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 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 Branding & Institutionalisation, By Malavika Neurekar, Collection

Why the Name? Why the Logo?

By Malavika Neurekar

Goa Daiz translates to Goa’s Heritage.

That was the name originally chosen for the museum. It signified everything that the museum intended to preserve and generate awareness about: the rich culture, traditions, and customs peculiar to this specific stretch of geography. Goa Daiz. It was almost finalized. Yet, there was something odd about it. Goa Daiz. The more and more one said it, the more obvious it became.

It was a little ominous to name a museum something that sounded phonetically similar to Goa Dies. So after much more brainstorming, the name that was finally settled upon was Goa Chitra. The Picture of Goa.

The next step in creating the Goa Chitra brand – choosing a logo – was a much more instantaneous decision. Every artefact within the walls of Goa Chitra is held by Victor Hugo with a certain amount of pride and reverence. However, when it was time for Bismark Dias to conceptualise a logo, nothing stood out more than Hugo’s prized ghanno. Apart from its aesthetic magnificence, the story behind its acquisition adds depth and meaning to the implement.

Ghanno

As is the case with a significant number of Goa’s traditional agricultural implements, the ghanno is no longer in use and has been replaced by mechanised oil mills. The quest for a functional ghanno led Victor Hugo to come into contact with a number of ghanekars, the community of traditional oil millers. In 1992, Victor Hugo was travelling around Goa, retracing the trade routes as they had existed in the Kadamba period. It was during this time, in the Pilar-Agasaim area, when his sight fell upon what looked like two massive stone pillars buried under the ground. These stone objects were actually the remnants of what used to be two fully-functioning ghannos. Several years later, Victor was still on the lookout. His diligent inquiries ultimately led him to Agonda. Arriving here on a Sunday morning with his friend Ketan Naik, Victor realised that the ghanekar in question had not only destroyed his ghanno, but was also selling off his property. A harsh critic of the practice of bhatkars selling their inherited land for commercial development, Victor asked the ghanekar why he was selling his land for such an unreasonably small amount. The ghanekars response – something Victor Hugo still recalls with disgust – was that he was selling off his land to the then-chief minister. The Minister’s son, who was studying in the US, yearned to sit under the shade of a coconut tree, relishing on tender coconut water. In turn, the minister had offered a promotion to one of his bodyguards, who happened to be the ghanekar’s son. Appalled and yet even more determined now, Victor Hugo eventually ended up at the doorsteps of one Balaji Anand Naik of Canacona. His search had finally come to an end – Balaji Naik possessed the elusive ghanno! However, the struggle did not end here. The ghanno was in shambles, and it took almost one more year before it was restored to its original form.

Edited Ganno 2
Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai

Today, the implement sits proudly in Goa Chitra. As the last remaining functional ghanno, it symbolises the spirit and ambition of Goa Chitra which is, the preservation of all salvageable pieces of our past. The brush with the ghanekar in Agonda is representative of how dirty politics and the blind race for money and power stand in the way of this noble attempt. It is thus apt that it is the ghanno that adorns the logo of Goa Chitra. When asked “why did you choose the ghanno for the logo?” Victor Hugo replies instantly “because it took me fourteen years to find it.” The search for the ghanno represents everything that Goa Chitra stands for: dedication, perseverance, and victory in the face of adversity.

Posted in Branding & Institutionalisation, People's Project

Creating the Brand ‘Goa Chitra’

By Bismarck Dias

The Goa Chitra logo has been conceptualized and designed by Bismarck Dias. Private Museum as it may be on paper, Victor Hugo holds on steadfastly to the belief that Goa Chitra is a people’s project. It is through the coming together of individual contributions that it has today become a product of collective effort. Bismarck Dias’s decision to contribute to the project in the way best known to him is just one of many such exemplary initiatives. 


“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do” – Steve Jobs

Victor Hugo Gomes is one of them.

Nine years back I remember a friend telling me “Victor wants you to come and see his project. He seriously wants your opinion. If you are doing nothing lets go now.” And we did. We drove down the winding roads of Benaulim into what looked like a vegetation farm. The place was peaceful and quite. We knew each other by name but had never met before. Victor was standing there at the gate to welcome us. On the first glance itself, he looked intense and crazy and I knew it wouldn’t be a waste time. There is always something to learn from crazy people, you can see sincerity in their eyes. Poker face Victor got straight to the point with a lot of intensity. He took us around while he explained every bit with a lot of passion. He was the Google of Goan history and culture. I felt like a Lilliput listening to Gulliver. He had no commercial interest. It was for the love of Goa’s lost heritage and culture. In a world of manipulators it was refreshing to meet a real person.

Bismarck final.
Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai

Everything I touched and felt in Goa Chitra took me back in time. It was a flashback to my childhood, with my grandparents and the farmers I interacted with then. It was so beautiful, organic and pure. As he spoke he looked helpless and isolated. Knowing the shallow political hurdles one has to face, I gathered. I remember saying to him, “You took me by surprise. This is insane… I want to be part of this.”

He said he had no support to take this forward as he drained out all the cash and nobody was getting the point of what he was trying to do. I told him he needed good marketing if he wants the world to take this project seriously. I decided to take the responsibility of marketing Goa Chitra. “Send me everything I need to know about this place and I will work on it from scratch from wherever I am in the world,” I said. Thanks to the internet. He had tears rolling down his eyes. And that’s when our friendship and journey to take Goa Chitra forward began.

Initially I remember I would speak about Victor’s project to friends and they would laugh and say “Don’t take him seriously, he is crazy”. Truth is I take only crazy people seriously. When Goa Chitra was launched he called me up excitedly, like a child and told me how things are falling in place. Every artifact housed in Goa Chitra has a history as well as a story of how he restored them and gave them life. Today, Goa Chitra has educated the new generation about the past and the old generation came alive with stories from the Goa we lost. When a man transforms into a child with his passion, that’s the time you know he is going to change the world.

Victor, thank you for changing our world.


bismarck new profile.jpgBismarck Dias is a lover of art, architecture, music, and movies. He graduated from Goa College of Art in1983, and has since been associated with agencies including Trikaya Grey, Lintas, O&M in Mumbai, and Montage TV, FortunePromo Seven, and Bates in Dubai. He has done editorial illustrations for Debonair Magazine, and bagged awards for his work in the advertising industry. He currently resides in Dubai, but is a nature lover and misses the quiet village life in Goa.