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.
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.
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.
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.