Posted in Events

Goa Chitra’s Living Identity

By Greg Johnson

In last week’s article, Pushpanjali Sharma, with regard to Goa Chitra, aptly pointed out “how a space that is home to the old also has room for the new.” An important objective of the Goa Chitra project – apart from the preservation and archiving of tangible and intangible heritage – has been to create a centre for cultural activities. By hosting various events revolving around, but not limited to, fine arts & crafts, literature, music, and dance, Goa Chitra has sought to enable dialogue, discussion, and a flow of ideas between individuals. Greg Johnson sheds some light upon the many events held within the walls of Goa Chitra, which has transformed Goa Chitra into more than just a museum.

“This is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end but is perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

A quote from one of the world’s great Imperialists, Winston Churchill. It may not everyone’s cup of tea but many of his strengths resemble Victor’s: independent, rebellious, honest, decisive, persistent, single-minded, and a little mad. I also believe the quotation sums up Victor and Goa Chitra.

As a firangi, I want to look at Goa Chitra from a slightly different angle, particularly as the comments on the museum in its various avatars and stages are well documented. My wife and I arrived in the state in 2007/2008, neatly timed with the formal birth of Goa Chitra. We see Goa Chitra not just as a museum but more importantly as one significant centre of Goan life.

We have the museum, critical in its role as a mirror into the past and as a preserver of history and culture but we also have the ability to pull people in, act as a meeting place, be a centre for the culture of the future. Culture is not just about looking back – cultures have changed constantly throughout history. The times past that some hanker for are the same eras that their forefathers hated and looked wistfully rearwards again.

Victor has worked hard to ensure that the museum is not just that, but that it retains a living identity. The sheer variety of events over quite a short time (that I know about) is quite surprising. Musically we have listened to and seen such a wide range of performances moving from traditional Goan music, though Indian classical music, to Indian and Konkani contemporary music. On the Occidental side we have had as many diverging styles, jazz, blues, pop, classical and opera. People have listened reverently at times, at other times danced with a certain abandon, and talked (and we’ve also seen Roy from Coronation Street, Britain’s longest running soap).

Arts and Literature-wise we have had numerous readings and launches from the serious to the cartoon, adult literature and children’s books, formal seating, causal walk about and not forgetting Aldina’s book club. There have been dance performances and always people meeting and communicating. There have been panel discussions on matters of local interest, we have had the occasional political commentator espousing their personal strengths and actions, there have been cultural award nights and events to recognise International Women’s Day and there have been film nights ranging from the intellectual to the entertaining

Reverting to the future word Victor has been keen on ensuring the next generation are exposed to other skills than “thumbing the mob” or “wrestling the tab” with children’s sessions on mosaics, textiles, weaving, and printing. For the adults, I particularly remember one feni making demonstration… I think I remember.

On a personal note I am grateful to Victor for twice hosting part of our Goan Cultural Extravaganza weekend, attendees so pleasantly surprised by the surroundings and the museum not to mention the home cooked food. Furthermore, Sylvia and I have made many good Goan friends from our times at Goa Chitra including, of course, Victor and Aldina.

Greg Johnson.jpg

Greg Johnson has been in India for around 20 years working as a Chartered Insurer in the risk and insurance industry in Delhi and Mumbai before relocating to Goa some years back. Both he and his wife are keen on the arts/music and the true Goan culture, rarely visiting the beach.

Posted in Events, Personal Stories

Reconnecting With Your Roots

By Pushpanjali Sharma

Earlier this year, in May, Goa Chitra hosted the first one-of-its kind dance installation Apnnavop conceptualised by Pushpanjali Sharma and Gautam Nima. Pushpanjali, in this heartfelt piece, covers a variety of topics – the curators, the museum collection, the financial struggle. The most striking part of the essay, however, is how she intertwines her own personal journey – of reconnecting and re-remembering – with her discovery of and interaction with Goa Chitra.

A few months ago, when we toyed around a decision to settle down in the land upon which I first opened my eyes to the world, Goa, I wondered where I would find a space for my artistic work-inquiry-voice. My best friend Elaine Barreto had mentioned that we visit Goa Chitra, and that we meet Victor and Aldina Gomes, and that something may open up. Destiny, however, had its own plans of how this meeting was to happen.

It was a Saturday evening, and a play named “Is God a Taoist?” was being showcased at Carpe Diem, Majorda. Not only was I curious to see a Goan Theatre group tackle complex existential questions, but I was also curious to see who else would come to watch.

While we waited for the play to setup, we sat at a table across the two faces of a couple that were going to become our special friends, or rather our adopted parents. The gentleman with his silver hair tied into a pony, was direct and enthusiastic. Within a couple of minutes of our meeting with him, we fell into a conversation that took a very quick turn into an interview of sorts. The lady with her warm smiling eyes, and a hand that was full of silver bangles, inquired into the nature of our work gently. Before we knew it, we were told that there was space for what we wanted to do at Goa Chitra, and that we should come see them there. Did he say “Goa Chitra”? Was he the same “Victor Gomes”? What a way to meet!

The first time we went to Goa Chitra, I was overwhelmed with the collection, and even more touched by the stories behind how they were procured, or rather rescued, by the curator Victor Gomes. As Victor narrated one story after the other, the only thing I could think of is I hope I am able to remember all that he is saying, but what if I forget…a sinking feeling crept inside…one that knows the ways of the world and has seen so often that truthful work done sans personal or economic agendas is mostly unsupported and unrecognized by the people of the land. Goa Chitra too was running the same risk. Here was an artist/collector who was the epitome of integrity, every object meant something to him enough to light his eyes. He must have shown his collection to many, yet every time he himself gives a personal tour, he is able to generate an enthusiasm as though he has just come upon the object. “Someone needs to write a book about the story of this place, or perhaps there needs to be a blog,” I said out loud as the sinking feeling gnawed at me. Something was different here. Victor didn’t collect to make a museum, the museum came into being because Victor collected. He would have collected anyway. Victor sees value in what has been and continues to be so mercilessly discarded, thrown out and burnt in fires; thoughtlessly forgotten by our colonized-industrialized-urbanized minds. Victor also values art, concepts, and inquiry that might be considered “ahead of their time.” Goa Chitra has not only existed as a museum but it also is a space for learning and exploring artistic and cultural activities, a venue for performances and a center for dialogue and discussion around arts and culture of our beloved Goa.

As a young artist who has recently returned to her hometown from the United States, after completion of post-graduate studies in performing arts, somatics and contemplative studies, Goa Chitra was an ideal place to begin – to research, to reconnect. Victor and Aldina, were open, generous and supportive, and most importantly respectful to the artistic exploration of young minds. They made space for the raw, organic, experimental and indefinable nature of the 7-day performance of “Apnnavop” – an improvised movement/dance installation developed and performed by Gautam Nima and myself, which also incorporated improvised music and vocalization, dialogue, poetry, writing and audience interaction. It was my way of reconnecting to my roots, allowing my movement and dance to fondly reminisce and remember all that I associate with my Goan Heritage – the stories, the catholic prayers-psalms, the Portuguese and Goan litany songs of worship, colloquial expressions of appreciation as well as dismissal/disapproval, bath next to the well, the grinding of the coconut and red chillies on the black stone, building castles on the beach, the smell of mangoes and jackfruits, sol curry and most importantly the sense of restfulness and wholeness that comes from a time well lived and experienced without agendas of productivity and compliance to the rat race. I also critically questioned the tendency of culture to box, to blindly replicate, to be unaccommodative towards the new, the unknown, the understood. Goa Chitra allowed the space for this honest inquiry through an unconventional method of research through dance. It was beautiful how a space that is home to the old also has room for the new.


Apnnavop – The Seven Day Dance Instillation at Goa Chitra

Goa Chitra has been birthed through its two parents Victor and Aldina, who consciously decided to create this museum for the Children of Goa, instead of having a child of their own. While most of us strive to build posh homes that are furnished and decorated with items that show “status” and “place,” this couple despite being able to live a life of luxury, has deliberately chosen to live simply in a room above the museum instead. They have put everything into the museum, into creating optimal facilities for the preservation and conservation of our Goan Heritage. It is a pity that it is a museum that has been created with personal funds and has not enjoyed financial support or deserved recognition from the state government. The lack of investment from the state government stands as a mirror that showcases detachment and disassociation from roots. In the face of this depravity and decadence of the cultural ancestry and with it the wisdom of our elders, due to gross negligence of the misguided generations, Goa Chitra stands an emblem of hope. I am in awe of the initiative taken by the young intern from Goa, Malavika Neurekar at Goa Chitra, to start this blog and ensure that the story is told. When a young mind is self-motivated to use her skills to create awareness, this is a sign of successful application of education to serve the community. I applaud her effort, perhaps more children of the soil will rise in a similar way.

The museum of Goa Chitra is a tribute to the hands that have crafted the various artifacts preserved in the museum.  Goa Chitra is the result of unfailing love for one’s homeland and immeasurable sacrifice of its makers – Victor and Aldina Gomes for the children of tomorrow. This blog is testimony to all that.

Pushpanjali2.jpgPushpanjali Sharma is a performing artist and research-scholar in Somatic Education and Transformative Creative Practice. She graduated with a Master’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a specialisation in Embodied Studies from Lesley University, Cambridge. She has trained in several dance forms, including ballet, modern, and contemporary dance.

Posted in Events

A Unique Artistic Personality

By Gerard Machado

Goa Chitra’s roots, in many ways, are linked with the curator’s deep-founded interest and previous experience with the music scene in Goa. Victor Hugo Gomes’s pioneering Jazz Music Festivals of the early 2000s in Goa were given a new lease of life with the launch of Goa Chitra. One of the jazz musicians who performed at the museum, Gerard Machado, shares his experience.

 Victor Hugo Gomes has long been a stalwart in organizing music concerts in Goa. One day I got a call from him inviting me to perform with my Jazz band at his Great Music Revival concert series, I accepted his invitation and this was the first time I met him in the year 2000. During my three day stay at the Marriott hotel we must have met only two or three times during breakfast or at the lunch table in the coffee shop. We hardly had any conversation. I returned to Bangalore where I live. A year later Victor came over to Bangalore along with his wife Aldina, we hung out at a friend’s farm in the outskirts of Bangalore playing music and chatting on various topics like philosophy, history, art, culture.

Victor Hugo’s The Great Music Revival 2000 by Alexyz

Victor visited me several times in Bangalore, we became good friends. It was at one of those all night jam sessions and discussions he mentioned to me that he would like to create a Museum showcasing and promoting Goan heritage, art and culture at his vast land in Benaulim. Wow! Sounds great! But that’s going to be a mammoth task, I said to him. Victor was serious and determined. I knew he was dreaming big, he always did and always came up with brilliant ideas. I also knew he is hard working and is capable of getting done anything he wanted to make his dream come true.

After a couple when years I came to Goa for another performance, I visited Victor and he took me over to his dream project site. The site was all cleaned up and ready for construction. He explained the plan to me briefly. The man with a plan and vision was at work towards turning his land into a Museum. I returned to Bangalore after a few days. We kept in touch as some more years passed by and Victor’s dream project was ready. He founded Goa Chitra and Goa Chakra for the whole world to see. An awesome way of connecting the present with the past that appealed to the masses, especially the youth.

Recently I visited Goa Chitra along with my wife Stella, we took a tour around the Museum and had a wonderful experience viewing ancient artifacts, implements, items of Goan cultural & historical interest that are on display. We were informed by Aldina that Victor himself had picked up many of these items from the remote areas of Goa far and near. Beautiful paintings painted by Victor and other artists are also on display and are a treat for all art lovers visiting the Museum.

Music Concerts held at the museum over the years.

Last year I had the privilege to perform with my Jazz band at Goa Chitra for a wonderful Goan and expat audience.  The Concert was a fund raiser to patronize the magnificent Museum Goa Chitra. As a musician and artist I felt the need to support a cause I firmly believed in.

gerard-machado-pic-1Gerard Machado is a Bangalore-based Jazz musician. Hailing from the musical Vonn Trap family of Mangalore, he began playing guitar at the age of six and has worked and collaborated with many musicians in India and abroad. Gerard has experimented with Indian classical music and has produced Jazz/Fusion and Gospel Albums. Apart from composing jingles and scoring music for numerous feature and animation films, he has performed for “Jazz Yatras”. His band “The Gerard Machado Network” plays Contemporary Jazz incorporating the Blues, Funk, Latin and Indian Rhythms.

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.”