By Greg Johnson
In last week’s article, Pushpanjali Sharma, with regard to Goa Chitra, aptly pointed out “how a space that is home to the old also has room for the new.” An important objective of the Goa Chitra project – apart from the preservation and archiving of tangible and intangible heritage – has been to create a centre for cultural activities. By hosting various events revolving around, but not limited to, fine arts & crafts, literature, music, and dance, Goa Chitra has sought to enable dialogue, discussion, and a flow of ideas between individuals. Greg Johnson sheds some light upon the many events held within the walls of Goa Chitra, which has transformed Goa Chitra into more than just a museum.
“This is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end but is perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
A quote from one of the world’s great Imperialists, Winston Churchill. It may not everyone’s cup of tea but many of his strengths resemble Victor’s: independent, rebellious, honest, decisive, persistent, single-minded, and a little mad. I also believe the quotation sums up Victor and Goa Chitra.
As a firangi, I want to look at Goa Chitra from a slightly different angle, particularly as the comments on the museum in its various avatars and stages are well documented. My wife and I arrived in the state in 2007/2008, neatly timed with the formal birth of Goa Chitra. We see Goa Chitra not just as a museum but more importantly as one significant centre of Goan life.
We have the museum, critical in its role as a mirror into the past and as a preserver of history and culture but we also have the ability to pull people in, act as a meeting place, be a centre for the culture of the future. Culture is not just about looking back – cultures have changed constantly throughout history. The times past that some hanker for are the same eras that their forefathers hated and looked wistfully rearwards again.
Victor has worked hard to ensure that the museum is not just that, but that it retains a living identity. The sheer variety of events over quite a short time (that I know about) is quite surprising. Musically we have listened to and seen such a wide range of performances moving from traditional Goan music, though Indian classical music, to Indian and Konkani contemporary music. On the Occidental side we have had as many diverging styles, jazz, blues, pop, classical and opera. People have listened reverently at times, at other times danced with a certain abandon, and talked (and we’ve also seen Roy from Coronation Street, Britain’s longest running soap).
Arts and Literature-wise we have had numerous readings and launches from the serious to the cartoon, adult literature and children’s books, formal seating, causal walk about and not forgetting Aldina’s book club. There have been dance performances and always people meeting and communicating. There have been panel discussions on matters of local interest, we have had the occasional political commentator espousing their personal strengths and actions, there have been cultural award nights and events to recognise International Women’s Day and there have been film nights ranging from the intellectual to the entertaining
Reverting to the future word Victor has been keen on ensuring the next generation are exposed to other skills than “thumbing the mob” or “wrestling the tab” with children’s sessions on mosaics, textiles, weaving, and printing. For the adults, I particularly remember one feni making demonstration… I think I remember.
On a personal note I am grateful to Victor for twice hosting part of our Goan Cultural Extravaganza weekend, attendees so pleasantly surprised by the surroundings and the museum not to mention the home cooked food. Furthermore, Sylvia and I have made many good Goan friends from our times at Goa Chitra including, of course, Victor and Aldina.
Greg Johnson has been in India for around 20 years working as a Chartered Insurer in the risk and insurance industry in Delhi and Mumbai before relocating to Goa some years back. Both he and his wife are keen on the arts/music and the true Goan culture, rarely visiting the beach.