Posted in Branding & Institutionalisation, By Malavika Neurekar

On Museology in India

The curators tryst with the world of museology, the loss of intangible culture, and why museums in India need reform.

By Malavika Neurekar

Victor Hugo Gomes’s tryst with the world of museums dates far back to 1992 when he gave up his Lalitkala Academy Scholarship in Lucknow to return to Goa and assist in setting up the Christian Art Museum. He worked with unfazed dedication and determination during the short span of time he spent on the project. With Goa Chitra, when he established his own brand, the international acclaim he received was almost immediate. In 2009 itself, 18 European Museums extended recognition to Goa Chitra and Victor was invited to the University of Lisbon to exhibit a part of Goa Chitra’s collection of costumes and jewellery. In 2014, he was selected by the British Council to carry out the extensive task of mapping museums in Western India. His exposure to and familiarity with museums has led him to believe that museums and the study of museums in India needs urgent reform. In most European museums, it is crucial to build and document the narrative behind each artefact. This is necessitated by the fact that the objects in European museums are acquired from other cultures. “Here, we already have the objects,” Victor says, and one can hear the desperation in his voice. “Private efforts need to be encouraged. When we place objects of historical value in the hands of the government, we deprive researchers by restricting their access.” According to him, museums in India are failing because they are headed by bureaucrats rather than graduates of museology.

His desire to preserve the past is not merely restricted to the material culture and physical objects, but also includes the way of life – what he calls “intangible culture.” Take for instance, Alexander Barbosa’s recollection of Victor’s reaction to the kashti or Charudatta Prabhudesai’s memory of Victor’s affinity to Konkani songs. He believes that while museums hold the physical objects for posterity, the intangible knowledge is slipping away from our hands. Victor’s concept of intangible heritage also refers to wisdom – the kind that comes only from intimate knowledge of the tools and the lifestyle that Victor Gomes wants to preserve. As an example, Victor talks about the wheel traditionally used for farming in sandy terrain and desert areas, which are supposed to be smaller and thicker to suit the soil. The wheels used nowadays have a broad base and made from discarded rubber aircraft wheels with ball bearings, because people are adopting North Indian practices mindlessly, failing to recognise the differences of the agricultural terrains between these regions.

Victor’s vision does not call for a complete reversal to the past, nor is it a disillusioned idealised sense of history. His mission is for us, as a society, to move forward while at the same time finding an efficient and relevant way to use the past to shape our future. His mission is to utilise the wisdom that this land was built and nurtured upon; the wisdom that comes from instinct and understanding rather than books. It is the impalpable culture, floating all around us, waiting to be realised.

Posted in Branding & Institutionalisation

First Impressions and Future Directions

By Madhavan Pillai

Last week’s piece posed the perplexing question – “After Victor, Who?” Madhavan Pillai, echoing this concern, talks about his first (and second) impression of the museum, how it propelled his own career, and the need to forge Goa Chitra’s legacy.


In January 2014, along With Victor I had organised India’s first Photography Conservation symposium and series of workshops both in Mumbai and in Goa. As an artist and founder of Goa Centre for Alternative Photography fondly called as Goa-CAP, I used to meet Victor at most of the social gatherings such as exhibition openings or literature functions. Our conversations were usually spun around the art and culture of Goa. I knew about his passion for Goan culture but only started understanding his vision during our Residency programme, when I had accompanied the residents at our centre to visit ‘Goa Chitra’. I was a bit confused at the outset, the very first time I saw Goa Chitra; I was escorted around the museum by one of Victor’s colleague as he was not available at that time. Victor’s colleague had introduced us to the museum and explained about various materials kept in the museum, I was quite unimpressed since most of it was not new to me; I had observed similar objects in most museums. At the same time, however, I could not understand Victor’s pain in collecting these objects, which gave Goa Chitra the look of a science museum with curated junk around. This perception was thankfully short-lived and changed completely during my second visit, when Victor himself took me around the museum. The objects presented did not merely came across as run of the mill objects, but were a slice of Victor; each of them having a story behind being presented at Goa Chitra. The objects are not chronicled based on their age or occurrence but in the order of love and passion which is very personal to Victor’s thoughts.

Two things for which I greatly appreciate Victor is the range of historical collection presented at Goa Chitra and second and most important the commitment towards preservation and conservation of these objects. If it is not from someone who has deep commitment, passion and immense courage to undertake this endeavour, it is virtually impossible to set up and successfully run a museum, consistently for so many years. The one big concern, I have always nurtured with regards to Goa Chitra, is about its legacy after Victor; there is no second line of command. I was fortunate to learn about Goa Chitra during my second visit, something which I had completely missed during the first time. I think about the tourists who didn’t have the opportunity to know about Goa Chitra from the horse’s mouth. I think they too went back confused, just the way I did. Goa Chitra has to find and groom Victor’s next gen to take the legacy and commitment to the next level. At this point, I also feel elated to submit that I started looking at photography preservation and conservation seriously only after my thoughtful interactions with Victor. This had also motivated me to initiate India’s first photo restoration symposium, which were followed by series of workshop in Mumbai and in Goa. I will always admire the passion and commitment that Victor Hugo Gomes has, working with historical materials, their preservation and conservation.


Madhavan.jpgMadhavan Pillai is the Executive Director and founder of Asia Photography Archive (APA), a not-for-profit pioneering initiative to preserve the photographic heritage of India and Asia; founder of Goa Center for Alternative photography (Goa-CAP); and Photography Consultant to CSMVS Museum Art Conservation Centre, Mumbai. Madhavan has worked as a documentary photographer, and travelled across India documenting the mining industry, its intrusion in the environment, and its effects on tribals’ lives and their culture.

Posted in Collection

A Huge Collection of Firewood

By Pantaleao Fernandes

Though victor and I shared the same village, parish and school and bumped into one another often, the acquaintance ended there. The only time our paths crossed was when he designed my visiting card as the proprietor of a design and advertising firm. However, one fine day, my good friend Advocate Radharao Gracias told me that my ‘gaum bhav’ was setting up something interesting in the village and advised me to pay him a visit. But that did not ignite any interest in me until Victor called me up one day and invited me on a ‘tour guided by him around his museum’. Victor had been following my ethnographic articles in the Gomantak Times, covering rare and dying occupations of Goa. He knew therefore that I would lend him a keen ear and eye. When I landed at his place, I greeted him with a pinch of salt. I knew of his flamboyant ways and didn’t know what to expect. But then as I stepped into his premises I was dumbfounded. His passion as he narrated his story had my attention one hundred percent. As my host guided me around the exhibition area that was designed around the exhibits, contrasting emotions began surfacing from my being. Feelings of happiness and sadness tried to emerge simultaneously. Anger and a sense of peace fought each other. Outrage and satisfaction tried to reign within.

The ethnographic pieces which I encountered in the field, captured on my camera, wrote about and dumped unceremoniously were all here – picked carefully, loved affectionately and displayed tenderly. Where my quest ended, Victor’s began! As I explored the next section and encountered household grinders and other utility items, I was glad to have preserved mine, in spite of having demolished the house. But then I was also filled with deep regret for having discarded endless budkule and bhana, lamps and other treasures…either for want of space or lacking the passion and resources to restore. The tramps that roamed the villages of Goa with glittering plastics and ferreted out rare antique treasures of Goa filled me with rage! Fortunately here was an antidote, someone who bought, borrowed or humbly begged to be given a chance to restore dignity and honour to bits and pieces of history that were shredded and torn. And rescue some priceless treasures like the door of the baptismal font of the church of St. John the Baptist, which witnessed the baptism of St Joseph Vas, and fix it at the museum chapel door. The tellacho ghano, as narrated by victor was restored from complete incomprehensible scrap. I had never before seen a ghano before though later I stumbled upon some working ones in a remote hamlet of Agonda. The sugarcane juicer was another contraption that excited me and search as I might; I have not found one in Goa. In the neighbouring states, I am told, they are still in operation.

As we savoured the collection Victor suddenly commented that he simply collected firewood. Though I did not pay much attention to that phrase then, that these treasures were indeed considered as firewood by the vast majority of Goans and discarded with complete indifference, struck me later. But then firewood is also sacred to Goa – as it helps escort the departed to their heavenly abode.  And in a sense Victor did just that. Escorted the dead or dying treasures of Goa and placed them in a temple with dignity and honour. And that temple he called Goa Chitra!


pantaleao fernandes .jpgPantaleão Fernandes is a Goa-based writer, photographer, and ethnographer. Passionate about Goa and her vibrant culture, he spends most of his time exploring villages in the deep hinterlands, to experience firsthand the warm spirit and culture of the villagers and document these experiences. These excursions brought about his earlier books, “100 Goan Experiences”, “Goa Remembered” and a children’s book “Once Upon a Time in Goa”. His latest ethnographic book, “Traditional Occupations of Goa” is a rich documentation of the ancient crafts of Goa — a significant part of her intangible culture and heritage. Currently he scours the Goan villages, for hidden cultural stories which he tells with his documentary films entitled “Untold stories from Goa”.

 

Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Collection

In Conversation with Mr. Rafael Viegas

By Malavika Neurekar

A large number of stories posted previously have focused on the collection at Goa Chitra, whether it is was regarding visitors’ interaction with the display or the process of acquiring an individual object. The reason that ‘collection and documentation’ has been such a highly emphasized aspect of Goa Chitra Rewind has a lot to do with the number of people involved in the process. In spite of his early inclinations, building the collection was not the curator’s solo journey. All over Goa, he enlisted the help of those who could besthelp out in specific areas. Searching and collecting in the Ponda Taluka, Victor teamed up with Mr. Kanta Gawde; on his trips to Canacona, Mr. Mahendra Phaldesai provided his expertise; in Sanguem, he was accompanied by Mr. Maurice Murray; and in Pernem by Adv. Andre Pereira. Similarly, much of the Chitra collection is credited to one such man – Mr. Rafael Viegas.

Rafael Viegas and Victor Hugo Gomes are distant relatives, but they only really got acquainted with each other when Victor reached out for help with the research and documentation for Goa Chitra. Viegas belongs to that breed of Goans who saw, felt, lived the Goa that Victor so often reminisces about. Victor, who holds Rafael Viegas in high regard, believes him to be one of the last few of an exalted generation.

Mr. Rafael Viegas was born in Portuguese Goa in a family of bhatkars (landlords), who used to cultivate the land directly with the help of the agricultural labour. His father pursued journalism and against the backdrop of the imminent India takeover, Rafael steered himself in the direction of the Civil Services. With members of the family moving out of the agriculture profession, the land was eventually taken over by tenants. All the implements that were previously employed were now set aside, no longer of any practical use. When Victor realised that Viegas possessed many of the objects required for the museum, he opened up about his vision of opening Goa Chitra. Rafael donated to Goa Chitra several implements – such as the handdo or the wooden harrow.

Visiting Rafael Viegas in his traditionally Goan home and conversing with him over tea, I recognise a common streak between him and Victor Hugo Gomes. He has copies of Illustrated Weekly dating as far back as the 1960s, all stacked neatly in chronological order. He talks animatedly about the ceramic plates that now adorn the walls, and the antique coffee table in his living room, and the value we attach to ‘old’ things. Another impressive feature is his bookcase, crammed with books in Portuguese and English. I am told that at the end of every monsoon, all these books are laid out in the sun by Rafael and his wife in order to air them out. The common streak between the two men is this tendency – be it out of habit or as a conscious decision – to preserve, to hold on. He believes that the younger generation needs to develop the “vein” to be sensitive towards culture, tackling it with care and retaining the favourable aspects. Towards the end of our conversation, he echoes a concern previously voiced by several others. Parodying a common slogan of the 1960s India, he asks rhetorically “after Victor, Who?” What is the future of Goa Chitra? One hopes that the answer to this question, when it arrives, will be carefully considered and timely.

Posted in Personal Stories

Words From the Heart

By James Stevenson

It was Victor’s energy and enthusiasm that I originally found attractive.  He is a born motivator.  I have had many friends over the years full of great plans and ideas but Victor is perhaps the only one who pursues to completion his visions with the single-minded determination that anyone who knows him has witnessed. Victor built my house here in Goa and it was a bumpy road.  Over several years there were ups and downs. What I can say is that it has turned out very well and is very much the result of our collaboration. Victor has a wonderful open mind and was always willing to negotiate on any matter.  Serious rowdy drunken arguments were forgotten and most important – we are still close friends. Also in a potential minefield of financial misunderstanding we had none.  Victor has a wonderful generosity of spirit that I have benefitted from and witnessed countless times.  I know I can count on him when I need him and he is someone I trust unreservedly.  I have spent many happy hours at Goa Chitra at all kinds of events.  Looking back over the years I wonder what the future holds.  One can be sure it will look nothing like it does now.  A few months can dramatically change it.  Victor’s pace can be exhausting and always there will be new ideas being realized.  I remember a few years ago going around with Victor in Mumbai looking for a Victoria carriage for his museum.  He looked at many and out of them chose the most unlikely- the one covered with marriage paraphernalia and ugly to behold.  He knew what he wanted and had the eye for it.  His negotiations with the owner were masterful. In short, his are the qualities of a collector.  It is impossible to imagine Victor not being successful in his endeavors and I see him going from strength to strength.  I am happy to be a part the Goa Chitra experience.

Posted in Personal Stories

My thoughts

By Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues

One Sunday morning, may be four years back, I got a call from Victor Hugo Gomes, whom I had never met but only heard about. He was the first Curator of the Museum of Christian Art which was originally at the Rachol Seminary in Salcete. He wanted to know a few things about Goa, traditions and customs. And lo… the conversation went on for more than an hour!

Though we were talking over the phone it was easy for me to guess how emotional and attached he was to his pet project, and I confirmed this when I personally met him at the house. Victor had invited me to have lunch on any day of my choice, but preferably on a day when his wife would be at home. Leonel, my husband and I drove to Benaulim and decided to go through the interior roads of Salcete villages to appreciate the beauty of nature. Well, our host was keeping track of us during the journey and guiding us how to reach the house. It was a pleasant surprise when he introduced Aldina, his lovely wife, whom I had met once at the Central Library in Panjim. She had impressed me the very first time, as an excellent professional. She is a clinical psychologist and head of department at the Carmel College’s Psychology department. And I would like to add that Victor got the right companion in her. She has encouraged him in all his endeavors and has bonded so well to achieve, along with him, something that everybody had thought to be difficult if not impossible to create – an ethnographic museum that reflects about Goan culture and ethos. (I can still visualise the day of the official inaugural of the museum. How Aldina got emotional while delivering the vote of thanks and rushed to the house to hide her tears!)

The Lady of the house went all out to impress with quite a few tasty dishes at the table. Victor took us around to show the artifacts he had collected through purchase and some as gifts. He explained how he had put together the house, with material he bought from old houses which were demolished to rebuild new ones. He also explained how he intended to set up the museum where he would place his artifacts and the general organization. Frankly, a few of the pieces he had on show were seen by us for the first time. But, Victor was there to explain its use. At that point of time he had collected the artifacts and was still in the process of organizing the display.

We discussed several books on Goa, and many travellers who left good accounts of the experiences. He bought a couple of those for his library. All the while there were many questions from Victor, who was eager to learn and know about facts. I wondered from where he got the inspiration to set up such a museum and who helped him? Divine Providence? Or his personal acumen coupled with his wife’s unstinted support?  Whatever may be the answer, Victor has built the unthinkable to give us the past in the present!

Posted in Personal Stories

Of Failures and Dreams

By Prajal Sakhardande

Prajal Sakhardande minces no words in his admiration for the Goa Chitra museum and the man behind it. Everything from the establishment of the museum to the struggles of external support, from Goa Chitra’s value for heritage conservation to knowing Victor Hugo Gomes, this week’s personal story is as personal as it gets.


Victor Hugo Gomes is an enigma to me. He is a phenomenon. He is unconventional. He is a Great Goan who has placed Goa on the International map through his great creation, a tribute to our Goan Heritage. My first impression of Victor is of a restless Goan in faded jeans, unconventional looks with a zest to do something for Goa. He believed in carving a unique niche for himself in this huge world. He had stars in his eyes. He seemed to be angry with the system. He dreamt big – he was tracing his roots embedded in Goa’s red soil. Digging the soil to find our agricultural ancestry and thus began his long and chequered tryst with history and heritage. He was fired with a passion: a life long journey into the very evolution of us humans in the beautiful realm called Mother Goa. He established a congenital connect with Mother Goa and Mother Earth. He was angry with the establishment. A cursory perception of Victor we found a sense of negativity had crept in his person but it was on a journey of self introspection and retrospection of his Goenkar Heritage. Things were not right and it hurt him, it hurt his inner soul that our Goan brethren were slowly being divorced from their agricultural farming roots. That we were forgetting our Goan rustic ethos. Our Heritage is great, he often said. He went on a difficult path to find our agricultural heritage from the ancient wooden plough to the modki to the smallest of the agricultural implement used by our forefathers as showcased in the wonder of Goa called Goa Chitra.

Goa Chitra is Victor’s dream baby which he gave birth to with a deep sense of research authenticity detail and meticulousness. He spent his money, time, and energy to create this dream project. Things were far from easy. A struggle had begun where this great Goan left everything at stake. Contacting people and getting them to see his passion to fruition was a challenge and he went through this with singular devotion to create this wonder of heritage. The Government hardly cared as is always the case. His wife Dr. Aldina stood by him through thick and thin in those pressing days of collection of artefacts and implements. Victor Hugo never settles for mediocrity. He is a perfectionist. He does not compromise on quality.

Initially no one took him seriously about his passion. I had invited Victor to be a resource person at my Seminar on Goan Heritage in 2012 and I remember his zestful, passionate discourse on Goan heritage. He finds that the government is least interested in heritage preservation. He has spent all that he had on his life called Goa Chitra and Goa Chakra. He grows his own rice. He grows his own veggies. My students were much inspired by this great personality. I look at Victor Hugo Gomes as an institution. A scholar, a man who dreamt madly and crazily. A man who dared to dare. A man who chose to be a face in the crowd rather than follow the societal norms and conventions. Nobody can tie Victor down. Victor flies and flies high to pursue his dreams. He thinks of Goa Chitra all the time. He breathes, sleeps, and wakes up to the call of Goa Chitra of its growth of our Mother Goa. He is not the run of the mill kind of a man and that’s what I love about Victor. He stands out. He strikes a chord. He is not easy to get along. He is a difficult man, he is straightforward, he knows no hypocrisies. He is a fighter. The establishment of Goa Chitra was not a bed of roses. The man has slogged. I know it. He loves and respects honesty. He does not mince words when he talks. Every minute of this great Goan is important because he does not idle away and waste his time doing the mundane. He never talks for effect. He never butters anyone. Personally to me, he is an inspiration, a Great Goan who makes history every day. He has a serious demeanour. You cannot play with the man. He is a backpacker, he is a traveller, he is forever on a journey of discovery. He is a flower child. He is secular to the core. Religion as an institution does not matter to this great man. He respects the grassroot. He salutes the little enterprise, he salutes the worker, the artist, the craftsman, the tribal. He  believes in them. Victor is constantly engaged in a conversation with himself. He is a student, a child, a person with a quest. He is a study. He is not ordinary. He is cut above the rest. He is a red lotus who has risen on his own steam, because he woke up with a beautiful dream.


prajal

Prajal Sakhardande is a historian, heritage activist, and associate professor and head of the History Department at the Dhempe College of Arts and Science. The President of the Goa Heritage Action Group and Goa’s Movement for Special Status, he also conducts nature trails and heritage walks for students in Goa. Having penned columns for the Navhind Times for fourteen years and authored “Muslim History and Heritage of Goa”, he is currently working on a book titled “Goa Gold, Goa Silver: Her History, Her Heritage.”

Posted in Uncategorized

My Take on Victor Hugo Gomes

By Alexyz

I was always intrigued by his name Victor Hugo. The visions that his parents must have envisioned to christen him after the renowned French author, poet, and playwright Victor Hugo of the 19th century! I am positive they must’ve prayed that some of the Frenchman’s brilliance would rub on their new born.

And so it did…but in a novel way. Benaulim’s Victor Hugo didn’t wander anywhere close to his namesake in France. However, our Goenkar Victor Hugo over the years has been profusely written about, spoken about by authors, by the media and aficionados of ethnography. Of how our Victor Hugo single handedly (the other hand holding the hand of his life line and spouse Aldina) created and brought to life what the Archaeological Survey of India proudly proclaimed as one of the topmost Contemporary Museum in India. Ladies and Gentlemen…the Goa Chitra Museum of Benaulim, Goa.

So how did I, who was born a couple decades before him, come across this passionate young man with a magnificent obsession which showcased his love for music…his other avatar. Mine too.

So my first exciting encounter was when he had brought together Goa’s first musical extravaganza under the roof of the Kala Academy in Panjim. His show inspired me to conceptualize a tabloid size page titled ‘Alexyz Xacuti’ of caricatures of all his foot tapping musical maestros including Victor Hugo himself….which appeared in the Weekender of Gomantak Times of Goa.

artwork-for-alvaros-blog-story

But my most memorable meeting with Victor was my visit to Goa Chitra some years later with my late friend and photo journalist Joel D’Souza. It was truly an out-of-this-world experience to view his Himalayan collection of artifacts. I simply stood in awe. The impact of which has not been erased…as the stories above and below will testify.


ALEXYZ_SAO_JOAO_FOTO.jpgAlezyz is a cartoonist, haing previously worked for newspapers like O Heraldo, Navhind Times, Gomantak Times, and currently creates daily cartoons for Times of India. He has exhibited his works at exhibitions across India and abroad, and has been the recipient the Vincent Xavier Verodiana award. Having relocated to Goa in the mid-70s, he has worked closely with the Dhagar community, founded the Eco Treks organization, and been an integral part of the Sao Jao Tradtional Boat Festival revival. He has also authored two books, ‘Sportoons’ and ‘Howzzatt’.

 

Posted in Personal Stories

The Exception or the Rule?

By Bevinda Collaco

Victor Hugo Gomes should be the rule, rather than the exception

Too many people have called Victor Hugo Gomes crazy. It’s the word you use when you don’t understand why someone decides to undertake a thankless project that in all likelihood will bankrupt him, and still slog at it with single-minded intensity. That’s not crazy. That should be normal.  We need people like Victor to be the rule rather than the exception.

If you look at the three museums he has built up stone by stone, piece by piece, idea by idea – and still continues adding to, honing, polishing, thinking ahead – you realize that is how things are done. You don’t take a dream and dissect it with a calculator to measure return on investment, and cost benefit analysis. You just go with your gut and build that dream.

What does he have in that big ol’ place in Benaulim? He has Goa Chitra, the museum for Goan ethnography. He has Goa Chakra, the museum dedicated to early modes of transport. And now he has Goa Cruti, the museum that shows the elegance of life of a bygone era.

These three museums are his children. Children that he and his lovely wife Aldina, brought to life. Aldina Gomes has been there alongside, shoulder to shoulder with her husband, keeping the three museums growing. And how can we forget Chacha, the carpenter which the magic of restoration in his bones, who would take a rough cart and restore the wood carefully and lovingly until it shone like new. Chacha has since passed away, but he lives on in all those shining carts and artifacts. That is his legacy. He drew out stories from the pieces of history he worked on. Without the magic of Chacha, the museums may not have rolled out so beautifully.

Goa Chitra is a unique 4000-artifact collection and display of traditional farming implements and other ancient tools of trade. What makes it unique is that it is set up against the backdrop of Goa Chitra’s traditional organic farm which is open for live, hands-on experience to students, professionals and anyone else. You can look at the artifacts, observe the fishpond or the farm, do a bit of threshing if you visit during harvest time, feed the animals, attend a concert, a lecture, oh, and have an authentic, mouth-watering Goan meal.

Students from all over the world visit Benaulim for the Goa Chitra experience. Each artifact is supplemented by information that was collected in situ by interviewing the elder members of the community and through the study of its application in daily life. Victor was talking of a mega project of documenting oral testimonies of indigenous peoples, our last fragile links to the past. Even the One Dollar Campaign to support this documentation fascinates.

Victor Hugo has worked meticulously and hard. He has focused on setting up his museums and getting sufficient funds to run them properly. That is not the work of a crazy person. That should be the way each and every one of us makes our dreams come true.  Don’t know how to do that? A visit to the museums at Goa Chitra, Benaulim will show you how it’s done.


bevinda-collaco

Bevinda Collaco is a media professional, blogger, and commentator on social issues in Goa.

Posted in Branding & Institutionalisation, Personal Stories

From the Horse’s Mouth

The Former Director of State Tourism Elvis Gomes and the President of the Felga Gracias Institute in Rio de Janeiro Luis Gracias give their take on what makes Goa Chitra special.  


By Elvis Gomes

Victor Hugo Gomes has been a known name to us from Salcette since the 80’s. When I was the director of tourism sometime in 2008-09, Victor briefed me about his project and facilitated a visit. My whole old world of having grown into a rural setting came alive when I saw several agricultural and other implements which had gone out of sight with agriculture being allowed to die. I was happy that I could recite the names of many in the local Konkani language with ease. Life then was made less laborious by the wonderful inventions of those times and I wondered why we were so careless about not protecting the rich heritage for our future generations, to get an insight about the lives of the ancestors. The sheer grit, determination, passion and labour with which Victor Hugo was working and the kind of financial stress he must have gone through with absolutely no support from any quarters leave alone the authorities , made me think about doing something about it through the department. The asset that he was creating had the potential to be one of the best things for Goa and needed support. But suddenly the powers that be thought that I had to be out of tourism. I was helpless and couldn’t do much besides giving stray advices whenever sought.

But to still know that Goa Chitra has only grown and has caught a lot of international attention is proof that Victor’s conviction could not be shaken by any adversity. I would wish that all the children in Goa get an opportunity to visit Goa Chitra to see for themselves something that certainly shouldn’t be missed.


By Luis Gracias

In 2015, our Institute was short-listing contenders for the 2015 Felga Gracias Award for Excellence and the Trofeu Dignidade Award for Outstanding achievement to Organisations and Individuals in the area Social Entrepreneurship and Cultural contributions in India. Goa Chitra, the only private museum with such a rich collection showcases our cultural heritage. Indeed, a priceless gift to us all and to the future generations. Victor Hugo’s Goa Chitra creation represents all that was and is Goan and it has created a huge awareness in India and in the International community. The Board of Directors of the Felga-Gracias Institute were very impressed by the work done by this unassuming Goan Artist and his selfless contribution to his homeland, that it was an unanimous decision to present Goa Chitra with all the three Felga-Gracias 2015 awards, The Dignidade Award, the Excellencia no Trabalho Diploma and the Felga- Gracias Medal for outstanding contribution to Art and Culture. Victor Hugo’s achievements have been recognised by us and it is commendable how he strives to carry on the mission to preserve and maintain the Goan heritage and culture, as well as salvage what may have been lost.

There is a message here to all, that this is a man working towards a selfless goal with one single agenda – Goa Chitra! His gift for the people!

Posted in Personal Stories

The ‘Junk’ Collector

By Colin Coelho

Uncouth, rude, untrustworthy, violent, cheater… Everyone in the crowd, everyone we call society, used these ‘expletives’ to describe one man. He was more known as a junk collector, a man who collected tattered pantleo and broken koderam. But the person I knew since school days did not seem to match the description, because he came across to me as creative: the one with a ‘go-getter’ attitude and was ruthless while he moved to achieve this.

It was probably way back in 1984 that I sat on the same bench as Victor Hugo Gomes. In the few days that our class-teacher allowed us to be bench-partners, I learnt a lot about Victor. Was he crazy? Indeed yes. Crazy like there was no tomorrow. Was he kind? Yes. Kind like a human being should be.

Then I met Victor at the then ‘Arlem Festival’. It was the first edition of the festival and I was pleasantly surprised to know that he was the event coordinator. The show at BPS Club, Margao was organized with great pomp. I recall meeting Victor, along with my sister, after the show and offering him a few ideas, which he listened to and took them as good suggestions.

As years went by, we were hardly in touch. But a purchase of a computer from me by Victor put us on the friendship track again. And as I spent time at Victor’s Margao office trying to put together the computer to suit his requirement, I watched as he auditioned an Indian classical music band to perform at some hotels around Goa. His questions were precise and musically probing. What impressed me no end was the way he conducted the session. How he was particular and meticulous in getting to the actual requirement and how he guided the group into getting there.

One morning, I was on my lunch break and made my way to the market. As I strolled around Farmacia Menezes at Margao, I heard my name being called. As I looked up I saw Victor who was all excited and seemed on top of the world. I went across the road to meet him and he had this to say, exhilarating voice hitting an ecstatic pitch: “I’m getting married.” It did not end there, before I could even congratulate him or say something he continued: “I told you I would decide suddenly. These are crazy decisions I make!” Whoever heard of making a ‘crazy’ decision about a marriage? Only Victor can, I later realized. When I asked him who the ‘crazy’ girl is, he told me of a name I knew from a few years ago since she and I had attended a Youth Leadership programme together. Aldina Braganza was no ‘crazy’ girl from what I knew her! But there seemed to be something unique about this match. Unfortunately I could not attend their wedding, but really was happy for them both.

Again Victor and I lost touch. I began my writing on music and Victor was not to be seen much. Later I got to know from the horse’s mouth so to speak, that this lull had Victor plotting and planning, in fact conniving, with Goa’s culture to do something that was not heard of. A few friends told me about how Victor visited their place and wanted to buy all their old things. But will he pay? This was the question that seemed the chorus in town. But building up a collection he did. And there are no more murmurs from around the crowd.

A few years later I met Victor at a restaurant. This was a memorable visit. He came up to me and said bluntly: “Stop writing about music.” I knew Victor as the pioneer of the Great Music Revival concerts held at various venues around Goa. But I never expected a good friend to be so blunt. Of course I did not listen to him and continued on my passion… writing about music and musicians. In one article I remember having the opportunity of giving the ‘devil’ his due. I spoke of how Victor promoted the jazz scene and gave it a high pedestal in Goa and was one of the first to do it. This certainly brought Victor and me close together again. A recognition for each other’s talents and achievements.

Involving myself in writing about some articles on events at Goa Chitra has also been a source of great joy. It was in one interview that the passionate man expressed how he and Aldina decided they would have no kids. He decided he wanted to nurture and allow his creativity in Goa Chitra to bloom. A difficult decision that may be a shocker to many, but a source of joy to them.

The emotion and passion in the man makes him more and more likeable and admirable. Yes he has his flaws. But more importantly he has his strengths – his unrestricted creativity and his indomitable passion.


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Colin Coelho is a columnist and freelance writer. He writes music reviews, previews and profiles for various newspapers, magazines and publications, and is an active member of GOA-YMCA Toastmasters Club.

Posted in Uncategorized

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.