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The Past in the Present

By Jose Lourenco

Goa Chitra, according to Radharao Gracias, is a “wonderland where you can see the entire past at a glance.” Jose Lourenco explores this dynamic between the past and the present, which comes into play at Goa Chitra, along with his recollections of Victor Gomes’s advertising days.

Museums preserve the past. The past is dead, is it not? The present is alive and so is tomorrow. But the present too will be dead tomorrow and tomorrow too will perish.

Though Victor had schooled at Loyola’s, the same that I attended, I first met him proper as the owner of DAM Associates (a quirky name with attitude, standing for Design, Advertising and Media), whose office was in the vicinity of an architect friend’s studio in Margao. We had some good times hanging out at DAM, with endless teas and cigarettes at the Milan Hotel café nearby. If a good topic came up over tea, the office work could be DAMned! I cut my teeth on some copywriting for Victor’s ad campaigns. I recall he had designed the Carmel College magazine, and he, our architect friend Raikar and I drove to Belgaum to get the printing done. The thing I remember is that we felt sleepy driving through the night, and got out of the car and slept on a roadside culvert!

The innovative aspect of DAM Associates’ design work was that Victor incorporated interesting concepts in every advertisement or publicity campaign that was produced, at a time when ads were rather staid and matter of fact in style. His clients, of course, appreciated these attractive designs.

Another facet of Victor’s career I respect and admire is his relentless drive to promote live music in those years, back in the nineties. He organised a series of Rediscovery concerts, featuring fabulous sets and live music with very talented musicians. Other ventures followed, Hugo’s Hungry Hill at Nuvem being one. It was a restaurant with décor designed by Victor, close to a go-karting track.

A personal venture, or adventure, that met great success was his meeting and wedding Aldina, an accomplished personality in her own right, who has stood by him through his amazing Goa Chitra saga and many other ideas. I raised the toast for his wedding. One of the things I distinctly recall saying was that I met a lot of my good friends through Victor, including the brilliant artists Theodore Mesquita and John Rodrigues.

Victor is driven by a powerful and obsessive ego that stops at nothing until it achieves completion. This ego, and the rage and occurrences that it often manifests, has naturally earned him a few detractors. There have been times when I have felt tremendous fury against him too, for some reason or the other that time has gracefully blurred.

Many pages and tomes have been and will be written on Goa Chitra, Victor’s flagship museum, but it is the inner artist that always interests me. Surrounded by visitors, friends, patrons and the world at large, I sense that Victor’s is still a very personal journey, fraught with his own dreams, ghosts and demons. Some of his early paintings at the Goa College of Art feature chessboards and gnarled hands. Our lives are indeed chess-fields in the hands of our personal daemons.

His respect for professional workers at all levels could be seen when his museum was inaugurated by the veteran carpenter who worked there and other workers. I know that at some crossroad in his life Victor began spending a lot of money (earned from other works, or begged, borrowed or stolen!), sometimes obscene amounts of hard earned money to buy what seemed like junk. But those decrepit wooden and metal tools and devices were to become the foundation of what is today an internationally respected ethnographical centre.

Victor has a crazy sense of humor. I once had to ‘crash’ with him at a hotel room after some work. When I woke, I blundered around the dawn-lit room looking for my spectacles. After a good half hour of searching, with Victor watching gleefully from under his bedsheet, he rubbed his eyes, sat up and requested me to pour him a glass of water. And it was in that steel jug of water that I found my glasses, surreptitiously dropped there when I was fast asleep!

Museums preserve the past, the dead. So we would think. But when you see the men, women and children walk around the exhibits at Goa Chitra and the Chakra museum, and you see their eyes light up as they animatedly discuss the uses of the objects there, you know that the past is alive and kicking in their hearts, and possibly driving their tomorrows. As the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard says, ‘Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards’. A great gratitude is owed to Victor Hugo Gomes for the magnificent manifestation of this wisdom.

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José Lourenço is a Margao-based civil engineer with a passion for the arts. He is the author of ‘The Parish Churches of Goa – A Study of Façade Architecture’, ‘Amazing Goa Information Cards’ and ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Ancient Goa’- an illustrated collection of Konkani proverbs.


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