Posted in Personal Stories

Generous to a Fault

By Alexandre Moniz Barbosa

It was over two decades ago and it was at Rachol, within the hoary walls of the Patriarchal Seminary that I met Victor Hugo Gomes for the first time. He was setting up the Christian Art Museum and my colleague Joel D’Souza, who passed away in August 2015, and I had gone on a reporting mission for the magazine Goa Today. The chat with Victor moved from the seminary and continued at a roadside tea stall. While there, a coconut plucker passed by wearing the traditional kasthi. That’s when Victor exclaimed, “this is what we have to preserve.”

And he’s done it. Preserved that bit of Goa that only a person like him could notice; the richness that was in plain sight yet ignored. Suddenly the loincloth that so many had forgotten about, and many others would like to forget, had become a piece of our heritage. As did the jazz musicians of Goa. Long before Nachoia Kumpasar could grab the attention of Goans, Victor had organized the Great Goan Jazz Revival, a series of concerts that brought to the Goan stage those greats of Bombay jazz. For him heritage did not mean just architecture and buildings, which he also does restore.

We met on and off, friends sharing love for a Goa that was slowly disappearing, but it was when he started Goa Chitra that I really got to know him better and understand how committed he was to preserving Goan culture and heritage. Victor Hugo persevered, adding Goa Chakra to Goa Chitra, and has plans for a lot more museums, making Benaulim the address to go to for anyone seeking to learn more of the history and heritage of Goa.

I didn’t ask him, but in 2011 when I mentioned that I would be soon publishing my book Goa Rewound, Victor Hugo offered to host the release at Goa Chitra, and organized an event that many who were there still recall. Speaking at that function, Dr Francisco Colaco had described Victor Hugo as ‘um homengalhardo’ (a generous person), but was stingy that day because he had been given just a few minutes to talk. That’s Victor, generous to a fault, ready to give of his time and art to this beautiful state, that has so much but given him back perhaps so little.


alexandre.JPGAlexandre Moniz Barbosa is a journalist and a writer. He is currently Executive Editor of Herald. His first book was the novel ‘Touched by the Toe’ that was published in 2004 and was set in XVI century Goa. In 2008 he published a collection of the works of Goan journalist Fanchu Loyola translated from the Portuguese to English in the book ‘Passionate and Unrestrained. In 2011, Alexandre brought out ‘Goa Rewound’ a socio-political commentary on Goa 50 years after its liberation from Portuguese rule. In February 2016 he published the novel ‘Raw Earth’, a political fiction set in present day Goa.

Posted in Personal Stories

A View from the Outside

By Bharat Wanchoo

My association with Goa dates back to 1977 when, as a probationer of the Indian Police Service, I had the good fortune to visit this beautiful land of sun and sand. Little did I imagine then that this tryst would indeed turn into an affair with this wonderful land and its most remarkable, simple and lovely people. The CHOGM brought me back and gave me the chance to renew this association. My work in Delhi ensured that I kept coming back to Goa at regular intervals. However, during all these visits it was only work, a hectic schedule and contacts with only the officialdom. I did, however, over these numerous visits, get to see the changes or should I say the transformation that Goa underwent. After retirement when, in the last week of June 2012, I was offered the Governorship of Goa I realised that destiny had played its final hand.

I came to Goa with my wife (her first visit) with the clear intention that we would explore and discover the state and its people. In this we were fortunate to have the assistance of Sanjeev V Sardesai, whom I used to call the moving encyclopaedia of Goa, who took us to places that normal visitors to Goa would never go to. However, there were several places, events and things that I discovered on my own, the most remarkable and memorable being Goa Chitra. Some months into being in Goa one day as I was going through the newspapers I saw a write-up of some young officers having visited Goa Chitra. The first thing I did was to ask my ADC to fix up a visit at the very the earliest, as curiosity got the better of me.

That first visit of ours to Goa Chitra left a deep impression on my mind. I got to learn so much more about the agrarian heritage and lives of the people of Goa, something I do not think I would have imbibed in any other manner or form. More importantly I was deeply impressed with the commitment, zeal, enthusiasm and knowledge of Victor Hugo. What struck me was that this was a single handed job which would have taken a huge effort and not to mention the money to put it together. The adjoining organic farm in which rice was then growing was only indicative of Victor’s connection with his roots, something that is rare to find in today’s world. The peace and calm coupled with the artistic atmosphere was indeed soothing and perhaps was a portrayal of Victor himself. The section of wheels and carriages was still being put together and one could see that another masterpiece, Goa Chakra Museum, was in the making. On that visit we got to meet only Victor and it was only later that we met Aldina his wife and were impressed how they complemented each other.

Following our first visit to Goa Chitra I made it a point to recommend to all my relatives and friends, who visited us at Raj Bhavan, to visit Goa Chitra. All of them I must say came back very impressed, particularly with the passion of Victor.  During my stay in Goa I thereafter made several visits to Goa Chitra either to attend a music concert of for the inauguration of a painting exhibition and the Dom Martin Gallery. Each of these visits was always intellectually stimulating and indeed pleasurable, besides getting to know more and more about the variety and range of activities and events that were being organised at Goa Chitra. The Goa Cruti was opened after we left Goa, and we will surely take out time to view it whenever we return to Goa for a visit.

While in Goa we did not visit Goa Chitra as many times as we would have liked to. We did, however, get to interact with Victor and Aldina on several occasions socially at different places, each time observing the enthusiasm and commitment of Victor and also the different facets of his persona. Goa Chitra, I feel, has made a significant place of pride for itself in the landscape of Goa and I can say with all the commitment at my command that it will only grow and prosper in the days and years to come. It has indeed already become a brand.



Wanchoo (1).JPGShri Bharat Vir Wanchoo
is a retired officer of the Indian Police Service.  With vast experience in the fields of V.V.I.P. Security, Departmental Security, Intelligence and Counter Insurgency, he is regarded as one of the leading professionals and a stalwart in the field of VVIP Security. Shri Wanchoo was the founding member of the elite Special Protection Group and served in that organisation twice, before he was appointed its Chief in 2004.  He was Chief of the Special Protection Group for seven years during; and was awarded the Indian Police Medal in 1993 and the President’s Police Medal in 2001. He served as the Governor of Goa from May 4, 2012 to July 7, 2016. Shri Wanchoo’s family includes Smt. Nalini Wanchoo, his wife, a son and a daughter, both of whom are married and two grand children.

 

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.

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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.

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Posted in Collection, People's Project

A Folk Dancer and A Madman

By Malavika Neurekar

Victor Hugo Gomes is a man who prides himself on authenticity. Whenever he speaks about his vision, he places additional emphasis on the word people. “A people’s project.” “A museum of the people.” “Goa Chitra was inaugurated at the hands of the people.” It is this search for authenticity that brought him in contact with the award-winning folk dancer Kanta Gawde of the Nav Gawda community. The living room of Kanta Gawde’s humble home in Veling is crammed with awards, certificates, and performance masks. A member of a traditional folk dancing family, he had an affinity towards folk dance since childhood. From a young age, he felt that folk dances were often dismissed as “tribal” and therefore inferior, and the form was not accorded the status that it deserved. He recalls the Chogm bhet in 1982, an event attended by people holding important positions of power, and Goa’s floats in Delhi at the annual Republic Day parades. He was filled with resentment because he felt that the traditional dances of Goa were being underrepresented, often marginalised. So to set things right, he mobilised the members of his community, forming a dance troupe. In 1992, his troupe entered the Republic Day parade in Delhi, showcasing Goa’s traditional folk performances in all its authenticity. That year was the first time that Goa secured the first prize at the parade. “Since then, we have never looked back,” he tells me in Konkani. Kanta Gawde’s troupe then went ahead performed at the likes of Kala Academy and most of Goa’s five star hotels, bagging several awards including the Goa State Cultural Award in 2012.

At their first meeting through a common contact Mahendra Phaldesai, Victor and Kanta Gawde immediately realised that they operated on the same wavelength. What united them almost instantly was their common underlying motive: bringing to the limelight the underrepresented, sometimes misrepresented, aspects of Goa. It was in the late 1990s, when the two got in touch to work on the Goan Quest during Victor’s stint as an event manager. The Goan Quest, conceptualised by Victor, is now carried out at Goa Chitra every Sunday during the months of November to February but was then conducted at Loutolim. Kanta Gawde’s troupe helped Victor accompany the troupe on a shigmo parade with bullock carts and palanquins through a winding road. Once they arrived at the final venue, the troupe provided the entertainment for the evening, along with a host of other entertainers, a performance complete with vibrant decor, props, and sumptuous Goan buffet. On Victor’s persuasion, Kanta Gawde’s wife Shalini, a crafts-person, set up a stall to promote her trade. Shalini and other women of the community held demonstrations and sales. The entire proceeds from the sale were retained by the craftspeople, without commission or the inference of middle men.

kanta-at-goa-chitra

In 2001, Victor stopped his event management company Resonance, in order to focus on his marriage and other dreams. The Goan Quest in Loutoulim came to a halt, but the friendship between the two endured. Kanta Gawde describes how their relationship transformed as they started to consider each other family. Kanta Gawde and Victor’s father, Angustias Gomes, would often sit together, having long conversations about Victor’s vision and where it was headed. It goes without saying that when it was time, Victor let Kanta Gawde in on his dream of starting a museum. “Goa was being packaged very differently than what it is,” Victor Gomes tells me. Kanta Gawde echoes this sentiment: “Goa was getting lost somewhere.” And so Victor employed Kanta’s services once again. They traveled together all over the Ponda taluka, meeting and interacting with villagers and tribes, and slowly building up a part of the collection. Kanta Gawde mentioned that all the objects were purchased (apart from a handful that have been gifted or donated by friends), sometimes at a higher price than estimated by the owner of the object. Such is case of dongri nangor, a three-piece wooden plough that had been discarded by the dhangar who owned it. Victor Hugo reiterates that Kanta Gawde was instrumental in many of the collection trips in that area. “A kunbi saree produced here in Goa is very hard to get these days,” he says. “But Kanta managed to acquire it for me.” Once again, Victor emphasizes the role of the people here. He reminds me how the curation of objects was done taking into consideration the people who possessed these items, and the sense of personal history as well as the community’s collective history that was tied to it. Talking about their personal equation, Kanta Gawde tells me that he has known Victor as a man bubbling with ideas, but lacking stability for a long time. He is of the opinion that Victor often fell into the wrong company of people, being susceptible to manipulation. He exudes sincerity as he tells me that the stability Victor needed came after marrying Aldina and keeps reiterating the open-hearted generosity of the two.

Posted in Personal Stories

Victor Hugo Gomes – As I Know Him

By Sanjeev Sardesai

In ‘Creating the Brand Goa Chitra’, Bismarck Dias talked about how, during his initial interaction with Victor, he was forcefully warned against the project. In a similar vein, Savia Viegas calls him “Banalecho pisso bhatkar, referring to the common perception of Victor as an eccentric man. In this brilliantly articulated piece, Sanjeev Sardesai offers a highly personal account of his own experience with the “madman.” From being intrigued, to being cautioned by his social circle, to knowing Victor Hugo and the Goa Chitra project – Sanjeev Sardesai’s account is a delight to read.


“THE GOAN WHOSE CHITRA IS CREATED BY THE CRUTI OF HIS CHAKRA

Goa Chitra – the petite name which signifies a very original and ethnic picture of a beautiful land called Goa, with its vast arrays of display of authentic skills related to Goa’s ancient agrarian lifestyle. This amazing collection of the original souls of the primary & ethnic occupation related artefacts’ of agriculture, right from the initial step of sowing up to a remunerative reaping is the herculean effort and an arduous journey of  a single individual named Victor Hugo Gomes.

Victor – an extremely simple and a respectfully humble person once you know him – was, at one point in time, a matter of pure mystification for me whenever I had the fortune of fleetingly being around him during heritage & hospitality related interactions many moons ago. His bearing was that of a typically whimsical, spectacled man-of-arts, with a very sombre air about him; however most of the invitees were always indulging in a very animated conversation with him. Wearing his typical Indo-European attire of a kurta & pants, topped with a small pony tail, which has now transformed into his symbolic long hair, just added to my intrigue.

When I made my initial attempt to delve into the identity of this gentleman, it deepened my intrigue as most of the persons informed me that he is head-strong, but starkly guileless. A few of my “well-wishers” (those who wish that I trip into a well!), even went to the extent of advising me to stay away from this crazy, head-strong young man “for my sake”! Maybe it was this one aspect that acted like a magnet, for me, towards knowing more about the endeavours of this mystic man. The more I asked, I was further more baffled.

From this one man I educated & enriched myself positively, creating a huge niche in my own life, learning from this person’s conduct. I realized that for a common man, it was easy to create a huge balloon out of a small achievement; but to embrace & create a solid foundation, piled on a subject that goes deep down to many centuries, with the barest of sustenance, and inhumane critics…. is a prodigious task. True to his name, he was a Victor!

It was then that I attempted (yes, attempted) to extend my hand to this individual called Victor. I faintly remember the first time I met this gentleman at one of the meets of the hospitality industry, in mid 1990’s, in which industry I spent most of my life. The first meeting went on very sober and ended up with a warm invite from him to visit his collection of the fast disappearing artefacts’ related to the original Goan trades, which he was initiating in the South Goa village of Benaulim. It was here that I was first connected to Goa Chitra & Victor Hugo Gomes. Victor Gomes ‘the artiste-painter’ by education and a curator of Goa’s agrarian heritage by passion.

I realised that this was a man whose passion for this beautiful Goa State was far more profound and frank than I could ever attempt to attain or achieve. But passion does not come without its negative aspects and it shows. No sincerely ‘pPassionate’ person shall allow triviality displayed or destruction of the richer, yet unknown aspects of the topic of his or her passion. Such was the case with this man! His knowledge, informed by thorough study, about the artefacts related especially to the rich heritage of our Goa could not bear the senseless indifference exhibited by the people who mattered. This indifference had led to the love of his life – the intangible heritage – the equipments & the methodology of ancient Goan farming & agriculture, to get lost in the sands of time.

I have always liked and will continue to appreciate the frank and critical yet educated views he expresses, irrespective if the same shall be received with diplomacy or with the importance that they deserve; because he believes in the issues close to him!

I recollect, that he was my first choice as a Resource Person and Speaker, when I organised the 1-Day Seminar on the topic ‘THERE IS NO TOURISM IN GOA”, in association with the NGO Goa Forgiving at Panaji. Having invited the Director of Tourism Mr. Amey Abhyankar, the Former Member Secretary Kala Academy Dr. Pandurang Phaldessai, and a well known media personality Mr. Sandesh Prabhudessai along with Victor Hugo Gomes, I was pleasantly surprised and happy that true to my understanding Victor did not mince words or dabble in the diplomacy angle. Watched by over 200 students of tourism related subjects, Victor, like a warrior on warpath ‘whipped out his sword’ from the scabbard of words and placed his scathing views – all backed with facts, bare before the other panel members. Every individual present in the hall had just one response towards him – praise!

Easier said than done. Being frank is not a regular human being’s cup of tea! My journey of knowing this once feared-to-approach person has led me to forging a bond of deep friendship with him and personally I feel honoured to be acknowledged as his friend. Today too many a person have a warped view of this spectacled, bearded & long haired man; but sadly they do not realize that they are the real losers! It was pleasant to see that this young man, fired with the urge to protect, preserve & promote the heritage of Goa, is also a promoter of literature & music; though I have not heard him sing!

My visits there have been many, but every visit enriches me further every time. Laying my eyes on his collection of artefacts related to agriculture & homes in GOA CHITRA; the scintillating and amazing palanquins, wheeled buggies, carriages & carts in GOA CHAKRA and his recent initiative GOA CRUTI consolidating & displaying the rare & disappearing heritage assets of a Goan home of yester years is an experience which I always feel rejuvenated after every visit! I feel proud as a Goan to be made aware that these consolidated priceless collections of heritage, have been praised by world dignitaries, after an enlightening visit here!

What makes these initiatives a really amazing feat on his part is that he has laid the foundation, creating his own resources, without any external assistance and only through a few donations & the entry fees.


SANJEEV V SARDESAI HANDS-ON-HISTORIANS.JPGSanjeev Sardesai the Primary Promoter of HANDS-ON-HISTORIANS, is a Botany Graduate and was a player in the hospitality industry for 22 years in Senior Executive designations. Having been brought up in a Goan village lifestyle, at Porvorim, he regales in documenting the ethos of the earlier eras vis-a-vis the present times, through the eyes of a transit generation citizen, between earlier dynastic rules & a democratic set-up. Being awarded the President of India Badge in Scouting, his hobbies are photography, angling, arborics and the outdoors; while his passion is being aware and to protect, preserve & promote the heritage of Goa through writings, audio-visual presentations & exhibitions.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Posted in Personal Stories

The Magic of Madness

By Radharao Gracias

Radharo Gracias’s portrait of Victor Hugo Gomes and his journey of building Goa Chitra from the ground up is an uplifting piece about hope, the transformative power of dreams, and the importance of madness to be successful.


Do you know Victor was the question hurled at me. Of course, I do was my answer. And, then came the challenge. Write what you know about Victor. And so, I got to writing what you are about to read.

Do I know Victor? And this time the answer was a huge no. Does anyone know Victor? And the answer is no. Does Victor know himself? And the answer again is no. Strange but true.

I have actually “known” Victor for decades. I have often gone and sat with him, on the innocuous patch of land his family owned, not far from his ancestral house. And he would explain his plans for it which appeared to me to be unrealistic. But then, Victor is an artist. And every artist has a right to dream and to convert the dream into reality. Every subsequent visit, I was left wondering whether it is the same place I had visited a few months earlier. Dramatic changes were taking place. Sometimes I wondered is Victor a thief? Has he managed to get hold of P.C.Sorkar’s magic wand?

At other times, looking at Victor, I thought maybe he is the first successful alchemist. The innocuous property is now a wonderland where you can see the entire past at a glance. He has certainly managed to change base metal into bronze. And is well on his way to turn it into silver and gold!

And Victor has achieved all this with no help from any government authority or rather, despite obstacles by all powers that be. I have seen him struggle trying to secure access to his property. I have seen him struggle trying to overcome nightmares induced by officials, and achieve his dream. Nothing could daunt him.

How did Victor reach this far? I have no answer. But sometimes I wonder, has it something to do with his native village. As we know, Benaulim is known for the quality of its coconuts. And its nuts too. I remember in my younger days, when I was a little mischievous with my siblings, which was quite frequently, my mother would castigate me. And one day out of anger she shouted, is my son going mad? And my immediate answer was, may be. After all, I said, my grandmother (her mother) is from Benaulim. And she had a good laugh.

I believe that sometimes to achieve success one must have a little madness; the capacity to look beyond the ordinary. A little madness can do to you much more than full sobriety can. I have never seen Victor mad but did the Benaulim effect have any role to play in such a stupendous success? My guess is as good as yours.

And there is the old adage which goes, behind the success of every man…Victor’s wife has proved the adage meaningless and outdated. I have known Aldina for long. She is always by Victor’s side and not infrequently in front. And rarely behind. So, for those of you, who believe in the old saying, just forget it.

Now, I do not know how to conclude this bit of an essay. In fact, you cannot conclude anything about Victor at all. So you can be assured that as we go along, this blog will grow with Victor.


Radharao Gracias - Copy.jpg

Radharao Gracias is an eminent lawyer, social activist, politician, and ornithologist. He was the former president of South Goa Advocates Association and a former independent MLA. He is a regular columnist and a history lover.

 

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Posted in Personal Stories

Responsive Rage

By Pravin Sabnis

On Victor Hugo’s exit from the Christian Art Museum over differences with the museum directors, Russell Murray said “I cannot say for sure, but I think it was the anger that he channelled to pick himself up and throw himself into something new.” In the following piece, Pravin Sabnis enlightens us further as to how Victor redirected all his rage and transformed it into creative productivity.


I first met him during our college days. He was studying in the Goa College of Art and I was studying at the Goa College of Architecture. My first impression of him was that of an ‘angry young man’. Over the years, many things have changed but not that original impression of the personality of Victor Hugo Gomes. He was always engulfed in fury, speaking against injustice, against mediocrity and against hypocrites and pretenders. Initially, I thought him to be just a talker but over many interactions emerged more layers of his personality. His indignation was not at the surface. The roots of his rage arose out of great depth. It was an era of student rebellion and angry voices of a restless crowd. But Victor’s anger was more personal rather than arising from a collective synergy. His angst seemed to be of a lone ranger, but a loner he did not remain. He seemed to enjoy the company of similarly angry, restless persons but he would not easily trust anyone fully.

Victor was as sharp as he was sceptical. Despite detailed discussions and explanations by me, he refused to join our college strike. It was pertinent to note that he was not ready to be part of the herd, just because his friend was leading it. He had no quarrel about the cause; he just was not convinced about his deep doubts and apprehensions. He would not jump into something just because he agreed with the purpose or trusted the proposer. He wanted to be clear about everything. The ‘who’ and ‘how’ were as important to him as the ‘why’ of doing anything. His indignation, which seemed uncontrolled, was aligned to critical and deep thinking. His rage chose to be responsive, not reactive. The art student’s fury was intertwined with passion. I began to realise that he held the emotion of hope as well as the sentiment of restlessness. Many of our generation seemed consumed by a rebellious rage, and displayed great integrity and commitment to this unrest. Yet most were not able to sustain the fire like Victor did.

Many of the angry young men and women moved away from the path of unrest. They had their reason and justifications of pulling back…first earning to sustain, then to go up the ladder. But Victor’s passionate rage seemed to be like the embers that remain smouldering on, even when the flames have died down. Victor stuck to his ‘agneepath’, even at the cost of being forced out of his labour of love that he so painstakingly put together. His passion was not doused even at the prospect of losing out due to his stubborn integrity. Every dampener would further fuel his fire. And this confirmed that the angry young man’s rage had not retreated with age.

Victor’s emotional fury made him constantly step out of the confines of his boundaries. From putting together music shows to restoring and retrieving a losing heritage, Victor allowed his rage to fuel his progress towards transforming the negative situation. His anger at the callous and careless attitude towards a diminishing cultural heritage resulted in the impressive Goa Chitra, then Goa Chakra, and now Goa Cruti.

As he continues to stretch the footprints of his impressive legacy, Victor has learnt to spread the fire among his growing team. Now, he no longer walks alone. His partner Aldina seems to be the balance that ensures that his anger is no longer just flames, it is more like a torch that not only lights up the path but can also turn into a cutting edge. Every stimulus can trigger off a wide range of responses. One of the possible responses is anger. So often, the situation is such that the rage seems natural. We get disturbed by the provocation born of dismay, disgust or distress. So easily we respond with rage, but it is pertinent to ask whether our rage is responsive.

Indignation is definitely desirable over indifference and insensitivity. But mere fury is just hot air. However, if the hot air makes a huge balloon rise and takes people along to loftier actions, then the fury turns worthy. We need to be better at ensuring that our rage is not just a reaction… it must transform into a responsive action that can strive to overcome the very cause of that rage… like Victor Hugo Gomes has!


Pravin (2).jpgPravin Sabnis is a corporate coach with a passion to connect people to their potential. Through his enterprise ‘Unlearning Unlimited’, he has conducted over 1900 workshops. He is known for innovative use of song, dance and experiential activities. Pravin writes the Monday Muse blog since the first Monday of 2004. He also expresses his creativity through poetry, theatre and oratory. Pravin has been active in the student movement, Citizens Initiative for Communal Harmony, Goa Bachao Abhiyan and the SEZ Virodhi Manch. He is proactively involved in JCI, Rotary Club, Goa Hiking Association, Samraat Club, Nisarg Nature Club, FilmBeam and YHAI.