By Pushpanjali Sharma
Earlier this year, in May, Goa Chitra hosted the first one-of-its kind dance installation Apnnavop conceptualised by Pushpanjali Sharma and Gautam Nima. Pushpanjali, in this heartfelt piece, covers a variety of topics – the curators, the museum collection, the financial struggle. The most striking part of the essay, however, is how she intertwines her own personal journey – of reconnecting and re-remembering – with her discovery of and interaction with Goa Chitra.
A few months ago, when we toyed around a decision to settle down in the land upon which I first opened my eyes to the world, Goa, I wondered where I would find a space for my artistic work-inquiry-voice. My best friend Elaine Barreto had mentioned that we visit Goa Chitra, and that we meet Victor and Aldina Gomes, and that something may open up. Destiny, however, had its own plans of how this meeting was to happen.
It was a Saturday evening, and a play named “Is God a Taoist?” was being showcased at Carpe Diem, Majorda. Not only was I curious to see a Goan Theatre group tackle complex existential questions, but I was also curious to see who else would come to watch.
While we waited for the play to setup, we sat at a table across the two faces of a couple that were going to become our special friends, or rather our adopted parents. The gentleman with his silver hair tied into a pony, was direct and enthusiastic. Within a couple of minutes of our meeting with him, we fell into a conversation that took a very quick turn into an interview of sorts. The lady with her warm smiling eyes, and a hand that was full of silver bangles, inquired into the nature of our work gently. Before we knew it, we were told that there was space for what we wanted to do at Goa Chitra, and that we should come see them there. Did he say “Goa Chitra”? Was he the same “Victor Gomes”? What a way to meet!
The first time we went to Goa Chitra, I was overwhelmed with the collection, and even more touched by the stories behind how they were procured, or rather rescued, by the curator Victor Gomes. As Victor narrated one story after the other, the only thing I could think of is I hope I am able to remember all that he is saying, but what if I forget…a sinking feeling crept inside…one that knows the ways of the world and has seen so often that truthful work done sans personal or economic agendas is mostly unsupported and unrecognized by the people of the land. Goa Chitra too was running the same risk. Here was an artist/collector who was the epitome of integrity, every object meant something to him enough to light his eyes. He must have shown his collection to many, yet every time he himself gives a personal tour, he is able to generate an enthusiasm as though he has just come upon the object. “Someone needs to write a book about the story of this place, or perhaps there needs to be a blog,” I said out loud as the sinking feeling gnawed at me. Something was different here. Victor didn’t collect to make a museum, the museum came into being because Victor collected. He would have collected anyway. Victor sees value in what has been and continues to be so mercilessly discarded, thrown out and burnt in fires; thoughtlessly forgotten by our colonized-industrialized-urbanized minds. Victor also values art, concepts, and inquiry that might be considered “ahead of their time.” Goa Chitra has not only existed as a museum but it also is a space for learning and exploring artistic and cultural activities, a venue for performances and a center for dialogue and discussion around arts and culture of our beloved Goa.
As a young artist who has recently returned to her hometown from the United States, after completion of post-graduate studies in performing arts, somatics and contemplative studies, Goa Chitra was an ideal place to begin – to research, to reconnect. Victor and Aldina, were open, generous and supportive, and most importantly respectful to the artistic exploration of young minds. They made space for the raw, organic, experimental and indefinable nature of the 7-day performance of “Apnnavop” – an improvised movement/dance installation developed and performed by Gautam Nima and myself, which also incorporated improvised music and vocalization, dialogue, poetry, writing and audience interaction. It was my way of reconnecting to my roots, allowing my movement and dance to fondly reminisce and remember all that I associate with my Goan Heritage – the stories, the catholic prayers-psalms, the Portuguese and Goan litany songs of worship, colloquial expressions of appreciation as well as dismissal/disapproval, bath next to the well, the grinding of the coconut and red chillies on the black stone, building castles on the beach, the smell of mangoes and jackfruits, sol curry and most importantly the sense of restfulness and wholeness that comes from a time well lived and experienced without agendas of productivity and compliance to the rat race. I also critically questioned the tendency of culture to box, to blindly replicate, to be unaccommodative towards the new, the unknown, the understood. Goa Chitra allowed the space for this honest inquiry through an unconventional method of research through dance. It was beautiful how a space that is home to the old also has room for the new.
Goa Chitra has been birthed through its two parents Victor and Aldina, who consciously decided to create this museum for the Children of Goa, instead of having a child of their own. While most of us strive to build posh homes that are furnished and decorated with items that show “status” and “place,” this couple despite being able to live a life of luxury, has deliberately chosen to live simply in a room above the museum instead. They have put everything into the museum, into creating optimal facilities for the preservation and conservation of our Goan Heritage. It is a pity that it is a museum that has been created with personal funds and has not enjoyed financial support or deserved recognition from the state government. The lack of investment from the state government stands as a mirror that showcases detachment and disassociation from roots. In the face of this depravity and decadence of the cultural ancestry and with it the wisdom of our elders, due to gross negligence of the misguided generations, Goa Chitra stands an emblem of hope. I am in awe of the initiative taken by the young intern from Goa, Malavika Neurekar at Goa Chitra, to start this blog and ensure that the story is told. When a young mind is self-motivated to use her skills to create awareness, this is a sign of successful application of education to serve the community. I applaud her effort, perhaps more children of the soil will rise in a similar way.
The museum of Goa Chitra is a tribute to the hands that have crafted the various artifacts preserved in the museum. Goa Chitra is the result of unfailing love for one’s homeland and immeasurable sacrifice of its makers – Victor and Aldina Gomes for the children of tomorrow. This blog is testimony to all that.
Pushpanjali Sharma is a performing artist and research-scholar in Somatic Education and Transformative Creative Practice. She graduated with a Master’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a specialisation in Embodied Studies from Lesley University, Cambridge. She has trained in several dance forms, including ballet, modern, and contemporary dance.