Posted in Early Ventures, Finance & Sustenance

Restoration and Funding

By Carmita Noronha

Victor Hugo’s personal journey, growth, and development are a fundamentally integral part of the birth and success of Goa Chitra. He took everything from his past professions – the residual anger and disappointment, the love and passion, the experiences and lessons, and the money and resources – and pumped it into the Goa Chitra project. Carmita Noronha and her son, Oscar Noronha were one of Victor’s earliest clients, and in the following story, she discusses Victor’s early restoration days.


It was May 2006 when we came to Goa on a brief visit to complete the formalities that one has to endure on the death of a husband and a father. My husband had bought a monstrous ruin in Loutolim village, South Goa with the intention of restoring it himself.  However, he died shortly afterwards and the task of restoring this monstrosity fell onto our shoulders – my son and I.

Then we were introduced to Victor.  Having agreed to take on our project, he took us for several drives around various villages to show us his other restoration projects, which were pretty impressive, and that was that – we had decided. It was on these drives that we also saw another side to Victor – his great love for good food.  He took us to little known places each specialising in different food items – we had crabs at Esperanca’s in Rachol and a great Goan fish thali at Sharda’s in Fatorda and others I can’t recall.  And we thought, “what a great combination – a foodie and a restorer!”

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Looking for alternative ways to fund Goa Chitra. Illustration by Charudatta Ram Prabhudesai.

Victor’s planning and organisational skills were absolutely spot on – he gave us his schedule, according to which the entire project was to be completed in 7 months. Simply unbelievable, we thought.  Given the state of various other work we had had seen in Goa, we did not believe that Victor would ever complete on time – he did!

Even more amazing was the fact that we were not in Goa for site inspections or to make changes as work progressed. It was distance managing – and Victor did it all. His dedication and attention to detail are phenomenal as is his good taste.  He corrected the proportions of the French windows, the flooring, ceiling, extensions in the right places, a grand entrance, and wrap-around balcony. Thus, an absolute ruin was transformed into an amazing Goan house, beautifully landscaped and terraced.

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In addition to restoring the house, we had also asked him to furnish it and to look out for reasonably priced antiques. It was on this antique furniture finding mission that Victor also started searching for and acquiring objects for what was to be Goa Chitra. He got us amazing bargains including lighting and other fixtures. I went with Victor on two such trips and found him rummaging into a heap of what looked like old junk. I clearly remember him explaining to us that they were in fact units of measure for grain.  He struck a bargain with the antique dealer and took away these items to be painstakingly restored by the faithful Chacha – a great man who was Victor’s man Friday!

Victor later told us that it was the fee he earned on this project that enabled him to take forward his great dream of having an ethnographic museum in Goa – we’re delighted to be a small part of Victor’s amazing project and heritage for Goa.


Carmita Noronha studied MBA in the UK and has worked for British Council as Head Grant in Aid Finance. Her son, Oscar de Sequeira Nazareth, has done his BSc Honours at Cass Business School, UK; is the owner of Licor Armada; and the president of the Indo Portuguese Chamber of Commerce.  He has worked at Marsh & McLennan, London and Deutsch Bank, London as an Investment Banker. After living for almost 25 years in Coimbra, Portugal, and London, Carminta and Oscar returned to Goa in 2012.

Oscar carminta

 

 

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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.

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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 Early Ventures

Goa Chitra: Victor’s picture of Goa?

By Eulalia Alvares D’mello

Walking into Goa Chitra for the first time, one is inclined to think that a part of the curator’s private home has been converted and utilised into museum space. It is not an uncommon assumption to make. However, very few know that the space where the museum stands today was, at one point of time, an organic farm run by Victor and has indeed been built from scratch. Eulalia Alvares D’mello takes us back to when Goa Chitra as we know it today was an open field, while managing to perfectly tap into the founding philosophy that has become the hallmark of this institution.


I first heard of Victor in 2002 when we went to a concert at Verna with our 6 month old baby. A crazy artist, I was told, organized this fantastic event with lots of acoustic jam-ups by some really talented musicians and singers.

Four years later, carrying my third baby we were running this restaurant in Colva and my husband says, “there’s someone I know you would be very happy to meet.” The artist who organized music shows was at the restaurant and my husband had just learnt that he had an organic farm! I was definitely interested because just a few year earlier I was part of a team that visited and documented organic farms from across the country and I definitely believe that organic is the way to go.

So, a few days later in the warmth of his tiled-roof parlour, surrounded by a great variety of potted plants, organic rice growing on one side, ducks waddling up in front, Victor passionately spoke about his collection of old antiques. No not furniture and showpieces but tools of work; bits and pieces each with a history of its own and reminiscent of communities that lived together, worked together and created beautiful pieces of art, not for your showcase but for actual use. Skillfully carved, original, innovative tools used in agriculture, food processing, transport and in various livelihoods that existed before man began using factory made machines and gadgets. “I want to start a museum,” he said “so that people can appreciate these wonderful treasures that today lay gathering dust in old houses and backyards because we do not care to use them anymore.”  That is the kind of dream that in most people’s heads remain dreams. But there was that look in his eye and we knew he was onto something big.

When the museum finally took shape, we were awe struck by the amount of work that had been put in. While the exhibits are delicately touched up and maintained and displayed what touches me most are the stories that Victor has gathered—of practices in communities in villages where people lived and worked, played and danced together; where while they worked to fulfill their needs they also protected the waters, the land, and nature—the good practices.

It makes you wonder what went wrong. How could such wonderful traditions and practices have disappeared? How did we end up instead with meaningless social practices and customs that serve no grand purpose other than to create noise and waste and eat loads of food that give us nothing but indigestion?! And you wonder…what happened to community living? Development, industrialization, convenient lifestyles that confine us to concrete spaces cut off from the natural world on which we survive. Taking care of nature is no longer our job or our business. Today everything can be bought from a store and water comes from taps! And those who make those things work in factories. While those who grow the food and care for the trees, the waters and the animals are fleeced and neglected.

Can the history that Goa Chitra seeks to showcase nudge us into rethinking our priorities, our values, our ethics, and our lifestyles? We need more good stories. So Victor, keep telling them…

In order to promote and showcase sustainable livelihoods Victor has also organized demonstrations and sale of bamboo and clay products. He has also hosted a couple of workshops on organic kitchen gardening and composting presented by Miguel Braganza which I helped organize. Here we sold compost units, books, natural dyed and hand woven clothes, organic fertilizers, reetha for washing clothes etc. sourced from my ecoshop which I opened in Margao soon after the museum took shape. My shop no longer exists but the museum is going strong thanks to a dedicated couple that has braved all the odds.

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Over the last decade, Goa Chitra has seen many get-togethers, many of which I attended, for a variety of activities – book readings, origami, music revival, book releases, discussions, rice harvesting, local sweet making traditions, making and sale of handicrafts. The best thing about these activities was the homely and informal atmosphere, beautiful open space, and home cooked food especially the pumpkin and prawn curry with boiled rice…yum!

To connect with the communities that still live and work together, Victor often takes a group of people/students into the hinterlands to observe and understand their lifestyles firsthand. It is the need to connect with nature; to promote community living, and sustainable lifestyles that I see underlying all of this activity. And I do hope that is the direction things are moving in.


Eulalia Eulalia Alvares D’mello runs an organic farm. She is a lover of books, music, and happy people. She thinks that Nature is our best teacher – and loves beautiful green open spaces, sunshine and rain, clear water, fresh air, and fresh fruit. She strongly believes that we must help each other to be our best selves and that if we are not part of the solution we are part of the problem. Eulalia is currently working through her own personal challenges, and thinks that every experience that life brings, both good and bad, helps us grow and must be savoured and accepted gratefully.