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.”