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Nirmala Institute of Education, Altinho is all set to organise their annual festival Abolianchem Fest on February 1.
NT KURIOCITY finds how the fest started and more

RAMANDEEP KAUR | NT KURIOCITY

With the aim of reviving and celebrating the age-old Goan socio-cultural ethos, the Abolianchem Fest returns on February 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Nirmala Institute of Education, Altinho.

It was way back in 2000, that the Abolianchem Fest began at Nirmala’s as a simple project assigned to the English methodology students, by their teacher Sharmila Veloso. Officiating principal of Nirmala Institute of Education, Altinho, Delia Antao informs that besides being a part of the course requirement, the idea was to help students re-discover Goa, her rich and varied cultural heritage, and her contributions in various fields.

And what emerged was a very enriching experience for the students. This prompted the principal and faculty to make this activity an annual feature, no longer restricted to the English students, and to share this experience with a larger audience ie with the families of students, friends and neighbours in order to enable them to appreciate Goa’s unique identity. Thus began the annual college event, the Goa Day. Antao informs: “Over the years Goa Day has motivated students to study, document and throw light on various themes like Communidade, Khazan lands and the sluice gates system that is so unique to Goa, Goan superstitions and so on. The fruits of this exercise were extremely encouraging.”

Interestingly, many of their trainees, as regular teachers, began organising similar programmes in the institutions where they have been employed, with the same objective. The positive feedback they received encouraged them to move ahead and continue looking at other aspects and issues affecting Goa, the destruction of biodiversity, unplanned development, the changing ethos, massive presence of migrant population in Goa with different cultural backgrounds, mass migration of Goans to supposedly greener pastures, etc.

Antao says that lately they were fortunate to have the ‘Festakar’, Marius Fernandes, who could draw people together with his magnetic personality- to revive the rich Goan culture. “He infused a new enthusiasm into the Goa Day celebrations and galvanised tremendous support for the event by inviting a host of professionals purely on voluntary basis to train students in different areas to enhance their performance and organisational skills,” she says.

They then began taking a closer look at the immediate surroundings, at the simple abolim which at one time were the common garden plants decorating every village home. While the flowers still form an indispensable part of the social or religious customs of the Goans, the plants are no longer a sight to behold for a visitor to a Goan dwelling. Hence the institute felt the need to make a deliberate effort to save the plants and give it a status second only to the State flower if not the first. “So the project Goa Day came to be called the Abolianchem Fest in 2018. This compelled us to move outdoors, give the event a festive flavour and a more welcoming and a relaxing ambience. The change in nomenclature also led to the discovery of a variety of abolim in terms of colour, structure and means of propagation,” says Antao.

Last year the focus of the festival was on the coconut tree, its amazing qualities, and multiple benefits. “It was an attempt to restore the awareness of the intrinsic connection of every Goan with the tree that had been suddenly caught in the eye of a storm in which it had almost lost its identity. Primary children from many schools participated in a fancy dress competition to depict some of the traditional professions of Goa among which was the ‘render’,” says Antao.

This year the theme of the festival is ‘Goenchi Mati’. It will be a non-stop variety programme consisting of ‘cantaram’, folk dances, skits, demos on medicinal plants, popular folklore, mando, musical assemble consisting of students performing with various musical instruments including the ghumot. Antao says that this programme will be interspersed with short inputs by some professionals who will speak on the uniqueness and usefulness of the Goan soil. “Besides the traditional extravaganza of songs, music, dance, drama, traditional games, food, there will be an exhibition of the various aspects of the various types of soil found in Goa, as researched by the trainees. School students will also be presenting working models based on the aspects and merits of the soil,” she adds.

At the fest, people will also get to have a hands-on experience of how the potter’s wheel gracefully shaped the many elegant and essential items of every Goan household in the years gone by. They will also get to enjoy aroma and the taste of the freshly roasted ‘chonne’ (grams) and groundnuts. “There will be various food stalls and live counters, a range of beverages, a variety of traditional games and heritage artefacts. One can also visit the black box and enjoy the entertaining performances from the archives of the previously celebrated Goa Days,” says Antao.

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