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.
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.
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.