Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Finance & Sustenance, People's Project

When the Art World United: Part II

To read the first part of When the Art World United, click here.

The King and the Peasant

By Malavika Neurekar

Victor Hugo Gomes, made weary by the pace at which his work was taking place, woke up to an unexpected email on the morning of 21st October, 2009. It was a letter from a great Goan artist based in California, Dom Martin, which opened with a small tale:

“In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the big stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many others never understand: every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.”

The implication of Dom Martin’s allegory became clearer as Victor continued to read the rest of the email. Dom Martin had decided to part with all that remained of his material possessions in Goa, and bequeathed a generous donation to Goa Chitra. Victor trembled with excitement and a certain degree of disbelief as he continued to read. Dom Martin, assuming the role of the ‘king’ and likening Victor to the ‘peasant’ in the story, had also bequeathed upon Victor theeight panels of pen on paper drawings that adorned St. Francis Xavier’s casket at the 1974 exposition; seventy-one original artworks locked up in Martin’s Porvorim flat; and the rights to the Porvorim flat of 140 sqmt!That was not all. The Vincent Xavier Verodiano Foundation, instituted by Dom Martin in memory of his father, was established with the objective of recognising and awarding excellence in various fields such as literature, arts, medicine, etc. The foundation had already conferred the prestigious award upon Victor earlier that same year (which included a cash donation of Rs. 50,000 and a medal), and now Dom Martin had expressed his wish to pass that legacy on to Victor as well, alongside the corpus fund of the Foundation at Victor’s disposal.

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Victor was at a loss of words, and continues to be amazed even today every time he talks about that fateful October morning.In 2014, he launched the Dom Martin art gallery, which stands at the entrance of Goa Chitra, with the stated objective of promoting young local artists. All the works on displayat the gallery have been donated to Goa Chitra, and are for sale as a means of raising revenue for Goa Chitra. At the heart of this interaction is the fact that the two artists did not know each other personally or had even met. Yet, Dom Martin reached to Victor from the other end of the world based solely on Goa Chitra’s merit and the recognition of its struggles. A quick glance at the email correspondences between them reveals that both men harbour a desire to meet in some part of the world some day. An exemplification of how art transcends distance and space to make possible the coming together of like-minded souls, it is perhaps best expressed by Dom Martin himself in his piece The Aesthetic Evolution of Madness.

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The Aesthetic Evolution of Madness…

By Dom Martin

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If eccentricity is genius temperament then a refined madness, which motorizes one to maniacally scavenge for discarded vestiges of the past and metamorphose them into museum exhibits, rightfully deserves to be bestowed a cultural halo.  Victor Hugo Gomes belongs in this genre of madness.

In 2009, when I bequeathed my 3-bedroom flat and the entire collection of my mid 70’s art which was decaying therein, a condescending Victor thanked me profusely.  In the subsequent years, he staked out exorbitant sums of money to restore the art and the flat.

The question foments:  Did one caliber of madness underestimate, supersede or absolve the other?  The verdict is in the wallets of art collectors, which have a tendency to instantly fatten or resurrect upon the demise of artists who labored and continually exhibited within the engulfing walls of oblivion.

Other than for the uncommon commonality of symbiotic madness, Victor and I have yet to meet and perhaps, might never.  However, someday when posterity peers through time’s kaleidoscope, it might likely find our autonomous identity among the colorful, fragmented pieces.  And that, is satisfaction enough!

Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Collection

Of Implements and Dictionaries

By Malavika Neurekar

Victor Hugo Gomes used to be an artist. He did his masters in Print Making, and studied restoration of manuscripts and paper paintings at INTACH. When it came to researching and archiving the collection at the museum, he found himself in uncharted territory. In an impromptu speech delivered at the inauguration of Goa Chakra in 2014 Victor launched into a series of old Konkani sayings. “harroithamhunn gaindol ghelo, ani chirddun mello”, he said. If the earthworm imitates the method of the python, it will get trampled and die. And so he established his own method – he started translating all the Konkani dictionaries published 1897 onwards. He compiled his own glossary of thousands of forgotten Konkani words, travelling across Goa to interview village elders and double check the meanings of the Konkani words he had noted.

Languages develop intimately with the lifestyle of the people who speak them; they breed familiarity with the customs of the land. Thus, in English, a plough is a plough. The word for plough in the Konkani dictionary is nangor, but Victor traced other ploughs called pane, kosso, dongri, and loconddi, depending on the build, the design, the material, and the type of land on which it was used. The plough collection was almost complete when Victor was travelling with his friend Russell Murray in the Sattari taluka, documenting farming practices related to nachne and rice production. Bad weather conditions forced them to retreat to Ponda for the night, but in the morning they set off to meet another close friend Kanta Gawde. The three men then decided to hike up a hill, as Kanta Gawde wanted to show them a shrine of the local mountain gods. It was during the hike that Victor’s eyes fell upon a curious object sitting on the roof of a Dhangar house. It was a dongri nagor, a three-piece wooden plough designed specifically to be used on laterite soil in the valley. The roof had grown slippery from the rain, but after much persuasion and at a modest price, Victor was able to retrieve the now extinct dongri nagor, completing the plough collection at Goa Chitra.

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The dongri nagor at the Dhangar’s house

Another interesting incident unfolded at a scrapyard in Curchorem, from where Victor Hugo retrieved a huge roller with a wooden frame and metal spikes. The implement lacked a history as nobody seemed to know anything about it except the fact that it was originally from Bicholim. With no idea of its story or its function, Victor named it ‘the spike roller’. He inspected the type of wood, the kind of soil stuck to it, the mud on the spikes, and whether there was any pollen embedded in it – all in an attempt to gather clues about its function. The object was shown to many agriculturists in Goa but no one could identify it. He set it aside, often spending long hours staring at it and wondering about its origin. It was during a chance encounter with the Gaonkar family in the jungles near Kanapur that he spotted a similar instrument of a smaller size. Victor often travels to Maharashtra and Karnataka to meet families of Goan origin that fled during the Goa Inquisition. The Gaonkar family traced their origin to Bicholim, and continue to make annual trips there for the religious festival Jolmidevacho Utsav. Victor inquired about the implement that resembled his ‘spike roller’ and was told that it was used to break or pulverize the ground to be brought under cultivation. The pieces were all falling in place. Once again, it was the dictionary that came to the rescue and filled in the final piece of the puzzle. Victor learned that the description of the spike roller fit that of a farming implement called pocruncho roll, a word found in a 1931 Konkani- English dictionary. It was described as a metal roller with spikes held by a wooden frame, and attached to a yoke and a rope to be drawn by bullocks and used to break the soil.

Xendlolea boilache rakandareche kananth ghanto vazot ravta”, was another Konkani saying that Victor explained that day. When a farmer loses his bullock and hears any sound of cow bells he thinks it is his own bullock. This had become Victor’s condition – he saw the material culture of Goa everywhere and in everything. He may not have had a name for it then, but observe the trajectory of Victor’s life and all his actions seemed to be of a man attempting to retrace his roots, a man trying to capture the essence of the land. Much the same way a child runs around with a jar to catch fireflies.

Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Collection

Excerpts from ‘Land, Museum, Legacy’

By Malavika Neurekar

Rochelle Pinto and Aparna Balachandran’s Archives and Access Project is aimed at examining the complex relationship between private archiving, its legal implications, and the role of the State. In Land, Museum, Legacy, Rochelle Pinto, who is a historian specialising in pre-19th Century histories of Goa and has been a professor in the English department at Delhi University, explores the issue through a first-hand account of her visit to Goa Chitra. While delving into the functions (and diminishing economic role) of Goa’s land ownership system and its implications on private researchers/archivers, she provides an insightful look at the collection at Goa Chitra, its arrangement within the space, and the aesthetic impact it creates.

“[Resources on the web] suggest how the arrangement of objects crowded into this converted living space reduces the objectifying distance that a conventional museum would produce. An art historian who recommended the museum also mentioned how sensitively the objects had been restored. It is not surprising, then, to find that Gomes was trained in restoration, at INTACH in Lucknow, and returned to Goa, the place where he grew up, as curator of the museum of Christian Art to work on another project.

The enormity of the numbers of objects, and labour that must have gone into retrieving each one astounds me as the nature of Gomes’ work sinks in. We are familiar enough with cooking pots and other objects that have a more active life in the worlds of rural communities appearing in our living rooms as objets d’art, and briefly one wonders whether this is an aestheticisation of rural life. But this museum seems to side-step this problem.

The presence of these objects, not yet fully out of use (or so it would seem) in Goa, begs the question of why they had to be museumised. It is true, for instance, that cultivation has dropped drastically within Goa for a range of reasons. In some areas, it is uneconomical when the sale of land or its conversion brings higher margins. In other areas, people have been forced off the land. In yet others, irrigation patterns have been forcefully changed. And in areas where cultivation continues, it tends to be fuelled with pesticide. Yet, one can scarcely say that fishing and cultivation do not continue, particularly where there are small landholdings, using, one would think, much the same kind of technology that Gomes has in his museum. But for certain, there are precious pieces of hand-crafted agricultural technology that are impressive here, and are not in use anymore.

The wooden sugarcane crusher bound with metal for instance, was ‘rescued’ by him from Sawantwadi and restored. The texture of wood and its areas of damage are moving, as the enormous piece bears witness to labour that has vanished. A visit to some of our protected national monuments, where cracks have been filled in with visibly different materials of varying colours, would reveal, by comparison, the painstaking nature of Gomes’ work over the last decade.”

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While the fist part of Rochelle’s paper is largely descriptive, the latter part wanders into a more analytical territory. The future of Goa Chitra is a question raised by many. What after Victor Gomes? Victor’s answer to this is the systematic institutionalisation of the Goa Chitra brand – an objective grasped and framed by Pinto in the following passage.

What makes this collection interesting to a project on internet technology and questions of archives and public access, are the last two lines of Victor’s letter of invitation to his museum, asking an unspecified ‘us’ to look at the museum communally, to suggest what journey it could take. One of these journeys is clear – there is a vast trove of information about practices relating to the land that Victor has accumulated. Even as he works at turning these into text, it is evident that it would be appropriate for someone to pick up this thread of the project that he has begun, to explore other media through which the diverse life of his museum can move. Educational curricula and other kinds of publications, both printed and online, can bring in different audiences, releasing the trove of information around each object, and making it accessible as a legacy for contemporary inhabitants of Goa. Such a development would dilute the idea of a legacy being locked within the intellectual production of a particular kind of elite in Goa’s past and could potentially tap into the knowledge base of students in non-urban locales. In fact, this museum is an explicit commitment to the children of Goa, whom Victor sees possibly growing up without any connection to what is the vital culture of their home.

To read Land, Museum, Legacy in its entirety, click here.

Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Finance & Sustenance

When the Art World United: Part I

By Malavika Neurekar

Artists are famous for being individualistic and non-conformist. As a society, we have collectively constructed a cookie-cutter persona of the ‘Lonely Artist’ – eccentric, aloof, often mad. But every once in a while, the creative community reaches out to each other, recognising only too well the struggles and ambitions of their acquaintances. Goa Chitra has actively encouraged such cooperation, hosting a variety of cultural events like performances or book launches. Victor Gomes is grateful that the art community, in turn, has also extended their support in numerous ways. (Case in point – much of the art work posted on Goa Chitra Rewind has been conceptualized and illustrated by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai, and the layout has been designed by Bismarck Dias).

The sustenance of the Chitra museums has constantly been an uphill battle, and although there have been some disappointments and setbacks, the Goa Chitra story is just as much a story of hope and little victories. One of the strongest waves of support has come from the music community. Victor Gomes’s association with music goes way back to the early 2000s, when he was at the centre of the Great Music Revival. This association was carried forward with Goa Chitra – much after the jazz festivals had become a thing of the past – when musicians volunteered to perform at the museum. Joe Pereira, better known as Jazzy Joe (whose first ever concert in Goa, coincidentally, happened at one of Victor’s Revival concerts in the 90s) performed his last show before passing away in 2013 at Goa Chitra. Legendary musician and stand-up comedian like Ash Chandler and Opera singer, Oscar Castellino performed at Goa Chitra for free, which helped significantly with revenue generation. Many authors who held their book launches at Goa Chitra proceeded to donate some amount of their profit from the sale of the book to the museum as well.

Jazzy Joe Performance at the Great Music Revival '98 captured by Mario Miranda
Mario Miranda’s impressions of Jazzy Joe’s performance at Goa Chitra

As a painter himself, the fine arts have always held a special significance in Victor Gomes’s life. In 2014, Victor Gomes organised a Narrative Art Residency camp to celebrate International Women’s Day, inviting female artists from all over the world. The participating artists had travelled from Delhi, Ahmedabad, Poland, Russia, Germany, and included three local artists as well. The concept was to allow the artists to live at the museum, travel to remote areas of Goa, and interact with tribes and locals. This was to culminate into a series of works produced by them during the camp as an expression of their individual reaction to the experience. Yolanda D’souza, one of the participating artists, produced three paintings: two of which capture her interaction with the rural women, and the third one based on the agricultural implements at the museum. She states thatspending so much time in close proximity to the museum and looking at the collection evoked something that she was best able to express through her art. Mekhla Harrison, in a similar burst of artistic expression, used a blend of techniques to produce her art: black charcoal on paper depicting the tools; watercolours depicting a woman going through fire, based on a local’s narrative; women sowing rice paddy on the field; and a portrait of a village man and his agricultural tools on a red-earth background. Nirupa Naik described the whole experience as wholesome, as they got to interact actively with not only the agricultural implements, ornaments, and costumes used by different communities, but the communities and people themselves. All of the art work created during the camp was exhibited at the Dom Martin Art gallery, inaugurated that same year, and put up for sale. All the proceeds from the sale of these paintings went to the Goa Chitra fund.

musicians

Aside from the Narrative Art Residency Camp, there have been other artist-friends that have voluntarily donated their works to be set up at the Art Gallery. Norman Tagore, who donated to Goa Chitra his award winning painting of a female Rhino with its horn cut off, is grateful to Victor’s support in the past and wished to return the favour. Mohan Naik expressed a similar sentiment, stating that his decision to donate two paintings was taken because he was delighted by the Goa Chitra mission. Charudatta, a dear friend of Victor’s, donated his pieces in order to help Goa Chitra through a financially difficult time. However, it was Rajendra Usapkar who brought home the true spirit in which these donations were made: upon asking him what motivated him to donate his art work to Goa Chitra, he promptly responded that it is of extreme importance that artists reach out and lend a hand to each other. In an age where we tend to live by the ‘survival of the fittest’ instinct, there is something refreshing about the moment when members of a community join hands, allowing talent to be recognised, encouraged, and co-exist.

To see the complete list of artist supporters/donors, click here.

 

Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Finance & Sustenance

To Fund a Museum: Part II

To read the first part of To Fund a Museum, click here.

By Malavika Neurekar

In 2009,with help from Dr. Paulo Varela Gomes, Victor Hugo was invited to Portugal on aFundacao Orient(Foundation of the Orient) scholarship. There, he engaged in dialogue with persons holding important posts in the museum world, alongside visiting anthropological and ethnographic museums and academic research centres. It also gave him an opportunity to interact with the Goans in Portugal and spread awareness about his vision for Goa. On the last dayof his visit, he was part of a talk on Goan architecture at Casa Da Goa. In his speech, he evoked the nostalgia of the fellow Goans present in the audience, describing Goa as “an ailing grandmother” in urgent need of care and revival. He spoke about the need for a worldwide campaign to generate an escrow fund for the security and maintenance of the museum. He urged people to donate, not out of obligation but out of a sense of responsibility, inviting a minimum donation of even one Euro so young children could participate. At the end of his speech, the then Member of Parliament of Goan Origin in Portugal handed Victor two Euros. “On behalf of Casa de Goa,” he said.

Over the years, there have been many open-hearted gestures of generosity that have supplemented Goa Chitra’s financing. One such example that dates back to much before Goa Chitra even opened to the public was that of the brothers, Marcos and Oswald Cardozo. It was the year 2008. The museum collection was in place, the architecture complete, but visitors and guests arrived only through word-of-mouth recommendations. Goa Chitra had neither received widespread media coverage, nor earned a spot on the ‘must-visit’ list of most tourist guides. Why did so much time lapse between actually setting up the place and publicly inaugurating it on 2nd November 2009? It was a question put forth by Marcos Cardozo of Ruby Realtors Pvt. Ltd. Victor’s reply was simply due to the fear of lack of security. A few days later, Victor received a call from a company called Zicom based in Bangalore inquiring about his address. They were on their way to install the security equipment. “I haven’t placed an order,” Victor told them. He was taken aback by the response he received from the other end of the line. A company called Ruby Realtors had placed the order and taken care of the payments. Victor was touched by this display of benevolence. Another such example was Leo Pereira of L&L Builders undertook the responsibility of making cash payments to the security guard for the first year after Goa Chitra’s inauguration.

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Jump to 2015. Victor was heading a heritage trail for two visitors, Mr. Hans Van Wijk and Mr. Willem Philipse from Belgium. He frequently holds interactive heritage walks and tours, taking interested people to the state’s unexplored and off-beat locations, as a part of earning revenue for Goa Chitra. He took Mr. Wijk and Mr. Philipse to the interiors of the state, giving them a firsthand experience of a Goa they had never seen before.It was much after the departure of the two men that Victor found out that they were, in fact, Aerodata founders who had done the Arial survey and photography of the world for Google and Microsoft! He was even more astonished when, after a few weeks, he received a cash donation from Hans Van Wijk via a bank transfer.

Cash donations to Goa Chitra have been made by individuals as well as organizations. The cultural committee of the Goan Overseas Association in Toronto organized a one-day interactive speaker’s presentation called Your Goa 101 on 7th May, 2011. This was initiated by a young Goan diaspora from Canada who had visited Goa Chitra on a Know Goa programme. The goal of this interactive session was to educate the Goan diaspora in Toronto about the rich heritage and culture of Goa.  The committee also decided to use the event to raise funds for Goa Chitra and raised 120 Canadian dollars as their contribution. The Goan community in California, via a fund-raising drive by the NGO Goa Sudharop, have also raised Rs. 50,000.The long list of cash donors includes Dom Martin, Helmut Rockemann, Angustias Gomes, Marcos & Oswald Cardozo, Helga Gomes and Joaquim Goes, Leo Pereira, Evencio Quadros, Sampooran Singh Kalra Gulzar, Mario Pereira, Philip Neri Rodriques, Ana Theresa Braganza e Rodriques, Sushant Tari,  Vince Costa, Dr. Bellinda Viegas, Romila Cota Carvalho, Shaila Faleiro, Braz Menezes, Merle Almeida, Dr. Hubert Gomes, Charrudatta Prabhudesai, Dr. Marina and Tony Correa Afonso, Dr. Bailon De Sa family, Mr. Percival Noronha, Dr. Deepa & Bala Iyer, Valmiki Faleiro, Adv. Sarto Almeida, Agnelo and Patricia Pinto, Anoop and Savia Babani, Fatima Gomes and Maria Luz Gomes Rebello besides 150 odd members who annually renew their Goa Chitra membership. Then there were those who contributed in kind to help with the infrastructure of the museum. Leo Pereira, Marcus Cardozo, and Oswald Cardozo donated construction material; Sushant Tari and Manish Sadekar supplied labour to paint some of the structures at no cost; and the Pai Kane Group gave a discount on the purchase of the generator. Victor is also grateful to suppliers Pankaj Kakode (Kakode Trading LLP) and Ramdas Kakode (R. P. Kakode), Khope Agencies, and M/s Anand G. Sardesai and metal fabricator Blaize Brito who gave him credit time for payment. It is because of contributions such as these that Victor has not given up hope when it comes to the sustenance of Goa Chitra. He remains forever indebted to their generosity.

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May God Bless You (Thank you)”; Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai
Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Collection, Early Ventures

A Museum in the Making

By Malavika Neurekar

In a previous post, we had explored the story and the significance of the ghanno in the process of branding Goa Chitra. The implement does indeed hold immense value to the institution – in terms of the struggle behind acquiring it, of the experiences that were picked up along the way, and the spirit of perseverance that it reflects. But something that still remains unknown to most is that the ghanno played yet another instrumental role – it ultimately led to the construction of the Goa Chitra building itself!

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The ghanno and the well then.

Before the Goa Chitra space became defined by its charming Indo-Portuguese architecture and quaint decor, there was a sprawling organic farm. Victor Hugo undertook this project after his advertising days came to an end, a casualty resulting from the Cola Wars of the 1990s. He began generating his own electricity, pumped the water from his own well, and grew his own produce, while simultaneously building his collection. When the ghanno arrived in all its glory, it had to undergo major restoration work. It lacked a base, which needed to be rebuilt. It was required to be grouted in the ground. In order to protect it from further damage, a shed was built over the ghanno. This was merely the first step. As the collection grew enormously and Victor kept purchasing old architectural scrap, Goa Chitra slowly began to develop.

After
The ghanno and the well now.

Goa Chitra being partly an open-air museum is not a coincidence, nor is it a decision based on purely aesthetic considerations. Victor is extremely concerned with the maintenance of the objects, and he tells me that the open-air setting allows the natural material of the implements to breathe. Moreover, the infrastructure perfectly retains the essence of what existed in the space prior to the museum. Even today, a reminder of the organic farm sits in the form of a well right in the middle of the museum room!

It was during this early phase that Frederick Noronha visited the yet-to-be museum and conducted the following interview in 2008. Here, you can see the two men discuss the objective of Goa Chitra, the potential of a thriving museum culture in Goa, and some of the traditional agricultural implements that are no longer in use.

You can follow more of Frederick Noronha’s research and documentation of Goan tradition on his personal blog and his YouTube channel.

Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Finance & Sustenance

To Fund a Museum: Part I

By Malavika Neurekar

Every year on 29th October, early morning, a young Victor Gomes received a kiss on his forehead and a small amount of cash through a fixed deposit in his name. This had been his mother’s birthday gift to him for the better part of his childhood.

Diligently saving the cash for years, Victor finally broke the deposit when it was time for Goa Chitra to materialise from his imagination onto his private stretch of property. Victor and Aldina pooled together their savings – pounding all of their jewellery in the process – and invested it into the future of Goa Chitra. Victor even sold the properties he had previously bought in Pomburpa, Maina, Curtorim, and a flat in Benaulim. Whether it is because of the amount spent on acquiring different artefacts for the museum collection or the concern for expenditure on museum security, the couple has walked a tightrope when it comes to funding the project.

Victor has received extreme reactions for his choice of professions – from coming across as an individual with diverse interests and talents, to someone who jumps from job to job without any apparent direction. However one may choose to see it, it was because of the range of experience he had that he was able to reach out to people from different fields while setting up Goa Chitra. His previous experience in organising events came in handy, as he started to hold Great Music Revival concerts at Goa Chitra. Fifty percent of the revenue from the music festivals is retained as the corpus of Goa Chitra to be employed for its maintenance, and the other fifty is used towards the expenses incurred to organize the concerts. The income of the museum comprises twenty percent of the gate fees. The Goa Chitra team also started the idea of Goa Chitra Club Membership. Members, who pay an annual fee of Rs. 5000 as privilege members and Rs. 2000 as individual members, are allowed a sixty percent discount on all music events organised by Goa Chitra, and are allowed free entry to the museum. The guests brought by the members also get a 40 percent discount on museum entry and concerts.

Victor often likes to remind people: “Goa Chitra is my passion, but restoring houses is my profession.” Having completed a restoration course from INATCH in Lucknow, Victor restores old houses to retain their Indo-Portuguese ethos. Dr. Aldina Gomes, who teaches Psychology at Carmel College and pens editorials for The Everyday Goan, explains that the two use their collective salary towards the Goa Chitra cause rather than splurge on extravagant indulgences.

Funding story 1 pics
Goa Chitra has attracted many international, national and local VVIP’s besides personalities like the former Union Minister of Tourism, Ms. Kumari Selja; the former Governor of Goa, His Excellency Dr. S.S.Sidhu; former Chief Ministers, Mr. Digambar Kamat and Mr. Manohar Parrikar; former member of Parliament, Mr. Francisco Sardinha; former Tourism Minister of Goa, Mr. Micky Pacheco; Minister for Museums, Ms. Alina Saldanha; former minister for Revenue, Mr. Jose Philip D’Souza; Minister of Fisheries, Mr. Avertano Furtado; MLA, Caitu D’Silva; former and present Chairman, Goa Tourism Development Corporation, Mr. Shaym Satedekar and Mr. Nilesh Cabral; Mr. Patel, husband of former President of India, Ms. Pratiba Patel.

The personality that is Victor Hugo Gomes is part visionary, part tragic hero – having borne the brunt of empty promises and false hopes. A host of well-known companies, corporate bodies/industry associations and even the state government have promised support to Goa Chitra numerous times, but to no avail. Goa Chitra was left to survive off the self-sponsorship and the individual donation of some generous souls. It was a former editor of a then-popular newspaper and a close friend of Victor who advised him to bring in well-known names. A well-known name in the mining industry sought to acquire and undertake the funding of Goa Chitra at Rs. 50 lakh, on the condition of renaming it to reflect the interests of the benefactor. Victor refused. Under no condition would he allow the name of the museum to be attributed to an individual. “It may technically be a private museum,” he explains passionately. “But the collection belongs to the people.” Neither would he compromise on his principles, nor would he allow his lifetime’s toil to be assigned a monetary value. This is not to say that he is against the involvement of corporate entities altogether. He accepts, in fact encourages, all forms of constructive participation. However, he believes that – as is the common practice in the West – grants should be an extension of recognition, not a means to establish a quid pro quo situation.

There have been positives too. During his tenure as the Director of Tourism, Mr. Swapnil Naik facilitated the printing of the Goa Chitra brochures and Goa Chitra was offered a payment to set up a stall at Goa’s annual International Travel Mart. On the initiative of Mr. Prasad Lolyencar, the director of Art and Culture, the state Government provided a part funding for Goa Chitra’s initiative Goan Quest – a weekly programme showcasing the intangible heritage of Goa to the World.

Update: Read the second part of the series here.

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 By Malavika Neurekar, Collection

How the Collection Began and Grew

By Malavika Neurekar

Valve sets. Old speakers. LPs. Discarded furniture pieces. Bottles.

These are not usually the things that come to mind when one thinks of their childhood playthings. However these are the ‘toys’ that Victor Hugo grew up with. When the entire household was asleep, Victor used to sneak into the loft or the storeroom, integral parts of all traditional Goan homes, and experiment with the objects he found there. He brought back radios and repaired them. He played around with speakers and valve amplifiers to create sound systems. He collected discarded bike parts to put together his own bike. He once found a razor and shaved off one side of his head! (Victor Gomes recalls with amusement how his godmother, out of embarrassment, painted the shaved-off side with kaajal everytime they stepped out of the house.) The elders of the house interpreted this as a part of his schoolboy mischief. In retrospect, Victor now knows that it was simply a manifestation of his curiosity and creativity at an early age.

After completing his Bachelor’s in Fine Arts at Goa College of Art, Victor spent about three years in Lucknow. Whilst there, one thing that always awed him was the weekly antique market – artefacts of Nawabi culture were being sold in the dusty streets, evaluated by the haggling of customers and sellers. A man with a major inclination towards preserving material culture, Victor failed to understand how people were voluntarily giving away pieces of their heritage. When he returned to Goa, he discovered that all the ‘toys’ he had accumulated over the years had been discarded by his parents, with little regard for the value they held to him. But old habits die hard. He began collecting again – the difference being that the collection this time around would soon culminate into the Goa Chitra display today.

Museum display

It was in 1992 that Mario Miranda extended to Victor an invitation to set up the Christian Art Museum in Rachol. Around this time, Victor began to realise that there was no value for either of his professions, painting or restoring. People preferred posters to paintings, and Indo-Portuguese houses were being brought down to make way for commercial construction. It was this helplessness that urged him to collect whatever he could whenever he could. Like a mad man he started collecting different types of windows, doors, balusters, columns, tiles, roofing wood etc. Some of the architectural scrap that he picked up has now been integrated seamlessly into the museum’s architecture. After resigning from the Christian Art Museum, he took up the work of a professional restorer. He restored old homes, and in turn, paid his clients a price to purchase articles including – but not limited to – broken furniture, traditional kitchen implements, and grinding stones.

He went on collecting anything and everything that caught his fancy, without the explicit objective of setting up a museum. The process of collecting did not take place with an end goal in mind. It was merely Victor Hugo’s desperate need to salvage pieces of our cultural heritage that he believed we were throwing away without a second’s thought. He travelled to remote areas of the state, came into contact with several dealers and scholars and farmers, followed lead after lead to build his collection. After a point, he even sold his cars and bought a pickup truck to facilitate more efficient transportation of the objects. Nobody knew what he was up to, including himself.

Untitled
Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai

Of his many avatars, the one of the collector is perhaps the most interesting one, mostly because it is the source of his countless anecdotes. He believes that every implement that is housed is valuable not just for its functionality or for the historic value, but also for the memories it evokes and the stories of the people who possessed them. Such is the case of the dhali or the sieve used by the Dhangar community to heat nachne or millets. The dhali is no longer of use to the community: first, because nachne cultivation has come to a halt in Goa and replaced by imports from outside the state, and second, because the system of kumeri farming practiced by the Dhangars has been banned under the anti-Deforestation laws. In spite of this, the Dhangar from whom Victor Hugo acquired the dhali, Baburam was initially reluctant to part with it. He wanted to hold on to in case someday the government lifted the ban from kumeri farming, allowing them to return to their traditional methods of sustenance. Eventually, he allowed Victor to purchase it with the promise that if the government were to lift the ban, the dhali would be returned immediately. Baburam died subsequently, the ban on kumeri farming hasn’t been lifted yet, and the nachne available in the market continues to be imported goods.

Dhalli and baburam

I have seen Victor Hugo recount this story several times to different people, and what he never fails to mention in each retelling is the hope that he saw in Baburam’s eyes that day. It was perhaps reflective of Victor Hugo’s own hope to reintroduce a way of living lost in a simpler time.

Posted in By Malavika Neurekar, Events, People's Project

Back to Basics

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By Malavika Neurekar

Walking into and around Goa Chitra (exclusively Chitra, the flagship museum), one is quick to realise that the research, documentation, and display there is rooted in the fact that Goa used to be a primarily agrarian society. Before the mining industry dominated Goa’s economy and imported products from outside the state and the country flooded the markets, agriculture was the main mode of sustenance for a large component of the populace. Thus, it makes sense that Goa Chitra is set against the backdrop of a picturesque field with farm animals running helter skelter, and that it has come to be recognised for its characteristic open, earthy space. In retrospect, it makes even more sense that it all stemmed from an organic farm. In order to honour the traditions of where Goan society comes from, and indeed where Goa Chitra’s foundation comes from, the team holds annual events related to agriculture and farming.

The most popular of these events is the Harvest Festival held every year on 16th October on World Food Day. The most fundamental aspect the Harvest Festival is the involvement of school children. Every year, kids from the local schools and from across Goa join the xetcamoti and engage in farm work along with parents and teachers – right from cutting the corn with a sickle to threshing to separate the grain. A rather delightful activity is the smoking of mackerels in hay with bidam sol and red chillies, wrapped in banana leaves. The mackerels are later feasted upon with the mouth-watering combination of pez (Goan rice gruel) served from a traditional earthen pot; pezecho budkulo with chepni (small pickled mangoes) and kharem (smoked, salted dry fish). The whole event is set to the tune of a brass band churning melodies in the background.

Another related event, which has met with considerable success, is the Kitchen Garden Workshop. There has been a growing debate globally about the ethics of food production, ‘organic’ being the buzzword. While growing awareness amongst many has pushed them towards the organic lifestyle, there is a significant portion of the society that still views Anything Organic with reserve and suspicion. They disregard it as a ‘Hipster trend’ or a ‘fad’, failing to recognise what the term ‘organic’ really entails. It is essentially to create this awareness and introduce the participants to the process of growing their own vegetables that the Kitchen Garden Workshop is held. It comprises a series of interactive lessons and lectures on topics ranging from seed germination, to creation of compost from waste; from improving the drainage quality of the soil by introducing natural additives, to techniques of furrowing and sowing.

The thought behind organising these events is to familiarise and sensitise the participants to the work ethic of the farmer in an interactive, experiential way. Victor Gomes stresses that there is a need for such activity within the museum space, refusing to let the spirit of the museum slip into passivity. The Harvest Festival is free of cost, inclusive of the sumptuous buffet, and Victor opines that “due to a shortage of funds, the events also act as a fun and interactive marketing strategy. I could have chosen to spend the money on bill boards but I consider these events more impressionable and newsworthy.”

Posted in By Malavika Neurekar

The Journey

By Malavika Neurekar

In November 2009 – less than a decade ago – the gates of Goa Chitra Museum at Benaulim were thrown open to the public. A life-long dream of Victor Hugo Gomes, Goa Chitra served as a gateway to Goa’s agrarian past and quickly garnered attention from the media, the government, and the general public. Recognition followed suit. In the first year itself, the museum received the Vincent Xavier Verodiano award, and a section of the Museum’s collection was exhibited at the University Institute of Lisbon. That same year, on an invitation by the Fundacao Oriente to Portugal, Victor Hugo received the opportunity to visit as many as eighteen museums. Since then, these European Museums have extended certificates of recognition to Goa Chitra including the British Museum. In 2010, a California based Goan diaspora NGO, Goa Sudharop, presented a monetary award to Goa Chitra, acknowledging its instrumental role in the preservation of Goa’s heritage. Other well-wishers, who have extended financial support in their own way include PadmaBhushan awardee Dr. Gulzar and acclaimed artist Dom Martin.

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Robert De Niro at Goa Chitra

The allure of the museums has also drawn four lakh visitors since its inception including students, researchers, and eminent personalities such as Hollywood superstar, Mr. Robert De Niro and his daughter Ms. Drena De Niro; renowned Indian poet, lyricist, and director Sampooran Singh Kalra Gulzar; the Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk; winner of the Man Booker Prize Kiran Desai; astronomer and Padmabhushan Awardee, Dr. Jayant Vishnu Narlikar to name a few.

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Celebrity Guests: Group picture with Dr. jayant Vishnu Narlikar (left) and Orhan Pamuk with Kiran Desai (right).

In 2012, Victor Hugo conceptualised a second wing of Goa Chitra – the Goa Chakra museum, India’s first transportation museum. Expanding his vision and working with the same undying fervour, Goa Cruti – the third museum, centered around the Portuguese colonisation – was born in 2014 and opened for public viewing in 2016. What is most remarkable is the international acclaim that the museums have received, even without government support or UNESCO recognition. The parent museum, Goa Chitra, featured in the National Geographic Magazine in 2013 and was listed as a ‘Must Visit’ site by the US weekly magazine Time. Goa Chakra was covered by the BBC in 2013 as ‘India’s Unique Carriage Museum’. Goa Chitra is highly recommended by ‘Trip Advisor’, ‘Rough Guide’ and ‘Lonely Planet’. In March 2014, Victor Hugo Gomes and Goa Chitra Museum received the Business Goa Award for corporate excellence in conserving Goa’s Heritage and culture. In 2015, Victor Hugo’s toil and hardwork was recognised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when Goa Chitra was awarded the prestigious Felga-Gracias award.

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Accolades: Victor Hugo and Aldina Gomes with Mr. Luis Gracias, receiving the Felga Gracias award (left) and Vitor Hugo with Adv. Norma Alavares receiving the Vincent Verodiano award.

Goa Chitra, while preserving the aspects of a culture long gone, makes an active attempt to function as a cultural centre thriving with activity. Over the years, Goa Chitra has been at the centre of organising a host of events – ranging from workshops aimed at creating awareness about Goan customs and craft techniques, foreign students exchanges, and documentation of the traditional arts and crafts in remote Goan villages.

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Victor Gomes being felicitated at Nritya Sankul, School of Culture in 2010.

Today, Goa Chitra has moved beyond collection, documentation, and display of everyday objects into becoming a centre for culture and fostering a general environment for artistic learning. Instances of this include numerous workshops – guitar, China mosaic, block printing, candle making, oil painting on canvas – conducted over the years. The Harvest Festival on World Food Day and Christmas tradition revivals during December are annually held events. Goa Chitra has always provided a platform for budding artists. The Dom Martin Gallery at the entrance, showcasing the works of aspiring painters, exemplifies this. Other instances include: the Narrative Art Residency, with eight participating female artists, held in celebration of International Women’s Day 2014; and the recent dance instillation Apnnavop in commemoration of International Museum Day 2016. Goa Chitra, Chakra, and Cruti have transcended the label of ‘museums’. By launching an inquiry into Goa’s cultural roots and creating the kind of buzz that they have, Goa Chitra has put Goa’s rapidly fading culture on to the map. It has become Victor Hugo’s gift to the people of Goa.

Posted in By Malavika Neurekar

The Vision

By Malavika Neurekar

“Our education is meant to uplift us from where we come from, not uproot us,” quips Victor Hugo Gomes. The remark is informed by his formulation of the ‘Four Generations’: the first generation that creates a culture out of love and need; the second that reaps the benefits; the third that embraces modernity and abandons the indigenous culture. The fourth generation, to which Victor Hugo believes he belongs, is the one that attempts to reassemble the dismembered pieces of their heritage, to salvage the remains of a lost culture. It is this exact strain of thought that fuelled the grit and the passion that went into the conception of the Goa Chitra, Goa Chakra, and Goa Cruti Museums at Benaulim.

With growth came technology, and with technology came globalisation. While technology has irreversibly transformed modern society’s modes of subsistence and pattern of living, globalisation has led to the creation of a uniform culture built upon the models of development of the West. In this process of this homogenisation of culture, local indigenous cultures have been destroyed and their identities are in shambles. The conglomerate of museums preserve Goan local culture by bringing together the scattered material remains of a by-gone era. Goa Chitra, Chakra and Cruti stand as a testament to Goa’s agrarian past, ancient modes of transport, and colonial influences respectively.

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The museum curator, Victor Hugo Gomes with his wife, Aldina Gomes

The journey of Goa Chitra is inseparably linked with the personal vision and trajectory of Victor Hugo Gomes himself. Everything that he invests his energy and time into is driven by an unwavering desire to recreate the Goa of the good old days – not just within the walls of the museums, but beyond. The Goa of Victor’s imagination harks back to a land untouched by modernity, breathed into life by the stories told by his blind grandmother. These childhood experiences left upon him a lasting impression. Enrapt and consumed with a child-like wonder, he has dedicated his life to reviving the essence of Goan life. Another fundamental belief that shapes his ideology is that a museum is not a dead place. Rather, it is a space that should evoke certain responses, facilitate interaction, and encourage dialogue with the collection housed there. In that, he believes that each artefact housed there contains a unique story of its own. While Goa Chitra has received widespread acclaim and recognition, the untold story behind the establishment of the museum itself has remained unexplored. The grand narrative of the journey of Goa Chitra – rife with struggles, little joys, and anecdotal wisdom – is composed of multiple smaller narratives. By piecing together these isolated stories, told through different voices and different perspectives, Goa Chitra Rewind aims to deliver them to a wider audience.