I had said so of something called The Great Music Revival Concerts, The Goan Quest, and……the list would just elongate….just to show the fickleness, idiosyncrasy and the tumult of my friend. But with affirmations and questions in equal measure, the evening fades away gracefully as many such encounters I would have after a gruelling day at work in South Goa.

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Mr. Sanjit Rodrigues and Mr. Angustias Dias; Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai

*

Encounters with the artist, ethnographer, event organiser, restorer, and an argumentative Goan are many. I am shown the area which would house his passion. It would start as an organic farm. Over pez and kharem on a harvest day, I dare not dishearten him. I have flashes of pessimism running high, but egg him on. We talk legalese: permissions, licensing, registration. It would be the longest haul he has undertaken so far, I mutter to myself, keeping a straight face. Days go by, we meet off and on. Work is drudgery at the site…workers, locals, the Mamlatdar, the Panchayat, finance….every meeting is an argument. I know there is no quick fix for this pestilence. I am just turning into a good listener for once.

*

It’s long that we have met now, the place is nearing completion. I visit it not knowing what to expect. It’s a revelation. I am speechless and stunned. He has just out done himself. His child-like passion, intensity of thought, and focus on his direction is just mind boggling. His creation opens up. Every one raises a toast. Reviews run riot. Promises are made. As the who’s-who trace their steps back and reality dawns, the humungous task of running this marvel is left to him alone.

He gets his pangs yet again. How does he get the foot falls? How does he sustain? How does he grow? Arguments again. An absolute no to what now is very Goan. No treats and freebies to travel agents. No commissions to touts, guides and taxi drivers. No to politician ribbon cuttings. No to commercial offers. You remain inclined and preferential but this marvel is for posterity and agnostic to all, I argue. But then only time would make one discover this institution. It has to be an experience centre. It has to get into your skin. Patience has never been his hallmark, but he better build it I say.

*

It has to grow.  Governments pretend to recognise the effort. How does he realise that such missives normally do not see the light of day? That you cannot come trumps with a maze of rules, regulations, and notifications. He tries, only to get disheartened all over. Proposals are typed, statements are culled, calls are made, nothing works. Can’t they understand the need to record these treasures, the security of the artefacts, upkeep of the precinct to save something for posterity? How do I tell him it’s beyond comprehension and yet sound truthful? Instead discussions now veer towards how to institutionalise the marvel. People with such passion and resolve are few to come by. Who would immerse himself to take it forward?Trials and tribulations abound.A Trust needs to take over, he says…for it’s our child left to grow and needs to be looked after. Again he is his solitary self.

Days pass by. Calls I used to receive to let me know the count of visitors of the day have stopped since long. Counts are not possible any longer. It’s a pilgrimage to revere the past and enlighten our steps into the future. And when I see a Robert D’Niro or Kiran Desai, JayantNarlikar or VinodRai,OrhanPamuk or Gulzar quietly weave their way through its labyrinths; when I read it of it on my copy of theTime or see of it on BBC,whenNatGeoTraveller goes there and the RoughGuide, LonelyPlanetet al flag it, I know the time of this creation has come.

Sorry Victor, for once you have created something larger than you. Something’s got better of you. Goa Chitra will speak longafter we are all gone.


Sanjit-Rodrigues Photo.jpgSanjit Rodrigues has been a part of the Goa Civil Services, holding various positions relating to infrastructure, urban development, revenue administration, tourism and industries. He has been the Municipal Commissioner of Panjimand the CEO for the International Film Festival of India (IFFI). As Managing Director of Goa Infrastructure Development Corporation, he is spearheading large infrastructure projects across various sectors in Goa with a focus on speedy implementation and high quality. One of the deliverables on his plate is the third bridge over River Mandovi.

 

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Posted in Personal Stories

View from the Pillion on a Very Long Trip

By Russell Murray

Victor Hugo Gomes pursued his artist career in Lucknow for three years. He returned from Lucknow to set up the Christian Art Museum. After years of investing his time, energy, and passion into the Christian Art project, he resigned over unresolvable disputes with the museum committee. Having lost everything he held dear, he slipped into a low point in his life – personally and professionally. Then life presented an unforeseen opportunity, and overnight he became an important name in the advertising world. Successful ventures followed one after the other. He organised music festivals, he set up an organic farm, he started restoring houses. Throughout all of this, and through so much more, one person who knew and understood Victor’s passion better than most was Russell Murray. Right from Victor’s days in college as an activist and General secretary and university representativeto the curator of Goa Chitra, Chakra, and Cruti, Russell has been witness to Victor’s idiosyncrasies and in the following piece, he briefly tells us what it has been like.


Victor Hugo Gomes has been many things in the more than 25 years I have known him: artist, impresario, soft-drink marketer, advertising entrepreneur, restaurateur, event manager, organic farmer, restorer of old Goan homes, museum curator. A surprisingly diverse range of activities for someone who has often insisted to me that “Life is not an experiment”. But all of his pursuits, whether successful or not, have had one common factor: complete, unrelenting focus and a commitment to do the best job possible. No half measures. It is something to which his many friends will testify, and which his equally numerous detractors cannot deny: once Victor takes something up, it takes over his life.

During his first stint as a curator in 1992, I often found myself on the back of Victor’s clapped out Yezdi with the self-detaching seat, heading to the Christian Art Museum at the Rachol Seminary at 2 or 3 in the morning after a pleasant evening relaxing at a beach shack in Colva or Benaulim. All I wanted to do was go home and sleep, but he would insist on going to check that the museum guards were awake and his precious exhibits were safe.

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Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai

He loved that job, despite the frustrations. It was the first time I had seen him involved in something that had no commercial aspect whatsoever (the pay was modest) and it was educational to accompany him on his collecting trips, talking to sacristans and parish priests to track down potential exhibits, getting them to let him poke around in the musty storerooms of churches and chapels despite their insistence that they had nothing of interest. They were often wrong, and the next challenge for Victor would be to convince them to donate or loan the objects he discovered to the museum. Although many agreed willingly, there was surprising resistance from some church officials who objected to these treasures (which they did not even know they had and had been rotting away unnoticed for decades) being taken away, restored to a semblance of their former glory and put on display for everyone to appreciate. Using charm, persistence, and contacts, however, Victor managed to bring many of these vestments, statues, paintings and ceremonial objects to the museum, where his next task was to work out how best to preserve and display them. It was exhausting work, and when growing differences with the museum directors forced him to leave the job, Victor was heartbroken. And furious and bitter. I cannot say for sure, but I think it was the anger that he channeled to pick himself up and throw himself into something new. Quite naturally, knowing Victor, it was setting up an advertising firm. But that is another story.

I had already moved out of Goa by the time Victor began developing the site of what is now Goa Chitra in 2000, so the first I heard of it was from our mutual friend John Rodrigues in Bombay. He’s started an organic farm?! It was the last thing I would have expected, though in hindsight it makes perfect sense.

The traditional farming that sustained Goan society for centuries is the basis of everything he is trying to preserve. The knowledge that makes it possible to extract a living from our environment without harming it, to use indigenous resources to provide for our needs, is being lost in the onslaught of modernisation after having been passed down through the generations.

Travelling with Victor across Goa to collect artefacts for the museum has opened my eyes to how rich this knowledge is. For example, I had no idea of the variety of implements used in growing rice or how they differed, both in design and the materials, according to the type of land being farmed. Many of these tools had been cast away, thrown on to roofs or into sheds, forgotten and decaying.Much like in the church museum days, Victor tracked these down relentlessly, driving to remote areas to find them – a plough here, a harrow there – some intact, others fallen to pieces.

chacha 2.jpg
Chacha

Like much of what is on display at Goa Chitra, these objects would be painstakingly restored by Chacha, Victor’s loyal carpenter and odd-job man of many years who sadly passed away in 2015. Victor sometimes jokes that his museum is built on a passion for collecting junk and firewood, and it was Chacha’s skill that turned much of that into treasure.

Fifteen years is the longest I have known Victor to be committed to a single cause, and I believe that in Goa Chitra he has found his life’s work. Friendship aside, I am grateful for it, and for having been able to, even in a very small way, be a part of it. There are so many wonderful aspects to the history of this place I call home that I would never have been aware of otherwise.


Russell.jpg

Russell Murray is a senior journalist who has worked for several newspapers, including the Herald in Goa, Mid-Day in Mumbai, and The Nation in Thailand. He has spent most of the last twenty years outside Goa, and is currently working with The National in Abu Dhabi.

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Posted in Personal Stories

The Lesser (Part of) Victor I know

Goa Chitra buildings in the making in 2008-09 as documented by Charu.jpg
Goa Chitra campus as documented by Charudatta Ram Prabudesai before the inaugural

By Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai

Goa Chitra today has come a long way, as a result of the exhaustive efforts of its team and well wishers. The research and documentation, the restoration and maintenance, the funding and sustenance, the marketing and event organization coalesce to add to its success. In the following piece, the first in a series of personal stories, Charrudatta tells us a little about the individual behind the Benaulim museums, the personality that is Victor Hugo Gomes.


The greater part of knowing Victor comes through rumor; the lesser part is true and authentic – the part that you know personally – because most of the long tales about Victor are often fanciful. For instance, I was told by a common chum that Victor was admitted to an asylum in Thane! Or, that he had married a Muscoviteand since then had moved to the Urals, there fly-fishing! Those are unbelievable reports but you are tentative about not believing them, because the unbelievable lore is about Victor Hugo Gomes. With him practically anything is possible.

This one, for instance, must be recorded: one day while drinking with some friends and acquaintances in Panjim my phone rang. It was Victor. We had a brief chat and when I ended the call, I happened to look at the lawyer chap drinking next to me. When our eyes met he said, “That must be Victor?” I do not recall ‘hi Victor!’-ing in that telephone conversation, nor was the content of our chat the talk of town, yet the lawyer had guesstimated that the person I just spoke to was Victor! How? I cannot say. But the point is that Victor is in the thin air, always within the probability of news-making as such. He is like those familiar fellows you meet, like you have always known them.

Victor was my college mate, but I had passed out by the time he joined, I think. At the Art School in Miramar I would have noticed him. Perhaps I met him when the college shifted to Altinho. Not in the class or a studio but in the canteen. Meeting Victor in the canteen seems quite plausible. The impression I had is that he was well liked by his fellows. He is a likable fellow, this Victor Hugo…

I remember on one afternoon we were driving back from Margao. Suddenly Victor stopped his car right in the middle of Cortalim bridge: we were down on our knees, as if on cue, and began howling Konkani songs! It was not playing to the galleries for there was no gallery at that hour. There was one particular among his favorite songs with the ‘Zee word’ refrain! It was in the mid 1980s and details have blurred, however the distinctness of the incidence is unforgettable.

Then we lost touch.

In 2009 when I visited Goa for work, I buzzed a friend casually. He said that he would come topick me up so I waited at the appointed spot. Within minutes a vintage car, in a blazing canary
yellow, swirled to a stop right by me. I was pleasantly surprised to see Victor, driving. (Later I came to know that he drove only VIPs in that car). He drove us for some time, and finally
the car pulled in front of a building with an antique wooden gate. “Charu”, he said, “this is where I live. In a museum!”

He had opened a museum! Not quite ‘opened’ then but the preparations were underway. Within minutes I knew that it would be a project with huge demands on time and money and commitment and, that Victor was prepared to commit and do whatever it took to make it happen. There was that unmistakable touch of conviction to his enthusiasm and nonstop commentary that I knew – it was for real.

He very graciously put me up in his own home. Both Alie [Aldina] and he fussed over me. They prepared their outbuilding especially for me. And I painted there, in Benaulim. Living with them for over a month, I could see the struggles but Victor has an uncanny way of dealing with stress. He opens his arms to everyone and takes on challenges. Through small, kind and informal gestures he touches hearts. And that, I think, is his blessing. It is a common trait in many of my friends,Goans particularly, but Victor’s way is peculiar.

Charu with architecture students on a study tour at Goa Chitra before the inaugural.JPG
Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai with architecture students on a study tour at Goa Chitra, prior to the formal inauguration of Goa Chitra in 2009.

Now he has three museums. When I read in the news about him or Goa Chitra, I know that it is just the tip of the iceberg. I wonder at the toil that must have gone in to make it happen.


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Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai, a well-known Indian artist, was born in Panjim (Panaji). He finished his BFA from Goa college of Art and then went on to get a MFA from MSU, Baroda. He left Goa in 1986 to live in Baroda, but then decided in 1990 to join the Sri Aurobindo ashram in Pondicherry. Since May 1998, he is a resident of the international township of Auroville, where, besides art he does various other work in the township.

 

 

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Posted in People's Project

Chacha

By Victor Hugo Gomes

When Goa Chitra was inaugurated in 2009, there was not a single politician or VIP invited or honoured as a chief guest. In fact, the place buzzed with the excited chatter and humble presence of locals from the community. The ceremonial lighting of the divo was carried out by six traditional professionals: a toddy tapper, a farmer, a basket weaver, a fisherman, a coconut plucker, and a potter. The whole event was symbolic of what the museum stands for – power to the people, to the common man.

Goa Cruti, the newest addition to the Goa Chitra establishment was opened for previews on 23rd January, 2016. It is dedicated to Mr. Jashwanth Singh, who passed away on 23rd January 2015. Mr. Jaswanth Singh, a dedicated member of the Goa Chitra team in the form of a restorer of objects and a part of the museum’s security team, is none other than the eponymous chacha. The following piece was written by Victor Hugo Gomes himself, to commemorate the beloved chacha and all that he stood for.

GCR- Final chacha 3

The Goa Chitra and Goa Chakra museums in Benaulim strive to preserve the tangible heritage of this country for posterity. A totally self-funded project, these museums showcase to the world the ingenuity of our ancestors and their indigenous wisdom. These efforts are the result of the hard work of a team of dedicated staff, who work tirelessly and fiercely along with me and the management in the hope that the museum will one day draw the attention of the benefactors of this land and conceptualize into a centre for cultural and ethnographic studies. The aim is that the future generations will have a space in which their ancestry is preserved and kept alive so that their search for their roots will not go in vain.

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Chacha being felicitated by special guest Caitano Silva, MLA of Benaulim on the 5th anniversary of Goa Chitra

In this process the makers of the museum work with total dedication even at the expense of their own trials, stretching their resources and energy to accommodate this vision. Today we pay a special tribute to one of such team member who played a pivotal role in preserving Goa’s heritage and who in the last years of his life dedicated it totally and selflessly in preserving and restoring every implement on display at the Goa Chitra and Goa chakra museum. For the last 16 years out of my 25 years journey with Goa Chitra, he worked closely with me, assembling every implement that stands as a testimony to his skill. His methods and technique was totally based on his own proficiency in understanding material like metal and wood. He would assemble an implement with such accuracy as if it was he who had created it in the first place. He knew the age old method of joinery; putting wood together without nails but through interlocking. He knew how wood would expand and what would make it breath and how to balance the metal with the wood.

Such was Jashwanth Singh fondly called Chacha by us. A poet at heart, Chacha could not sit idle. He would create small artifacts that would balance the beautiful landscape; birds on tree tops, nests with beautiful eggs which only when you realized later they were made of wood you would know it was Chacha’s hand at work. Everything he experienced he penned down as poetry and on the ekktara (which he made from a coconut shell). Chacha would sing the sad melody of his life, having faced several trials and disillusionment. He lost much of his family during the partition of 1947. He lost his wife and family thereafter and had no family to turn to except the one he decided to adopt. We were his family and he was ours. There was no written contract or agreement or time when it took place but in a way we grew on to each other.

A pious man, Chacha prayed every day, to give him strength to battle his one weakness that in the end finally killed him suddenly. His battle with alcoholism in his later years was difficult as the memories of his past would haunt him. He tried very, very hard, having months of sobriety in-between bouts of terrible drunkenness and hospitalization.
Every year some time before 26th of January and around 15th August, Chacha would hit the bottle for a couple of days and then fight it whole heartedly, but as age caught on with him so were his withdrawals very difficult to tolerate. Such was the case with him on the 23rd of January 2015, where his heart gave up and he died of a heart attack. He left without saying good bye. We miss him terrible today and feel his void in ways that words cannot describe.

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Posted in Early Ventures, Finance & Sustenance

Restoration and Funding

By Carmita Noronha

Victor Hugo’s personal journey, growth, and development are a fundamentally integral part of the birth and success of Goa Chitra. He took everything from his past professions – the residual anger and disappointment, the love and passion, the experiences and lessons, and the money and resources – and pumped it into the Goa Chitra project. Carmita Noronha and her son, Oscar Noronha were one of Victor’s earliest clients, and in the following story, she discusses Victor’s early restoration days.


It was May 2006 when we came to Goa on a brief visit to complete the formalities that one has to endure on the death of a husband and a father. My husband had bought a monstrous ruin in Loutolim village, South Goa with the intention of restoring it himself.  However, he died shortly afterwards and the task of restoring this monstrosity fell onto our shoulders – my son and I.

Then we were introduced to Victor.  Having agreed to take on our project, he took us for several drives around various villages to show us his other restoration projects, which were pretty impressive, and that was that – we had decided. It was on these drives that we also saw another side to Victor – his great love for good food.  He took us to little known places each specialising in different food items – we had crabs at Esperanca’s in Rachol and a great Goan fish thali at Sharda’s in Fatorda and others I can’t recall.  And we thought, “what a great combination – a foodie and a restorer!”

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Looking for alternative ways to fund Goa Chitra. Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai.

Victor’s planning and organisational skills were absolutely spot on – he gave us his schedule, according to which the entire project was to be completed in 7 months. Simply unbelievable, we thought.  Given the state of various other work we had had seen in Goa, we did not believe that Victor would ever complete on time – he did!

Even more amazing was the fact that we were not in Goa for site inspections or to make changes as work progressed. It was distance managing – and Victor did it all. His dedication and attention to detail are phenomenal as is his good taste.  He corrected the proportions of the French windows, the flooring, ceiling, extensions in the right places, a grand entrance, and wrap-around balcony. Thus, an absolute ruin was transformed into an amazing Goan house, beautifully landscaped and terraced.

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In addition to restoring the house, we had also asked him to furnish it and to look out for reasonably priced antiques. It was on this antique furniture finding mission that Victor also started searching for and acquiring objects for what was to be Goa Chitra. He got us amazing bargains including lighting and other fixtures. I went with Victor on two such trips and found him rummaging into a heap of what looked like old junk. I clearly remember him explaining to us that they were in fact units of measure for grain.  He struck a bargain with the antique dealer and took away these items to be painstakingly restored by the faithful Chacha – a great man who was Victor’s man Friday!

Victor later told us that it was the fee he earned on this project that enabled him to take forward his great dream of having an ethnographic museum in Goa – we’re delighted to be a small part of Victor’s amazing project and heritage for Goa.


Carmita Noronha studied MBA in the UK and has worked for British Council as Head Grant in Aid Finance. Her son, Oscar de Sequeira Nazareth, has done his BSc Honours at Cass Business School, UK; is the owner of Licor Armada; and the president of the Indo Portuguese Chamber of Commerce.  He has worked at Marsh & McLennan, London and Deutsch Bank, London as an Investment Banker. After living for almost 25 years in Coimbra, Portugal, and London, Carminta and Oscar returned to Goa in 2012.

Oscar carminta

 

 

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Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Finance & Sustenance

To Fund a Museum: Part II

To read the first part of To Fund a Museum, click here.

By Malavika Neurekar

In 2009,with help from Dr. Paulo Varela Gomes, Victor Hugo was invited to Portugal on aFundacao Orient(Foundation of the Orient) scholarship. There, he engaged in dialogue with persons holding important posts in the museum world, alongside visiting anthropological and ethnographic museums and academic research centres. It also gave him an opportunity to interact with the Goans in Portugal and spread awareness about his vision for Goa. On the last dayof his visit, he was part of a talk on Goan architecture at Casa Da Goa. In his speech, he evoked the nostalgia of the fellow Goans present in the audience, describing Goa as “an ailing grandmother” in urgent need of care and revival. He spoke about the need for a worldwide campaign to generate an escrow fund for the security and maintenance of the museum. He urged people to donate, not out of obligation but out of a sense of responsibility, inviting a minimum donation of even one Euro so young children could participate. At the end of his speech, the then Member of Parliament of Goan Origin in Portugal handed Victor two Euros. “On behalf of Casa de Goa,” he said.

Over the years, there have been many open-hearted gestures of generosity that have supplemented Goa Chitra’s financing. One such example that dates back to much before Goa Chitra even opened to the public was that of the brothers, Marcos and Oswald Cardozo. It was the year 2008. The museum collection was in place, the architecture complete, but visitors and guests arrived only through word-of-mouth recommendations. Goa Chitra had neither received widespread media coverage, nor earned a spot on the ‘must-visit’ list of most tourist guides. Why did so much time lapse between actually setting up the place and publicly inaugurating it on 2nd November 2009? It was a question put forth by Marcos Cardozo of Ruby Realtors Pvt. Ltd. Victor’s reply was simply due to the fear of lack of security. A few days later, Victor received a call from a company called Zicom based in Bangalore inquiring about his address. They were on their way to install the security equipment. “I haven’t placed an order,” Victor told them. He was taken aback by the response he received from the other end of the line. A company called Ruby Realtors had placed the order and taken care of the payments. Victor was touched by this display of benevolence. Another such example was Leo Pereira of L&L Builders undertook the responsibility of making cash payments to the security guard for the first year after Goa Chitra’s inauguration.

Funders final

Jump to 2015. Victor was heading a heritage trail for two visitors, Mr. Hans Van Wijk and Mr. Willem Philipse from Belgium. He frequently holds interactive heritage walks and tours, taking interested people to the state’s unexplored and off-beat locations, as a part of earning revenue for Goa Chitra. He took Mr. Wijk and Mr. Philipse to the interiors of the state, giving them a firsthand experience of a Goa they had never seen before.It was much after the departure of the two men that Victor found out that they were, in fact, Aerodata founders who had done the Arial survey and photography of the world for Google and Microsoft! He was even more astonished when, after a few weeks, he received a cash donation from Hans Van Wijk via a bank transfer.

Cash donations to Goa Chitra have been made by individuals as well as organizations. The cultural committee of the Goan Overseas Association in Toronto organized a one-day interactive speaker’s presentation called Your Goa 101 on 7th May, 2011. This was initiated by a young Goan diaspora from Canada who had visited Goa Chitra on a Know Goa programme. The goal of this interactive session was to educate the Goan diaspora in Toronto about the rich heritage and culture of Goa.  The committee also decided to use the event to raise funds for Goa Chitra and raised 120 Canadian dollars as their contribution. The Goan community in California, via a fund-raising drive by the NGO Goa Sudharop, have also raised Rs. 50,000.The long list of cash donors includes Dom Martin, Helmut Rockemann, Angustias Gomes, Marcos & Oswald Cardozo, Helga Gomes and Joaquim Goes, Leo Pereira, Evencio Quadros, Sampooran Singh Kalra Gulzar, Mario Pereira, Philip Neri Rodriques, Ana Theresa Braganza e Rodriques, Sushant Tari,  Vince Costa, Dr. Bellinda Viegas, Romila Cota Carvalho, Shaila Faleiro, Braz Menezes, Merle Almeida, Dr. Hubert Gomes, Charrudatta Prabhudesai, Dr. Marina and Tony Correa Afonso, Dr. Bailon De Sa family, Mr. Percival Noronha, Dr. Deepa & Bala Iyer, Valmiki Faleiro, Adv. Sarto Almeida, Agnelo and Patricia Pinto, Anoop and Savia Babani, Fatima Gomes and Maria Luz Gomes Rebello besides 150 odd members who annually renew their Goa Chitra membership. Then there were those who contributed in kind to help with the infrastructure of the museum. Leo Pereira, Marcus Cardozo, and Oswald Cardozo donated construction material; Sushant Tari and Manish Sadekar supplied labour to paint some of the structures at no cost; and the Pai Kane Group gave a discount on the purchase of the generator. Victor is also grateful to suppliers Pankaj Kakode (Kakode Trading LLP) and Ramdas Kakode (R. P. Kakode), Khope Agencies, and M/s Anand G. Sardesai and metal fabricator Blaize Brito who gave him credit time for payment. It is because of contributions such as these that Victor has not given up hope when it comes to the sustenance of Goa Chitra. He remains forever indebted to their generosity.

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May God Bless You (Thank you)”; Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai
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The Day the Music Died

By Devika Sequeira

Undertaking the funding of a museum is a Herculean task. It becomes especially difficult when one is a man of principle, refusing to sell out to big corporate entities, and when the repeated government assurances and promises are followed by with silence and inactivity. Senior journalist Devika Sequeira, a close friend of Victor and Aldina, recalls being a witness to one of the low points of in the financing of Goa Chitra.


The dreary monsoon weather seemed to reflect on the sombre mood at the small gathering. There couldn’t have been more than seven or eight of us sitting in the large balcony that served as Victor and Aldina’s drawing room-cum bar-cum dining room with its clutter of period furniture. I recall meeting an odd assortment of people there over the years in the evenings, always accompanied by a generous spread of Goan food and drink and loud conversation. There was once even a police inspector. Odd, I thought. But then again, who says cops can’t socialise off-duty?

But this was different. There was no music, laughter, and certainly no open bar – a trademark of the Gomes’ hospitality. What was being discussed on that rainy day in somewhat funereal tones was that Victor’s dream of setting up a museum of all things Goan, rooted in its red earth, its soil and soul, might quite simply end up in a poof. The couple had hit rock bottom financially. Victor had tapped into the last of his and Aldina’s savings, building the extensions that would house the museum and splurging on some ancient hoe or cart wheel that had caught his eye in a remote village in Maharashtra or Karnataka where he had found a Goan connection. The security for the place was itself costing a fortune.

Where do we go from here? Victor was asking. The other couple at the gathering that day were living in the USA. There were international grants available for projects to do with native cultural heritage. The Gomes’ could tap these, but a convincing project proposal was a must, they advised. Victor looked sceptical. One could visualise the calculations of the impediments and complexities of getting foreign funding running through his mind. How about corporate funding, I asked. That was shot down immediately. Victor wasn’t prepared to name the museum after a mine-owner, or part with a dominant share in its stake to a corporate entity. A government grant was still a possibility, I suggested. Victor had tried it but received zero response, as expected. It did seem like the end of the road.

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“First deposit, then withdraw”; Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai

It would be months before I ran into the Gomes’ again. In his lowest moment when he was beginning to think he’d be forever saddled with a stillborn project and a flutter of dreams unresolved, a benefactor—a Goan one at that—had come knocking at his door, Victor said. I have no idea where Goa Chitra’s money came from or does and how the Gomes manage to run such a huge private space and all its many activities. But I can testify to a sense of complete amazement when I saw the birth of the first phase of the museum. It seemed to have sprung out from the earth. What was till then just a vegetable garden had overnight been turned into a quirky space for the most unusual of exhibits. Victor’s passion as a collector of the past had now a space for public viewing, but the concept and design appeared to have abandoned the services of an architect or engineer, giving the whole a rather impromptu, artsy look – quite unique for a museum.

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I was back at Goa Chitra last year to show some guests around. The larger open areas have naturally shrunk with the hall for the exhibition of carriages. Goa Chitra could perhaps do with a larger space. I’m sure Victor’s dreams have expanded since that ominous monsoon evening. Did I ever believe Goa Chitra would get off the ground? Not for one moment, I didn’t. Which is why I continue to be amazed every time I see it.

 

 

 


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Devika Sequeira is an independent journalist based in Goa. She has worked for several media publications like the Indian Express, Deccan Herald, The Week, O Heraldo and Goa Today. She is currently a contributor to The Times of India, Deccan Herald and The Wire.

 

 

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Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Collection, Early Ventures

A Museum in the Making

By Malavika Neurekar

In a previous post, we had explored the story and the significance of the ghanno in the process of branding Goa Chitra. The implement does indeed hold immense value to the institution – in terms of the struggle behind acquiring it, of the experiences that were picked up along the way, and the spirit of perseverance that it reflects. But something that still remains unknown to most is that the ghanno played yet another instrumental role – it ultimately led to the construction of the Goa Chitra building itself!

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The ghanno and the well then.

Before the Goa Chitra space became defined by its charming Indo-Portuguese architecture and quaint decor, there was a sprawling organic farm. Victor Hugo undertook this project after his advertising days came to an end, a casualty resulting from the Cola Wars of the 1990s. He began generating his own electricity, pumped the water from his own well, and grew his own produce, while simultaneously building his collection. When the ghanno arrived in all its glory, it had to undergo major restoration work. It lacked a base, which needed to be rebuilt. It was required to be grouted in the ground. In order to protect it from further damage, a shed was built over the ghanno. This was merely the first step. As the collection grew enormously and Victor kept purchasing old architectural scrap, Goa Chitra slowly began to develop.

After
The ghanno and the well now.

Goa Chitra being partly an open-air museum is not a coincidence, nor is it a decision based on purely aesthetic considerations. Victor is extremely concerned with the maintenance of the objects, and he tells me that the open-air setting allows the natural material of the implements to breathe. Moreover, the infrastructure perfectly retains the essence of what existed in the space prior to the museum. Even today, a reminder of the organic farm sits in the form of a well right in the middle of the museum room!

It was during this early phase that Frederick Noronha visited the yet-to-be museum and conducted the following interview in 2008. Here, you can see the two men discuss the objective of Goa Chitra, the potential of a thriving museum culture in Goa, and some of the traditional agricultural implements that are no longer in use.

You can follow more of Frederick Noronha’s research and documentation of Goan tradition on his personal blog and his YouTube channel.

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Posted in Collection, Personal Stories

All about Victor and his Chitras

By Alvaro (Goanna) Gomes

Alvaro Gomes has been Victor’s accomplice in childhood shenanigans as well as a first-hand witness to the early years of his fascination with material culture. In the following story, he reminisces about the early memories of growing up with the curator of Goa Chitra.


One thorough look inside Goa Chitra, Goa Chakra, and Goa Cruti, and one can sum up the type of multi-talented personality Victor Hugo Gomes is. Though I know Victor for several years, it is very difficult to sum up his character and capability in short.

Being 1st cousins and both staying in different parts of Benaulim, I was lucky to understand Victor right from his early days. He had a keen eye for everything. And the type of inquisitive questions he would ask are What is this? Why is it that way? Couldn’t this thing be the other way round? This keenness in him to learn and understand things even beyond the permissible limit and the attitude helped him to build himself up, step by step and create a heritage heaven in shape of Goa Chitra.

When young he looked like a Scientist with thick eye glassed spectacles, always ready to experiment with whatever comes his way. He was a person who loved to face challenges and adventure. Right from a young age, he had the intelligence of a grown up man. We, having come from a land lord community, had some properties and fields. My job was to supervise the property work. Sometimes, during vacations, Victor would come to my place to stay for a few days, and that is when I came across his other rather unique trait. When all were sleeping or relaxing, Victor would suddenly disappear and lo there he would be on the loft or in the kitchen store looking out for old wine and medicines bottles and injection vials. He would also gather discarded valve amplifiers, radios, discarded speakers, finished powder tins, cigarette packets and match boxes. At the end of the holidays, he would be ready with a bag full of assorted collection. I feel that his childhood interest for collecting disposed items and making wealth out of waste led him to where he is today, having an unassuming and important collection of items of ethnography. On one of the properties which was land locked and washed out, neglected and uncultivated for years, Victor took on the challenge of restoring it with the blessings of his father, on part of which Goa Chitra stands tall.

Young Victor, Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai

Moreover, being adventurous he would insist that we should go out at night to the fields and see whether the labourer were irrigating the fields properly and the yield of paddy corns was intact. Then we would end up at the field all night long, singing and listening to the chirping of birds and the croaking of the frogs.
All Souls Day was all the more interesting for us, as on that night Victor insisted to me that we go hunting for the human ghosts, who would loiter in our property and rob tender coconuts and damage other crops in the name of “Almas De Oltro Mundo”, souls of the other world, as per a centuries-old traditions. It so happened that, one such night his efforts paid dividends, as right outside our house, on the steps we saw a man trying to take away our flower pots. Victor raised an alarm and the man being our neighbour was so petrified, that he came down on his knees and asked for pardon.

As teenagers and in youth, Victor and I tried out our hand at performing one act plays, whereby I would write the plays and Victor would direct them. He was a perfectionist to the core and left nothing unturned to make the play perfect and presentable. Due to his constant focus on perfection, we managed to get several 1st prizes in Benaulim and around Goa. As we grew up and I got a steady job, the distance between us grew wider. But Victor made it a point to take me into confidence about every new step he would take.

At this juncture Victor tried his hand at advertising and Event Management. Towards the end of monsoon he would organise a dance called “Bye Bye Barish” besides conceptualising and annually organising the much sort after, “Arlem Festival” which he organised till he left Goa on a National Art scholarship in the early 90s. Then he came up with the bright idea of presenting the Great Music Revival shows, much before the movie Nachomia Kumpasar could hit the screen. In fact it was Victor who brought the almost defunct brass bands of Goa and the musicians on stage for the first time along with other famous musicians. These concerts for that matter were reasonably successful and well accepted by Jazz aficionados and music lovers. Even while organising these Music events, Victor took great pains to choose and select the right and bright veteran Jazz talents from across India or abroad, some of whom were great Goan musicians who had never ever performed in Goa. When the great Goan trumpet Legend Chris Perry passed away, it was none other than Victor, the great event coordinator, who brought Chris Perry’s family together on stage. After Chris’s demise Victor was even successful in convincing Lorna to participate in a tribute Concert dedicated to Chris Perry, and from then on Lorna did not have to look back in singing for musical shows.

GCR- Final Artwork 1

And as it is said “time is the changer of seasons”. So did Victor’s life change for the better. He might have come across many young beautiful girls, but love for him was not lust, or obsession. Nor did he believe in variety, but he believed in eternal love that would last for ever. This type of love he finally found in Aldina, now his partner for life. Dwelling on the concept of four generations despite of all odds, Victor has given his mind and soul, in fact his all, to get Goa Chitra into existence. He has well past “the first generation that creates a culture out of love and need; the second that reaps the benefits; the third that embraces modernity and abandons the indigenous culture”; and now here fits in Victor who has attempted “to reassemble the dismembered pieces of our heritage and salvage the remains of a lost culture”, through his life’s love, the Goa Chitra museum. And in this he has come out victorious true to his name which is Victor. With the capable, loving and understanding assistance of Aldina. Surely they will go a long way by adding several attractive feathers in their already bright cap.


Alvaro

Alvaro Gomes is a hotel manager associated with Colva Residency, a unit of Goa Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. He writes short stories, articles, poems, one-act plays, and songs in English and Konkani.

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To Fund a Museum: Part I

By Malavika Neurekar

Every year on 29th October, early morning, a young Victor Gomes received a kiss on his forehead and a small amount of cash through a fixed deposit in his name. This had been his mother’s birthday gift to him for the better part of his childhood.

Diligently saving the cash for years, Victor finally broke the deposit when it was time for Goa Chitra to materialise from his imagination onto his private stretch of property. Victor and Aldina pooled together their savings – pounding all of their jewellery in the process – and invested it into the future of Goa Chitra. Victor even sold the properties he had previously bought in Pomburpa, Maina, Curtorim, and a flat in Benaulim. Whether it is because of the amount spent on acquiring different artefacts for the museum collection or the concern for expenditure on museum security, the couple has walked a tightrope when it comes to funding the project.

Victor has received extreme reactions for his choice of professions – from coming across as an individual with diverse interests and talents, to someone who jumps from job to job without any apparent direction. However one may choose to see it, it was because of the range of experience he had that he was able to reach out to people from different fields while setting up Goa Chitra. His previous experience in organising events came in handy, as he started to hold Great Music Revival concerts at Goa Chitra. Fifty percent of the revenue from the music festivals is retained as the corpus of Goa Chitra to be employed for its maintenance, and the other fifty is used towards the expenses incurred to organize the concerts. The income of the museum comprises twenty percent of the gate fees. The Goa Chitra team also started the idea of Goa Chitra Club Membership. Members, who pay an annual fee of Rs. 5000 as privilege members and Rs. 2000 as individual members, are allowed a sixty percent discount on all music events organised by Goa Chitra, and are allowed free entry to the museum. The guests brought by the members also get a 40 percent discount on museum entry and concerts.

Victor often likes to remind people: “Goa Chitra is my passion, but restoring houses is my profession.” Having completed a restoration course from INATCH in Lucknow, Victor restores old houses to retain their Indo-Portuguese ethos. Dr. Aldina Gomes, who teaches Psychology at Carmel College and pens editorials for The Everyday Goan, explains that the two use their collective salary towards the Goa Chitra cause rather than splurge on extravagant indulgences.

Funding story 1 pics
Goa Chitra has attracted many international, national and local VVIP’s besides personalities like the former Union Minister of Tourism, Ms. Kumari Selja; the former Governor of Goa, His Excellency Dr. S.S.Sidhu; former Chief Ministers, Mr. Digambar Kamat and Mr. Manohar Parrikar; former member of Parliament, Mr. Francisco Sardinha; former Tourism Minister of Goa, Mr. Micky Pacheco; Minister for Museums, Ms. Alina Saldanha; former minister for Revenue, Mr. Jose Philip D’Souza; Minister of Fisheries, Mr. Avertano Furtado; MLA, Caitu D’Silva; former and present Chairman, Goa Tourism Development Corporation, Mr. Shaym Satedekar and Mr. Nilesh Cabral; Mr. Patel, husband of former President of India, Ms. Pratiba Patel.

The personality that is Victor Hugo Gomes is part visionary, part tragic hero – having borne the brunt of empty promises and false hopes. A host of well-known companies, corporate bodies/industry associations and even the state government have promised support to Goa Chitra numerous times, but to no avail. Goa Chitra was left to survive off the self-sponsorship and the individual donation of some generous souls. It was a former editor of a then-popular newspaper and a close friend of Victor who advised him to bring in well-known names. A well-known name in the mining industry sought to acquire and undertake the funding of Goa Chitra at Rs. 50 lakh, on the condition of renaming it to reflect the interests of the benefactor. Victor refused. Under no condition would he allow the name of the museum to be attributed to an individual. “It may technically be a private museum,” he explains passionately. “But the collection belongs to the people.” Neither would he compromise on his principles, nor would he allow his lifetime’s toil to be assigned a monetary value. This is not to say that he is against the involvement of corporate entities altogether. He accepts, in fact encourages, all forms of constructive participation. However, he believes that – as is the common practice in the West – grants should be an extension of recognition, not a means to establish a quid pro quo situation.

There have been positives too. During his tenure as the Director of Tourism, Mr. Swapnil Naik facilitated the printing of the Goa Chitra brochures and Goa Chitra was offered a payment to set up a stall at Goa’s annual International Travel Mart. On the initiative of Mr. Prasad Lolyencar, the director of Art and Culture, the state Government provided a part funding for Goa Chitra’s initiative Goan Quest – a weekly programme showcasing the intangible heritage of Goa to the World.

Update: Read the second part of the series here.

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Museum and Money Matters

By Anoop Babani

Just like it is easy to assume that Goa Chitra space used to formerly be a private home, another common assumption to make is that the collection and the resources on which the museum runs comes significantly from inherited property. In the following piece, Anoop Babani dispels these preconceived notions, giving the readers an insider’s perspective about the funding of Goa Chitra.


I met Victor Hugo Gomes just when he was starting out less than a decade ago. His mission was to preserve Goan (indeed, human) heritage and to live with it. And how could one do it? Well, build a museum just below your bedroom! That’s exactly what he and his gracious wife, Aldina, chose to do.

From the beginning, Victor came across as one of those guys who was undaunted by the challenges he was to face, and very confident and committed. He put his hard earned money where his mouth was – quite unlike many other young, propertied Goans who were busy buying a yacht or a Ferrari in exchange for ancestral lands. I cared two hoots if someone was to sink his yacht or crash his luxury car, but was definitely concerned, indeed worried, about Victor’s venture. That’s why our meetings and discussions in those early days invariably veered around financial viability of  Goa Chitra, the first in a series of museums ‘below the bedroom’. I understood money, albeit moderately, having spent almost four decades in analyzing corporate sector and dabbling in stock markets. So, we would often talk about revenue streams, return on investment, one-time corpus, gestation period, gate fees, and so forth.

There was one difference though. In my early working life, money matters were discussed in close-door air-conditioned rooms. With Victor, these deliberations always took place in South Goa’s open-air country bars over endless rounds of what he calls ‘kop’. And these financial summits would invariably end in the wee hours of morning, with Victor proclaiming: “Listen man, I will continue to chase my mission. Money will follow.”

Anoop
“Where will the money come from?; Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai

Money did flow, but not smoothly. Victor and Aldina used to organize musical and cultural evenings to raise working funds for Goa Chitra. Victor himself received several sponsorship and even lucrative sale/partnership offers which he rejected outright. “How can I part with my baby, man,” Victor would exclaim. Fortunately, Goa Chitra began to gain traction – first among school and college children, and then among the local populace. However, the fee-paying footfalls increased dramatically once the conscious Indian and overseas tourists to Goa began to look beyond sun, sea and sand and scout for experiences in the local heritage. Victor gauged the opportunity and began tweaking his marketing plans to attract high-end, heritage conscious visitors to the museum. Simultaneously, he expanded the complex to include two new museums – Goa Chakra and Goa Cruti.

Anoops story pics.jpg

To sustain and further expand the display of his vast collection, Victor is currently tying up with international agencies and building high-end residential infrastructure to extend a holistic experience to potential visitors. This model is bound to succeed. To that extent, I am happy that Victor today understands money more than me. Victor has created an institution unique to his own personality and style. No doubt, it will be copied but never the way he built it.


Anoop Babani.jpg

 

Anoop Babani is a post-graduate in Economics from University of Mumbai. He has specialized in building business databases, first as a founder-member of India’s largest and most-respected think tank, Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, and then as database head at the Press Trust of India (PTI). A journalist for more than 30 years, he has worked with PTI, Times of India, Update magazine, Herald Review magazine and Business India magazine. Presently, he is building a selective and qualitative database of World and Indian Cinema.

 

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Posted in Branding & Institutionalisation, By Malavika Neurekar, Collection

Why the Name? Why the Logo?

By Malavika Neurekar

Goa Daiz translates to Goa’s Heritage.

That was the name originally chosen for the museum. It signified everything that the museum intended to preserve and generate awareness about: the rich culture, traditions, and customs peculiar to this specific stretch of geography. Goa Daiz. It was almost finalized. Yet, there was something odd about it. Goa Daiz. The more and more one said it, the more obvious it became.

It was a little ominous to name a museum something that sounded phonetically similar to Goa Dies. So after much more brainstorming, the name that was finally settled upon was Goa Chitra. The Picture of Goa.

The next step in creating the Goa Chitra brand – choosing a logo – was a much more instantaneous decision. Every artefact within the walls of Goa Chitra is held by Victor Hugo with a certain amount of pride and reverence. However, when it was time for Bismark Dias to conceptualise a logo, nothing stood out more than Hugo’s prized ghanno. Apart from its aesthetic magnificence, the story behind its acquisition adds depth and meaning to the implement.

Ghanno

As is the case with a significant number of Goa’s traditional agricultural implements, the ghanno is no longer in use and has been replaced by mechanised oil mills. The quest for a functional ghanno led Victor Hugo to come into contact with a number of ghanekars, the community of traditional oil millers. In 1992, Victor Hugo was travelling around Goa, retracing the trade routes as they had existed in the Kadamba period. It was during this time, in the Pilar-Agasaim area, when his sight fell upon what looked like two massive stone pillars buried under the ground. These stone objects were actually the remnants of what used to be two fully-functioning ghannos. Several years later, Victor was still on the lookout. His diligent inquiries ultimately led him to Agonda. Arriving here on a Sunday morning with his friend Ketan Naik, Victor realised that the ghanekar in question had not only destroyed his ghanno, but was also selling off his property. A harsh critic of the practice of bhatkars selling their inherited land for commercial development, Victor asked the ghanekar why he was selling his land for such an unreasonably small amount. The ghanekars response – something Victor Hugo still recalls with disgust – was that he was selling off his land to the then-chief minister. The Minister’s son, who was studying in the US, yearned to sit under the shade of a coconut tree, relishing on tender coconut water. In turn, the minister had offered a promotion to one of his bodyguards, who happened to be the ghanekar’s son. Appalled and yet even more determined now, Victor Hugo eventually ended up at the doorsteps of one Balaji Anand Naik of Canacona. His search had finally come to an end – Balaji Naik possessed the elusive ghanno! However, the struggle did not end here. The ghanno was in shambles, and it took almost one more year before it was restored to its original form.

Edited Ganno 2
Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai

Today, the implement sits proudly in Goa Chitra. As the last remaining functional ghanno, it symbolises the spirit and ambition of Goa Chitra which is, the preservation of all salvageable pieces of our past. The brush with the ghanekar in Agonda is representative of how dirty politics and the blind race for money and power stand in the way of this noble attempt. It is thus apt that it is the ghanno that adorns the logo of Goa Chitra. When asked “why did you choose the ghanno for the logo?” Victor Hugo replies instantly “because it took me fourteen years to find it.” The search for the ghanno represents everything that Goa Chitra stands for: dedication, perseverance, and victory in the face of adversity.

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Posted in Branding & Institutionalisation, People's Project

Creating the Brand ‘Goa Chitra’

By Bismarck Dias

The Goa Chitra logo has been conceptualized and designed by Bismarck Dias. Private Museum as it may be on paper, Victor Hugo holds on steadfastly to the belief that Goa Chitra is a people’s project. It is through the coming together of individual contributions that it has today become a product of collective effort. Bismarck Dias’s decision to contribute to the project in the way best known to him is just one of many such exemplary initiatives. 


“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do” – Steve Jobs

Victor Hugo Gomes is one of them.

Nine years back I remember a friend telling me “Victor wants you to come and see his project. He seriously wants your opinion. If you are doing nothing lets go now.” And we did. We drove down the winding roads of Benaulim into what looked like a vegetation farm. The place was peaceful and quite. We knew each other by name but had never met before. Victor was standing there at the gate to welcome us. On the first glance itself, he looked intense and crazy and I knew it wouldn’t be a waste time. There is always something to learn from crazy people, you can see sincerity in their eyes. Poker face Victor got straight to the point with a lot of intensity. He took us around while he explained every bit with a lot of passion. He was the Google of Goan history and culture. I felt like a Lilliput listening to Gulliver. He had no commercial interest. It was for the love of Goa’s lost heritage and culture. In a world of manipulators it was refreshing to meet a real person.

Bismarck final.
Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai

Everything I touched and felt in Goa Chitra took me back in time. It was a flashback to my childhood, with my grandparents and the farmers I interacted with then. It was so beautiful, organic and pure. As he spoke he looked helpless and isolated. Knowing the shallow political hurdles one has to face, I gathered. I remember saying to him, “You took me by surprise. This is insane… I want to be part of this.”

He said he had no support to take this forward as he drained out all the cash and nobody was getting the point of what he was trying to do. I told him he needed good marketing if he wants the world to take this project seriously. I decided to take the responsibility of marketing Goa Chitra. “Send me everything I need to know about this place and I will work on it from scratch from wherever I am in the world,” I said. Thanks to the internet. He had tears rolling down his eyes. And that’s when our friendship and journey to take Goa Chitra forward began.

Initially I remember I would speak about Victor’s project to friends and they would laugh and say “Don’t take him seriously, he is crazy”. Truth is I take only crazy people seriously. When Goa Chitra was launched he called me up excitedly, like a child and told me how things are falling in place. Every artifact housed in Goa Chitra has a history as well as a story of how he restored them and gave them life. Today, Goa Chitra has educated the new generation about the past and the old generation came alive with stories from the Goa we lost. When a man transforms into a child with his passion, that’s the time you know he is going to change the world.

Victor, thank you for changing our world.


bismarck new profile.jpgBismarck Dias is a lover of art, architecture, music, and movies. He graduated from Goa College of Art in1983, and has since been associated with agencies including Trikaya Grey, Lintas, O&M in Mumbai, and Montage TV, FortunePromo Seven, and Bates in Dubai. He has done editorial illustrations for Debonair Magazine, and bagged awards for his work in the advertising industry. He currently resides in Dubai, but is a nature lover and misses the quiet village life in Goa.

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Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Collection

How the Collection Began and Grew

By Malavika Neurekar

Valve sets. Old speakers. LPs. Discarded furniture pieces. Bottles.

These are not usually the things that come to mind when one thinks of their childhood playthings. However these are the ‘toys’ that Victor Hugo grew up with. When the entire household was asleep, Victor used to sneak into the loft or the storeroom, integral parts of all traditional Goan homes, and experiment with the objects he found there. He brought back radios and repaired them. He played around with speakers and valve amplifiers to create sound systems. He collected discarded bike parts to put together his own bike. He once found a razor and shaved off one side of his head! (Victor Gomes recalls with amusement how his godmother, out of embarrassment, painted the shaved-off side with kaajal everytime they stepped out of the house.) The elders of the house interpreted this as a part of his schoolboy mischief. In retrospect, Victor now knows that it was simply a manifestation of his curiosity and creativity at an early age.

After completing his Bachelor’s in Fine Arts at Goa College of Art, Victor spent about three years in Lucknow. Whilst there, one thing that always awed him was the weekly antique market – artefacts of Nawabi culture were being sold in the dusty streets, evaluated by the haggling of customers and sellers. A man with a major inclination towards preserving material culture, Victor failed to understand how people were voluntarily giving away pieces of their heritage. When he returned to Goa, he discovered that all the ‘toys’ he had accumulated over the years had been discarded by his parents, with little regard for the value they held to him. But old habits die hard. He began collecting again – the difference being that the collection this time around would soon culminate into the Goa Chitra display today.

Museum display

It was in 1992 that Mario Miranda extended to Victor an invitation to set up the Christian Art Museum in Rachol. Around this time, Victor began to realise that there was no value for either of his professions, painting or restoring. People preferred posters to paintings, and Indo-Portuguese houses were being brought down to make way for commercial construction. It was this helplessness that urged him to collect whatever he could whenever he could. Like a mad man he started collecting different types of windows, doors, balusters, columns, tiles, roofing wood etc. Some of the architectural scrap that he picked up has now been integrated seamlessly into the museum’s architecture. After resigning from the Christian Art Museum, he took up the work of a professional restorer. He restored old homes, and in turn, paid his clients a price to purchase articles including – but not limited to – broken furniture, traditional kitchen implements, and grinding stones.

He went on collecting anything and everything that caught his fancy, without the explicit objective of setting up a museum. The process of collecting did not take place with an end goal in mind. It was merely Victor Hugo’s desperate need to salvage pieces of our cultural heritage that he believed we were throwing away without a second’s thought. He travelled to remote areas of the state, came into contact with several dealers and scholars and farmers, followed lead after lead to build his collection. After a point, he even sold his cars and bought a pickup truck to facilitate more efficient transportation of the objects. Nobody knew what he was up to, including himself.

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Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai

Of his many avatars, the one of the collector is perhaps the most interesting one, mostly because it is the source of his countless anecdotes. He believes that every implement that is housed is valuable not just for its functionality or for the historic value, but also for the memories it evokes and the stories of the people who possessed them. Such is the case of the dhali or the sieve used by the Dhangar community to heat nachne or millets. The dhali is no longer of use to the community: first, because nachne cultivation has come to a halt in Goa and replaced by imports from outside the state, and second, because the system of kumeri farming practiced by the Dhangars has been banned under the anti-Deforestation laws. In spite of this, the Dhangar from whom Victor Hugo acquired the dhali, Baburam was initially reluctant to part with it. He wanted to hold on to in case someday the government lifted the ban from kumeri farming, allowing them to return to their traditional methods of sustenance. Eventually, he allowed Victor to purchase it with the promise that if the government were to lift the ban, the dhali would be returned immediately. Baburam died subsequently, the ban on kumeri farming hasn’t been lifted yet, and the nachne available in the market continues to be imported goods.

Dhalli and baburam

I have seen Victor Hugo recount this story several times to different people, and what he never fails to mention in each retelling is the hope that he saw in Baburam’s eyes that day. It was perhaps reflective of Victor Hugo’s own hope to reintroduce a way of living lost in a simpler time.

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Posted in Collection

Passionate about Preserving the Past

By Maria Savia Viegas

Goa Chitra houses a vast and varied collection which seldom leaves one unimpressed. Savia Viegas recounts the first time she visited Goa Chitra in 2008, a year before it was opened to the public. Read about how she was awed by the display in the following piece.


It was a 2008 October morning. Some friends from North Goa, part of the then vibrant Goa Writers’ Group, had decided to visit Goa Chitra Museum in Benaulim. I was asked to join.  I lived few kilometers away, had a research interest in museums, was curious to visit a private museum, and wanted to know the fellow Goan who had initiated it. So I decided to team up.

The directions, at the time, seemed vague since I had lived away from Goa for a long time and had returned only recently. I would have never found the way, on my own, to this ethnographic and agricultural museum.  So I did what I always do in such circumstances – hire a motorbike pilot. The ride was fun and we chatted as the pilot rode past an escola primaria, a dung dump, and a string of non-descript tavernas where the locals hung around.  A young woman in a bright yellow salwar asked me if I was looking for Victor Hugo’s house. She was quick enough to direct me before driving away in her car.  I paid the pilot and asked him if he could pick me up couple of hours later. But I was still in a daze as to how the woman in the car guessed that I was looking for Victor Hugo’s home.  It was only later that I discovered that she was Aldina, Victor’s wife, who was on her way to pick up snacks for our visit (She hasn’t stopped doing that till today!).

I  Met Victor Hugo Gomes, 40-something then, and the creator of soon-to-be-opened Goa Chitra museum at Pulwaddo in Benaulim. Call him what you will. Banalecho pisso Bhatkar or Don Quixote with a penchant for riding yesterdays’ roads, but once you meet Victor, you see the spark of genius that made him save tools and technologies from extinction. Listen to him and the collection of what he terms ‘material culture’ begins to open up vistas of the life before.

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Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai

We took  an informal tour of the museum-to-be, as Victor randomly picked up and explained how he had procured the artifacts: a bludgeoning tool of colonial time covered with dried up blood stains; a saxophone belonging to a dead musician of yester-years; a grinding stone; and a wooden oil-mill – the collection seemed endless.  He chatted on about his past too: the underground labyrinths in his aunt’s home; trunks where useless things were stored away; sleep-outs with his cousin in open fields; and the hospital visits with his mother who was the matron of Hospicio in Margao city. His own life from adolescence to adulthood and maturity had been peppered with the wild experiences of someone who always lives on the edge.

Pastels and mortars - Copy

Victor, who spent some time outside Goa in pursuits of fine arts, returned to set up a museum and began to restore homes. He ventured into music revival in a big way, organizing musical concerts. But soon, he realised that Goa’s past was being frittered away to make way for a mindless modernity. At the same time, he also abhorred the idea of rare treasures from the region, and of his past, being locked up in private collections. He was like a flaneur visiting his cultural terrain, picking castaways and trying to understand why people were frittering away an eco-friendly lifestyle for one that was leading the world into a charmless, irreversible destruction.  Over the years, this endless churning has helped Victor collect thousands of artifacts which today make not one but three museums – Goa Chitra, Goa Chakra, and Goa Cruti.


Savia Viegas

A resident of Carmona, Maria Savia Viegas is a doctorate in Indian Art from the University of Mumbai, and has taught at numerous Indian and overseas universities and colleges for more than 20 years. She is recipient of the prestigious Senior Fulbright Fellowship of the USA government, wherein she spent a year in the USA, affiliated with world-renowned Smithsonian Institution of Museums and the Museum Studies Department of the George Washington University. She has authored ‘Tales from the Attic’ and the Penguin-published ‘Let me tell you about Quinta’. She has showcased her paintings in four solo exhibitions and has curated works of renowned Goan painter, Angelo da Fonseca.

 

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Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Events, People's Project

Back to Basics

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By Malavika Neurekar

Walking into and around Goa Chitra (exclusively Chitra, the flagship museum), one is quick to realise that the research, documentation, and display there is rooted in the fact that Goa used to be a primarily agrarian society. Before the mining industry dominated Goa’s economy and imported products from outside the state and the country flooded the markets, agriculture was the main mode of sustenance for a large component of the populace. Thus, it makes sense that Goa Chitra is set against the backdrop of a picturesque field with farm animals running helter skelter, and that it has come to be recognised for its characteristic open, earthy space. In retrospect, it makes even more sense that it all stemmed from an organic farm. In order to honour the traditions of where Goan society comes from, and indeed where Goa Chitra’s foundation comes from, the team holds annual events related to agriculture and farming.

The most popular of these events is the Harvest Festival held every year on 16th October on World Food Day. The most fundamental aspect the Harvest Festival is the involvement of school children. Every year, kids from the local schools and from across Goa join the xetcamoti and engage in farm work along with parents and teachers – right from cutting the corn with a sickle to threshing to separate the grain. A rather delightful activity is the smoking of mackerels in hay with bidam sol and red chillies, wrapped in banana leaves. The mackerels are later feasted upon with the mouth-watering combination of pez (Goan rice gruel) served from a traditional earthen pot; pezecho budkulo with chepni (small pickled mangoes) and kharem (smoked, salted dry fish). The whole event is set to the tune of a brass band churning melodies in the background.

Another related event, which has met with considerable success, is the Kitchen Garden Workshop. There has been a growing debate globally about the ethics of food production, ‘organic’ being the buzzword. While growing awareness amongst many has pushed them towards the organic lifestyle, there is a significant portion of the society that still views Anything Organic with reserve and suspicion. They disregard it as a ‘Hipster trend’ or a ‘fad’, failing to recognise what the term ‘organic’ really entails. It is essentially to create this awareness and introduce the participants to the process of growing their own vegetables that the Kitchen Garden Workshop is held. It comprises a series of interactive lessons and lectures on topics ranging from seed germination, to creation of compost from waste; from improving the drainage quality of the soil by introducing natural additives, to techniques of furrowing and sowing.

The thought behind organising these events is to familiarise and sensitise the participants to the work ethic of the farmer in an interactive, experiential way. Victor Gomes stresses that there is a need for such activity within the museum space, refusing to let the spirit of the museum slip into passivity. The Harvest Festival is free of cost, inclusive of the sumptuous buffet, and Victor opines that “due to a shortage of funds, the events also act as a fun and interactive marketing strategy. I could have chosen to spend the money on bill boards but I consider these events more impressionable and newsworthy.”

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Posted in Early Ventures

Goa Chitra: Victor’s picture of Goa?

By Eulalia Alvares D’mello

Walking into Goa Chitra for the first time, one is inclined to think that a part of the curator’s private home has been converted and utilised into museum space. It is not an uncommon assumption to make. However, very few know that the space where the museum stands today was, at one point of time, an organic farm run by Victor and has indeed been built from scratch. Eulalia Alvares D’mello takes us back to when Goa Chitra as we know it today was an open field, while managing to perfectly tap into the founding philosophy that has become the hallmark of this institution.


I first heard of Victor in 2002 when we went to a concert at Verna with our 6 month old baby. A crazy artist, I was told, organized this fantastic event with lots of acoustic jam-ups by some really talented musicians and singers.

Four years later, carrying my third baby we were running this restaurant in Colva and my husband says, “there’s someone I know you would be very happy to meet.” The artist who organized music shows was at the restaurant and my husband had just learnt that he had an organic farm! I was definitely interested because just a few year earlier I was part of a team that visited and documented organic farms from across the country and I definitely believe that organic is the way to go.

So, a few days later in the warmth of his tiled-roof parlour, surrounded by a great variety of potted plants, organic rice growing on one side, ducks waddling up in front, Victor passionately spoke about his collection of old antiques. No not furniture and showpieces but tools of work; bits and pieces each with a history of its own and reminiscent of communities that lived together, worked together and created beautiful pieces of art, not for your showcase but for actual use. Skillfully carved, original, innovative tools used in agriculture, food processing, transport and in various livelihoods that existed before man began using factory made machines and gadgets. “I want to start a museum,” he said “so that people can appreciate these wonderful treasures that today lay gathering dust in old houses and backyards because we do not care to use them anymore.”  That is the kind of dream that in most people’s heads remain dreams. But there was that look in his eye and we knew he was onto something big.

When the museum finally took shape, we were awe struck by the amount of work that had been put in. While the exhibits are delicately touched up and maintained and displayed what touches me most are the stories that Victor has gathered—of practices in communities in villages where people lived and worked, played and danced together; where while they worked to fulfill their needs they also protected the waters, the land, and nature—the good practices.

It makes you wonder what went wrong. How could such wonderful traditions and practices have disappeared? How did we end up instead with meaningless social practices and customs that serve no grand purpose other than to create noise and waste and eat loads of food that give us nothing but indigestion?! And you wonder…what happened to community living? Development, industrialization, convenient lifestyles that confine us to concrete spaces cut off from the natural world on which we survive. Taking care of nature is no longer our job or our business. Today everything can be bought from a store and water comes from taps! And those who make those things work in factories. While those who grow the food and care for the trees, the waters and the animals are fleeced and neglected.

Can the history that Goa Chitra seeks to showcase nudge us into rethinking our priorities, our values, our ethics, and our lifestyles? We need more good stories. So Victor, keep telling them…

In order to promote and showcase sustainable livelihoods Victor has also organized demonstrations and sale of bamboo and clay products. He has also hosted a couple of workshops on organic kitchen gardening and composting presented by Miguel Braganza which I helped organize. Here we sold compost units, books, natural dyed and hand woven clothes, organic fertilizers, reetha for washing clothes etc. sourced from my ecoshop which I opened in Margao soon after the museum took shape. My shop no longer exists but the museum is going strong thanks to a dedicated couple that has braved all the odds.

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Over the last decade, Goa Chitra has seen many get-togethers, many of which I attended, for a variety of activities – book readings, origami, music revival, book releases, discussions, rice harvesting, local sweet making traditions, making and sale of handicrafts. The best thing about these activities was the homely and informal atmosphere, beautiful open space, and home cooked food especially the pumpkin and prawn curry with boiled rice…yum!

To connect with the communities that still live and work together, Victor often takes a group of people/students into the hinterlands to observe and understand their lifestyles firsthand. It is the need to connect with nature; to promote community living, and sustainable lifestyles that I see underlying all of this activity. And I do hope that is the direction things are moving in.


Eulalia Eulalia Alvares D’mello runs an organic farm. She is a lover of books, music, and happy people. She thinks that Nature is our best teacher – and loves beautiful green open spaces, sunshine and rain, clear water, fresh air, and fresh fruit. She strongly believes that we must help each other to be our best selves and that if we are not part of the solution we are part of the problem. Eulalia is currently working through her own personal challenges, and thinks that every experience that life brings, both good and bad, helps us grow and must be savoured and accepted gratefully.

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Posted in By Malavika Neurekar

The Vision

By Malavika Neurekar

“Our education is meant to uplift us from where we come from, not uproot us,” quips Victor Hugo Gomes. The remark is informed by his formulation of the ‘Four Generations’: the first generation that creates a culture out of love and need; the second that reaps the benefits; the third that embraces modernity and abandons the indigenous culture. The fourth generation, to which Victor Hugo believes he belongs, is the one that attempts to reassemble the dismembered pieces of their heritage, to salvage the remains of a lost culture. It is this exact strain of thought that fuelled the grit and the passion that went into the conception of the Goa Chitra, Goa Chakra, and Goa Cruti Museums at Benaulim.

With growth came technology, and with technology came globalisation. While technology has irreversibly transformed modern society’s modes of subsistence and pattern of living, globalisation has led to the creation of a uniform culture built upon the models of development of the West. In this process of this homogenisation of culture, local indigenous cultures have been destroyed and their identities are in shambles. The conglomerate of museums preserve Goan local culture by bringing together the scattered material remains of a by-gone era. Goa Chitra, Chakra and Cruti stand as a testament to Goa’s agrarian past, ancient modes of transport, and colonial influences respectively.

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The museum curator, Victor Hugo Gomes with his wife, Aldina Gomes

The journey of Goa Chitra is inseparably linked with the personal vision and trajectory of Victor Hugo Gomes himself. Everything that he invests his energy and time into is driven by an unwavering desire to recreate the Goa of the good old days – not just within the walls of the museums, but beyond. The Goa of Victor’s imagination harks back to a land untouched by modernity, breathed into life by the stories told by his blind grandmother. These childhood experiences left upon him a lasting impression. Enrapt and consumed with a child-like wonder, he has dedicated his life to reviving the essence of Goan life. Another fundamental belief that shapes his ideology is that a museum is not a dead place. Rather, it is a space that should evoke certain responses, facilitate interaction, and encourage dialogue with the collection housed there. In that, he believes that each artefact housed there contains a unique story of its own. While Goa Chitra has received widespread acclaim and recognition, the untold story behind the establishment of the museum itself has remained unexplored. The grand narrative of the journey of Goa Chitra – rife with struggles, little joys, and anecdotal wisdom – is composed of multiple smaller narratives. By piecing together these isolated stories, told through different voices and different perspectives, Goa Chitra Rewind aims to deliver them to a wider audience.

Posted in Personal Stories

Words From the Heart

By James Stevenson

It was Victor’s energy and enthusiasm that I originally found attractive.  He is a born motivator.  I have had many friends over the years full of great plans and ideas but Victor is perhaps the only one who pursues to completion his visions with the single-minded determination that anyone who knows him has witnessed. Victor built my house here in Goa and it was a bumpy road.  Over several years there were ups and downs. What I can say is that it has turned out very well and is very much the result of our collaboration. Victor has a wonderful open mind and was always willing to negotiate on any matter.  Serious rowdy drunken arguments were forgotten and most important – we are still close friends. Also in a potential minefield of financial misunderstanding we had none.  Victor has a wonderful generosity of spirit that I have benefitted from and witnessed countless times.  I know I can count on him when I need him and he is someone I trust unreservedly.  I have spent many happy hours at Goa Chitra at all kinds of events.  Looking back over the years I wonder what the future holds.  One can be sure it will look nothing like it does now.  A few months can dramatically change it.  Victor’s pace can be exhausting and always there will be new ideas being realized.  I remember a few years ago going around with Victor in Mumbai looking for a Victoria carriage for his museum.  He looked at many and out of them chose the most unlikely- the one covered with marriage paraphernalia and ugly to behold.  He knew what he wanted and had the eye for it.  His negotiations with the owner were masterful. In short, his are the qualities of a collector.  It is impossible to imagine Victor not being successful in his endeavors and I see him going from strength to strength.  I am happy to be a part the Goa Chitra experience.

Posted in Personal Stories

My thoughts

By Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues

One Sunday morning, may be four years back, I got a call from Victor Hugo Gomes, whom I had never met but only heard about. He was the first Curator of the Museum of Christian Art which was originally at the Rachol Seminary in Salcete. He wanted to know a few things about Goa, traditions and customs. And lo… the conversation went on for more than an hour!

Though we were talking over the phone it was easy for me to guess how emotional and attached he was to his pet project, and I confirmed this when I personally met him at the house. Victor had invited me to have lunch on any day of my choice, but preferably on a day when his wife would be at home. Leonel, my husband and I drove to Benaulim and decided to go through the interior roads of Salcete villages to appreciate the beauty of nature. Well, our host was keeping track of us during the journey and guiding us how to reach the house. It was a pleasant surprise when he introduced Aldina, his lovely wife, whom I had met once at the Central Library in Panjim. She had impressed me the very first time, as an excellent professional. She is a clinical psychologist and head of department at the Carmel College’s Psychology department. And I would like to add that Victor got the right companion in her. She has encouraged him in all his endeavors and has bonded so well to achieve, along with him, something that everybody had thought to be difficult if not impossible to create – an ethnographic museum that reflects about Goan culture and ethos. (I can still visualise the day of the official inaugural of the museum. How Aldina got emotional while delivering the vote of thanks and rushed to the house to hide her tears!)

The Lady of the house went all out to impress with quite a few tasty dishes at the table. Victor took us around to show the artifacts he had collected through purchase and some as gifts. He explained how he had put together the house, with material he bought from old houses which were demolished to rebuild new ones. He also explained how he intended to set up the museum where he would place his artifacts and the general organization. Frankly, a few of the pieces he had on show were seen by us for the first time. But, Victor was there to explain its use. At that point of time he had collected the artifacts and was still in the process of organizing the display.

We discussed several books on Goa, and many travellers who left good accounts of the experiences. He bought a couple of those for his library. All the while there were many questions from Victor, who was eager to learn and know about facts. I wondered from where he got the inspiration to set up such a museum and who helped him? Divine Providence? Or his personal acumen coupled with his wife’s unstinted support?  Whatever may be the answer, Victor has built the unthinkable to give us the past in the present!

Posted in Personal Stories

Of Failures and Dreams

By Prajal Sakhardande

Prajal Sakhardande minces no words in his admiration for the Goa Chitra museum and the man behind it. Everything from the establishment of the museum to the struggles of external support, from Goa Chitra’s value for heritage conservation to knowing Victor Hugo Gomes, this week’s personal story is as personal as it gets.


Victor Hugo Gomes is an enigma to me. He is a phenomenon. He is unconventional. He is a Great Goan who has placed Goa on the International map through his great creation, a tribute to our Goan Heritage. My first impression of Victor is of a restless Goan in faded jeans, unconventional looks with a zest to do something for Goa. He believed in carving a unique niche for himself in this huge world. He had stars in his eyes. He seemed to be angry with the system. He dreamt big – he was tracing his roots embedded in Goa’s red soil. Digging the soil to find our agricultural ancestry and thus began his long and chequered tryst with history and heritage. He was fired with a passion: a life long journey into the very evolution of us humans in the beautiful realm called Mother Goa. He established a congenital connect with Mother Goa and Mother Earth. He was angry with the establishment. A cursory perception of Victor we found a sense of negativity had crept in his person but it was on a journey of self introspection and retrospection of his Goenkar Heritage. Things were not right and it hurt him, it hurt his inner soul that our Goan brethren were slowly being divorced from their agricultural farming roots. That we were forgetting our Goan rustic ethos. Our Heritage is great, he often said. He went on a difficult path to find our agricultural heritage from the ancient wooden plough to the modki to the smallest of the agricultural implement used by our forefathers as showcased in the wonder of Goa called Goa Chitra.

Goa Chitra is Victor’s dream baby which he gave birth to with a deep sense of research authenticity detail and meticulousness. He spent his money, time, and energy to create this dream project. Things were far from easy. A struggle had begun where this great Goan left everything at stake. Contacting people and getting them to see his passion to fruition was a challenge and he went through this with singular devotion to create this wonder of heritage. The Government hardly cared as is always the case. His wife Dr. Aldina stood by him through thick and thin in those pressing days of collection of artefacts and implements. Victor Hugo never settles for mediocrity. He is a perfectionist. He does not compromise on quality.

Initially no one took him seriously about his passion. I had invited Victor to be a resource person at my Seminar on Goan Heritage in 2012 and I remember his zestful, passionate discourse on Goan heritage. He finds that the government is least interested in heritage preservation. He has spent all that he had on his life called Goa Chitra and Goa Chakra. He grows his own rice. He grows his own veggies. My students were much inspired by this great personality. I look at Victor Hugo Gomes as an institution. A scholar, a man who dreamt madly and crazily. A man who dared to dare. A man who chose to be a face in the crowd rather than follow the societal norms and conventions. Nobody can tie Victor down. Victor flies and flies high to pursue his dreams. He thinks of Goa Chitra all the time. He breathes, sleeps, and wakes up to the call of Goa Chitra of its growth of our Mother Goa. He is not the run of the mill kind of a man and that’s what I love about Victor. He stands out. He strikes a chord. He is not easy to get along. He is a difficult man, he is straightforward, he knows no hypocrisies. He is a fighter. The establishment of Goa Chitra was not a bed of roses. The man has slogged. I know it. He loves and respects honesty. He does not mince words when he talks. Every minute of this great Goan is important because he does not idle away and waste his time doing the mundane. He never talks for effect. He never butters anyone. Personally to me, he is an inspiration, a Great Goan who makes history every day. He has a serious demeanour. You cannot play with the man. He is a backpacker, he is a traveller, he is forever on a journey of discovery. He is a flower child. He is secular to the core. Religion as an institution does not matter to this great man. He respects the grassroot. He salutes the little enterprise, he salutes the worker, the artist, the craftsman, the tribal. He  believes in them. Victor is constantly engaged in a conversation with himself. He is a student, a child, a person with a quest. He is a study. He is not ordinary. He is cut above the rest. He is a red lotus who has risen on his own steam, because he woke up with a beautiful dream.


prajal

Prajal Sakhardande is a historian, heritage activist, and associate professor and head of the History Department at the Dhempe College of Arts and Science. The President of the Goa Heritage Action Group and Goa’s Movement for Special Status, he also conducts nature trails and heritage walks for students in Goa. Having penned columns for the Navhind Times for fourteen years and authored “Muslim History and Heritage of Goa”, he is currently working on a book titled “Goa Gold, Goa Silver: Her History, Her Heritage.”

Posted in Uncategorized

My Take on Victor Hugo Gomes

By Alexyz

I was always intrigued by his name Victor Hugo. The visions that his parents must have envisioned to christen him after the renowned French author, poet, and playwright Victor Hugo of the 19th century! I am positive they must’ve prayed that some of the Frenchman’s brilliance would rub on their new born.

And so it did…but in a novel way. Benaulim’s Victor Hugo didn’t wander anywhere close to his namesake in France. However, our Goenkar Victor Hugo over the years has been profusely written about, spoken about by authors, by the media and aficionados of ethnography. Of how our Victor Hugo single handedly (the other hand holding the hand of his life line and spouse Aldina) created and brought to life what the Archaeological Survey of India proudly proclaimed as one of the topmost Contemporary Museum in India. Ladies and Gentlemen…the Goa Chitra Museum of Benaulim, Goa.

So how did I, who was born a couple decades before him, come across this passionate young man with a magnificent obsession which showcased his love for music…his other avatar. Mine too.

So my first exciting encounter was when he had brought together Goa’s first musical extravaganza under the roof of the Kala Academy in Panjim. His show inspired me to conceptualize a tabloid size page titled ‘Alexyz Xacuti’ of caricatures of all his foot tapping musical maestros including Victor Hugo himself….which appeared in the Weekender of Gomantak Times of Goa.

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But my most memorable meeting with Victor was my visit to Goa Chitra some years later with my late friend and photo journalist Joel D’Souza. It was truly an out-of-this-world experience to view his Himalayan collection of artifacts. I simply stood in awe. The impact of which has not been erased…as the stories above and below will testify.


ALEXYZ_SAO_JOAO_FOTO.jpgAlezyz is a cartoonist, haing previously worked for newspapers like O Heraldo, Navhind Times, Gomantak Times, and currently creates daily cartoons for Times of India. He has exhibited his works at exhibitions across India and abroad, and has been the recipient the Vincent Xavier Verodiana award. Having relocated to Goa in the mid-70s, he has worked closely with the Dhagar community, founded the Eco Treks organization, and been an integral part of the Sao Jao Tradtional Boat Festival revival. He has also authored two books, ‘Sportoons’ and ‘Howzzatt’.

 

Posted in Personal Stories

The Exception or the Rule?

By Bevinda Collaco

Victor Hugo Gomes should be the rule, rather than the exception

Too many people have called Victor Hugo Gomes crazy. It’s the word you use when you don’t understand why someone decides to undertake a thankless project that in all likelihood will bankrupt him, and still slog at it with single-minded intensity. That’s not crazy. That should be normal.  We need people like Victor to be the rule rather than the exception.

If you look at the three museums he has built up stone by stone, piece by piece, idea by idea – and still continues adding to, honing, polishing, thinking ahead – you realize that is how things are done. You don’t take a dream and dissect it with a calculator to measure return on investment, and cost benefit analysis. You just go with your gut and build that dream.

What does he have in that big ol’ place in Benaulim? He has Goa Chitra, the museum for Goan ethnography. He has Goa Chakra, the museum dedicated to early modes of transport. And now he has Goa Cruti, the museum that shows the elegance of life of a bygone era.

These three museums are his children. Children that he and his lovely wife Aldina, brought to life. Aldina Gomes has been there alongside, shoulder to shoulder with her husband, keeping the three museums growing. And how can we forget Chacha, the carpenter which the magic of restoration in his bones, who would take a rough cart and restore the wood carefully and lovingly until it shone like new. Chacha has since passed away, but he lives on in all those shining carts and artifacts. That is his legacy. He drew out stories from the pieces of history he worked on. Without the magic of Chacha, the museums may not have rolled out so beautifully.

Goa Chitra is a unique 4000-artifact collection and display of traditional farming implements and other ancient tools of trade. What makes it unique is that it is set up against the backdrop of Goa Chitra’s traditional organic farm which is open for live, hands-on experience to students, professionals and anyone else. You can look at the artifacts, observe the fishpond or the farm, do a bit of threshing if you visit during harvest time, feed the animals, attend a concert, a lecture, oh, and have an authentic, mouth-watering Goan meal.

Students from all over the world visit Benaulim for the Goa Chitra experience. Each artifact is supplemented by information that was collected in situ by interviewing the elder members of the community and through the study of its application in daily life. Victor was talking of a mega project of documenting oral testimonies of indigenous peoples, our last fragile links to the past. Even the One Dollar Campaign to support this documentation fascinates.

Victor Hugo has worked meticulously and hard. He has focused on setting up his museums and getting sufficient funds to run them properly. That is not the work of a crazy person. That should be the way each and every one of us makes our dreams come true.  Don’t know how to do that? A visit to the museums at Goa Chitra, Benaulim will show you how it’s done.


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Bevinda Collaco is a media professional, blogger, and commentator on social issues in Goa.

Posted in Branding & Institutionalisation, Personal Stories

From the Horse’s Mouth

The Former Director of State Tourism Elvis Gomes and the President of the Felga Gracias Institute in Rio de Janeiro Luis Gracias give their take on what makes Goa Chitra special.  


By Elvis Gomes

Victor Hugo Gomes has been a known name to us from Salcette since the 80’s. When I was the director of tourism sometime in 2008-09, Victor briefed me about his project and facilitated a visit. My whole old world of having grown into a rural setting came alive when I saw several agricultural and other implements which had gone out of sight with agriculture being allowed to die. I was happy that I could recite the names of many in the local Konkani language with ease. Life then was made less laborious by the wonderful inventions of those times and I wondered why we were so careless about not protecting the rich heritage for our future generations, to get an insight about the lives of the ancestors. The sheer grit, determination, passion and labour with which Victor Hugo was working and the kind of financial stress he must have gone through with absolutely no support from any quarters leave alone the authorities , made me think about doing something about it through the department. The asset that he was creating had the potential to be one of the best things for Goa and needed support. But suddenly the powers that be thought that I had to be out of tourism. I was helpless and couldn’t do much besides giving stray advices whenever sought.

But to still know that Goa Chitra has only grown and has caught a lot of international attention is proof that Victor’s conviction could not be shaken by any adversity. I would wish that all the children in Goa get an opportunity to visit Goa Chitra to see for themselves something that certainly shouldn’t be missed.


By Luis Gracias

In 2015, our Institute was short-listing contenders for the 2015 Felga Gracias Award for Excellence and the Trofeu Dignidade Award for Outstanding achievement to Organisations and Individuals in the area Social Entrepreneurship and Cultural contributions in India. Goa Chitra, the only private museum with such a rich collection showcases our cultural heritage. Indeed, a priceless gift to us all and to the future generations. Victor Hugo’s Goa Chitra creation represents all that was and is Goan and it has created a huge awareness in India and in the International community. The Board of Directors of the Felga-Gracias Institute were very impressed by the work done by this unassuming Goan Artist and his selfless contribution to his homeland, that it was an unanimous decision to present Goa Chitra with all the three Felga-Gracias 2015 awards, The Dignidade Award, the Excellencia no Trabalho Diploma and the Felga- Gracias Medal for outstanding contribution to Art and Culture. Victor Hugo’s achievements have been recognised by us and it is commendable how he strives to carry on the mission to preserve and maintain the Goan heritage and culture, as well as salvage what may have been lost.

There is a message here to all, that this is a man working towards a selfless goal with one single agenda – Goa Chitra! His gift for the people!

Posted in Personal Stories

The ‘Junk’ Collector

By Colin Coelho

Uncouth, rude, untrustworthy, violent, cheater… Everyone in the crowd, everyone we call society, used these ‘expletives’ to describe one man. He was more known as a junk collector, a man who collected tattered pantleo and broken koderam. But the person I knew since school days did not seem to match the description, because he came across to me as creative: the one with a ‘go-getter’ attitude and was ruthless while he moved to achieve this.

It was probably way back in 1984 that I sat on the same bench as Victor Hugo Gomes. In the few days that our class-teacher allowed us to be bench-partners, I learnt a lot about Victor. Was he crazy? Indeed yes. Crazy like there was no tomorrow. Was he kind? Yes. Kind like a human being should be.

Then I met Victor at the then ‘Arlem Festival’. It was the first edition of the festival and I was pleasantly surprised to know that he was the event coordinator. The show at BPS Club, Margao was organized with great pomp. I recall meeting Victor, along with my sister, after the show and offering him a few ideas, which he listened to and took them as good suggestions.

As years went by, we were hardly in touch. But a purchase of a computer from me by Victor put us on the friendship track again. And as I spent time at Victor’s Margao office trying to put together the computer to suit his requirement, I watched as he auditioned an Indian classical music band to perform at some hotels around Goa. His questions were precise and musically probing. What impressed me no end was the way he conducted the session. How he was particular and meticulous in getting to the actual requirement and how he guided the group into getting there.

One morning, I was on my lunch break and made my way to the market. As I strolled around Farmacia Menezes at Margao, I heard my name being called. As I looked up I saw Victor who was all excited and seemed on top of the world. I went across the road to meet him and he had this to say, exhilarating voice hitting an ecstatic pitch: “I’m getting married.” It did not end there, before I could even congratulate him or say something he continued: “I told you I would decide suddenly. These are crazy decisions I make!” Whoever heard of making a ‘crazy’ decision about a marriage? Only Victor can, I later realized. When I asked him who the ‘crazy’ girl is, he told me of a name I knew from a few years ago since she and I had attended a Youth Leadership programme together. Aldina Braganza was no ‘crazy’ girl from what I knew her! But there seemed to be something unique about this match. Unfortunately I could not attend their wedding, but really was happy for them both.

Again Victor and I lost touch. I began my writing on music and Victor was not to be seen much. Later I got to know from the horse’s mouth so to speak, that this lull had Victor plotting and planning, in fact conniving, with Goa’s culture to do something that was not heard of. A few friends told me about how Victor visited their place and wanted to buy all their old things. But will he pay? This was the question that seemed the chorus in town. But building up a collection he did. And there are no more murmurs from around the crowd.

A few years later I met Victor at a restaurant. This was a memorable visit. He came up to me and said bluntly: “Stop writing about music.” I knew Victor as the pioneer of the Great Music Revival concerts held at various venues around Goa. But I never expected a good friend to be so blunt. Of course I did not listen to him and continued on my passion… writing about music and musicians. In one article I remember having the opportunity of giving the ‘devil’ his due. I spoke of how Victor promoted the jazz scene and gave it a high pedestal in Goa and was one of the first to do it. This certainly brought Victor and me close together again. A recognition for each other’s talents and achievements.

Involving myself in writing about some articles on events at Goa Chitra has also been a source of great joy. It was in one interview that the passionate man expressed how he and Aldina decided they would have no kids. He decided he wanted to nurture and allow his creativity in Goa Chitra to bloom. A difficult decision that may be a shocker to many, but a source of joy to them.

The emotion and passion in the man makes him more and more likeable and admirable. Yes he has his flaws. But more importantly he has his strengths – his unrestricted creativity and his indomitable passion.


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Colin Coelho is a columnist and freelance writer. He writes music reviews, previews and profiles for various newspapers, magazines and publications, and is an active member of GOA-YMCA Toastmasters Club.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Past in the Present

By Jose Lourenco

Goa Chitra, according to Radharao Gracias, is a “wonderland where you can see the entire past at a glance.” Jose Lourenco explores this dynamic between the past and the present, which comes into play at Goa Chitra, along with his recollections of Victor Gomes’s advertising days.


Museums preserve the past. The past is dead, is it not? The present is alive and so is tomorrow. But the present too will be dead tomorrow and tomorrow too will perish.

Though Victor had schooled at Loyola’s, the same that I attended, I first met him proper as the owner of DAM Associates (a quirky name with attitude, standing for Design, Advertising and Media), whose office was in the vicinity of an architect friend’s studio in Margao. We had some good times hanging out at DAM, with endless teas and cigarettes at the Milan Hotel café nearby. If a good topic came up over tea, the office work could be DAMned! I cut my teeth on some copywriting for Victor’s ad campaigns. I recall he had designed the Carmel College magazine, and he, our architect friend Raikar and I drove to Belgaum to get the printing done. The thing I remember is that we felt sleepy driving through the night, and got out of the car and slept on a roadside culvert!

The innovative aspect of DAM Associates’ design work was that Victor incorporated interesting concepts in every advertisement or publicity campaign that was produced, at a time when ads were rather staid and matter of fact in style. His clients, of course, appreciated these attractive designs.

Another facet of Victor’s career I respect and admire is his relentless drive to promote live music in those years, back in the nineties. He organised a series of Rediscovery concerts, featuring fabulous sets and live music with very talented musicians. Other ventures followed, Hugo’s Hungry Hill at Nuvem being one. It was a restaurant with décor designed by Victor, close to a go-karting track.

A personal venture, or adventure, that met great success was his meeting and wedding Aldina, an accomplished personality in her own right, who has stood by him through his amazing Goa Chitra saga and many other ideas. I raised the toast for his wedding. One of the things I distinctly recall saying was that I met a lot of my good friends through Victor, including the brilliant artists Theodore Mesquita and John Rodrigues.

Victor is driven by a powerful and obsessive ego that stops at nothing until it achieves completion. This ego, and the rage and occurrences that it often manifests, has naturally earned him a few detractors. There have been times when I have felt tremendous fury against him too, for some reason or the other that time has gracefully blurred.

Many pages and tomes have been and will be written on Goa Chitra, Victor’s flagship museum, but it is the inner artist that always interests me. Surrounded by visitors, friends, patrons and the world at large, I sense that Victor’s is still a very personal journey, fraught with his own dreams, ghosts and demons. Some of his early paintings at the Goa College of Art feature chessboards and gnarled hands. Our lives are indeed chess-fields in the hands of our personal daemons.

His respect for professional workers at all levels could be seen when his museum was inaugurated by the veteran carpenter who worked there and other workers. I know that at some crossroad in his life Victor began spending a lot of money (earned from other works, or begged, borrowed or stolen!), sometimes obscene amounts of hard earned money to buy what seemed like junk. But those decrepit wooden and metal tools and devices were to become the foundation of what is today an internationally respected ethnographical centre.

Victor has a crazy sense of humor. I once had to ‘crash’ with him at a hotel room after some work. When I woke, I blundered around the dawn-lit room looking for my spectacles. After a good half hour of searching, with Victor watching gleefully from under his bedsheet, he rubbed his eyes, sat up and requested me to pour him a glass of water. And it was in that steel jug of water that I found my glasses, surreptitiously dropped there when I was fast asleep!

Museums preserve the past, the dead. So we would think. But when you see the men, women and children walk around the exhibits at Goa Chitra and the Chakra museum, and you see their eyes light up as they animatedly discuss the uses of the objects there, you know that the past is alive and kicking in their hearts, and possibly driving their tomorrows. As the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard says, ‘Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards’. A great gratitude is owed to Victor Hugo Gomes for the magnificent manifestation of this wisdom.


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José Lourenço is a Margao-based civil engineer with a passion for the arts. He is the author of ‘The Parish Churches of Goa – A Study of Façade Architecture’, ‘Amazing Goa Information Cards’ and ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Ancient Goa’- an illustrated collection of Konkani proverbs.

Posted in Personal Stories

A ‘Courlorful’ Personality – Victor Hugo Gomes

By Joseph Dias

When Victor introduced me to the Goa Chitra Blog, I was immediately compelled to write to readers about my experiences which are closely entwined with Goa Chitra and the man behind the collection.

I first knew Victor in my Alma Mater, Loyola High School in Margao. He was fondly known by all as ‘Pisso Bhatkar’ (Mad Landlord) and went about school life fearlessly, always challenging the norms and his peers with passionate guile and exuberance. Whilst I was studying for an architectural degree, Victor was pursuing an art education in the Goa College of Art and we met rather infrequently. I remember one of such times was during an art exhibition he and some colleagues of his, put up in Margao, called ‘Synchronicity’. Being known to some of the artists associated with Victor, I volunteered to help them out and I hung out with the group: eating, drinking and sleeping with a bunch of mad artists who saw colourful dreams and listened to Zappa tracks when I didn’t even know that kind of music existed! It was a crazy and memorable time.

Art work by Joseoh Dias

After graduation however, Victor went completely off my radar, only to reappear just a few years ago on my Facebook page – Jodi’s art. He had been secretly admiring my cartoons and illustrations on Goa until one fine day he decided to comment … and we reconnected! Previously, on vacation in Goa, I visited Goa Chitra unbeknownst to the fact that it was Victor’s passionate project. I was taken through the museum, which consisted of several ‘houses’ within a large gated compound, marveling at the collection and wishing for it to rise to the renown of European Museums I had visited before. It was only during my third visit to Goa and to the museum, that Victor and I were able to spend productive time together. We discussed varied subjects related to Goa and the projects (both Architectural and ethnographic) we could undertake together. To broaden my understanding of the kind of work he engaged with, Victor took me to some of the Portuguese mansions he had restored himself. I was stupefied at what he was able to accomplish with the old houses as well as new houses built for foreigners in the Goan architectural vocabulary. We visited other prospective projects and shared views on areas that catered to our mutual interest and desire for collaboration.

Victor is crazily in love with Goa and all things Goan. He works hard throughout the day to improve the museum with whatever funds he can gather, both personal as well as from the small fee he collects from visitors at the museum. Personally, I have great respect for Victor and his endeavours and I look forward to helping him in whatever way I can ­although, the distance and my sporadic trips to Goa make it a little difficult to keep my involvement consistent. I wish Victor all the very best on his inspiring journey.


joseph c dias.jpgJoseph Canisius Dias is an Architect by profession who has worked on several iconic projects in Dubai like the Emirates Towers, National Bank of Dubai and Shangri­ La Hotel. He is also a writer (“Dona Paula”, “The Magical Bone Flute”), musician (Flute, Sax), Cartoonist/Illustrator, and a storyteller. His Facebook page, ‘Jodi’s Art’ is well-known among Goans all over the world for its funny and informative posts. He partners a publishing firm and bookstore (Word Ventures, Margao) with his brother. Jodi’s Comic Art Gallery in Margao is his latest venture with a few more in the pipeline.

Posted in Personal Stories

Musings on the Museum

By Nirmal Kulkarni

I am a conservation scientist. A herpetologist. Not a writer. I do not write about people. But there are some people in one’s life that belong to a vein that is special…people whom I do not have the spirit to say no to. Victor and Aldina belong there. Hence this note.

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I do not remember how and when, and through whom I met Victor Hugo Gomes. As a field researcher, selective memory loss of all things unnecessary and mundane is now become a compulsive habit. I do distinctly remember two or three things mentioned about Victor by some soul – that he is an alumni of the Goa College of Art, was instrumental in founding the Museum of Christian Art at Old Goa, and calls a spade a spade. A heady concoction and familiar one that was and hence we did connect from our first meeting and continue to do so till date.

And then there was this rumor that Victor had banned foreign nationals from Goa Chitra for a year since he wanted Goans to first come and see their own heritage. It did reach me too and I admit it compelled me to visit Goa Chitra sooner than I intended too.

However, I never did cross check with him about these tales or others that I subsequently heard and overheard. Not even once. Our conversations always revolved around snakes and the humble Goan way of life.

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My own parallel work as a conservation scientist and an artist is seeking to make historical information, often lost or displaced, physically present. To meet this objective I tend to elaborate on memories…of the found being, image, object, and text, and ensure that these are as close to the factual past. It is then that I visit Goa Chitra. It is my sounding board.

And then, Goa Chitra museum, to me, is also a second litmus paper test for choosing pals. Victor himself might not know of it, but everyone whom I feel I should include in my close circle of friends must do two things first: (1) walk the Western Ghats of Goa with me at dawn or dusk, and (2) Visit Goa Chitra. Feedback from them on these two aspects determines the outcome.

I respond to reptile related emergencies at Goa Chitra. With cool shaded tree canopies and an organic farm, Goa Chitra has had its share of human- snake interactions. And yet, Victor and Aldina are amongst the very few I know in Goa who have been tolerant about their ophidian neighbours despite of fatal accidents to their loved pets. Their commitment and love for animals equals to that, if not more for heritage, and I am sure very few know of this.

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Often drawn 
to people, things, and places
 that are stranded, outmoded, or otherwise sidelined, Victor constantly attempts to, consciously or unconsciously, archive tangible and non-tangible memories – of places and things that are Goan (as well as Indian now, in case of Goa Chakra).

For some, such work often appears tendentious, even preposterous. Indeed the will to instinctively connect and compulsively collect can be termed bordering something akin to a hint of paranoia. Victor has been doing it for decades now. In a systematic self motivated manner that is at time inspirational to some, irrational to many.

An iconic writer and thinker had once mentioned it to me and I think it sums it up what Victor is doing and has further set out to do. He said in Marathi “Vedi manase itihaas kartat, ani tya itihaasacha guun matra shahani manase gaatat” (Insane people create history and that history is then sung in rich glory by sane people).  With Goa Chitra and Goa Chakra, Victor Hugo Gomes has insanely created history by conserving it in its true element. With Goa Cruti, he has gone a step ahead and recreated a chronicle of past professions for us to perceive and appreciate.

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While Goa Chitra has stimulated and laid the foundation stones for many a private collection, museum and studies including my own, in the state and across the globe, it is Victor’s persistent and untiring passion that draws people like me to Goa Chitra.

For me, every trip to Goa Chitra is a journey of sorts …of my own memories, my notes from the past, both physical and mental, those that connect me to objects on display there. With Assavri my wife who has captured a slice of that essence called ‘Goa Chitra’ on several occasions through her camera, this is our umbilical cord to keep in touch with a bygone Goa that is today sorely missed.

I dine at Goa Chitra almost every time I visit the place. Organic rice from their farm. Sannas and sorpotel, prawn curry, etc. I eat at Goa Chitra amidst many tales and those times are some of the best ones spent with Victor and Aldina. If an opportunity arises please do dine at Goa Chitra – it’s a fulfilling experience.

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I sincerely feel that Victor needs to publish his thoughts and his articles. His dreams and his images and catalogues. This is the need of the hour for our generation of Goans and the several generations to come. As Goa Chitra evolves into a melting pot of all things Goan and heritage, it is an earnest appeal that Victor should find time and contemplation to put together his large body of heritage work on paper.


Nirmal.jpgNirmal Kulkarni defines himself as an “eco-warrior”. He began as a snake handler and nature photographer, and has since matured into a herpetologist with unrivalled knowledge and accolades.  Having several discoveries in the Western Ghats credited to his name, he has been the recipient of Sarpamitra award by Indian Herpetological Society, the Carl Zeiss award for conservation, the prestigious Karmaveer Award for wildlife conservation, and recently the Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Service “Wind under Wings’ 2014, amongst others. He has headed the Mhadei Research Centre, and authored a book titled ‘The Goan Jungle Book” which is aimed at educating students in particular and the Goan populace in general about Goa’s lesser known wildlife.