Charting the metamorphosis of the Goan identity



An identity of a place is derived from its history and heritage. And if we look at the identity of Goa, there is no doubt that it is shaped and influenced by various civilizations and cultures. As we all know this coming together of cultures is not an easy process as there will be conflicts and issues and the uncovering of darker layers of history which we may not even be aware of.

‘Morphology of Archive: Connected Histories of Goa’ is the title of the ongoing art exhibition at Museum of Goa (MOG), which is making an attempt to look at Goa’s history differently. Goa creates a unique cosmopolitan archive from which the various agents of history emerge. The state has been an active site of trade and conquest – from the 350 years of medieval Kadamba rule to the more recent 450 years under the Portuguese – profoundly shaping its architecture, music, cuisine, customs, and morphing identities.

“We are looking not only at the people who came to Goa, but also the Goan diaspora like the community of 9000 Goans living in a small town called Swinden in UK. The exhibition also features the darker side of cosmopolitanism,” says Sabitha TP, who along with Lina Vincent, is curating this exhibition.

Elaborating about the darker side of history, Sabitha says, “Kedar Dhondu’s painting which is nothing but a huge dark canvas speaks about the slave trade which was rampant and the Mozambique community which is still living here in Goa.” To highlight her point further she gives example of an art work by Sanjeev Khandekar whose canvas looks like a beautifully embroidered carpet. But, it depicts mutants, which in a way symbolizes the after effects of clashes between two cultures.

This multi-media art exhibition features 31 artists, of whom 15 are international artists. One installation that speaks about the darker side of Goa’s history is the ‘Penance 5th’ by Clemence B D T Barret. The artist speaks about the Inquisition which Goa experienced in 16th century through the memoir of a person called Gabriel Dellon. “The way this installation is placed in the gallery is very interesting. It makes you walk through a narrow path that is almost claustrophobic and then you come across these red shoes on sheets of paper. I think such stories completely capture the most important aspect of Goa’s cultural history, which was the Inquisition. Stories which are repressed and which needs to be told,” says Sabitha who further adds that stories of the Inquisition and slave trade made her more aware about Goa’s history and that she can no longer look at Goa as just a beach destination.

Along with history the exhibition also features myths and legends that make this place. The exhibition also speaks about the dwindling traditions of Goa through the works of Clare Arni. Sabitha speaks about 10 lithographs made by the artist Subrat Kumar Behra. “These lithographs are very interesting as they have interwoven past with present and legends with history like Parshuram meeting Vasco da Gama. This installation in many ways speaks about the theme of this exhibition as there is constant metamorphosis,” says Sabitha.

The other installations which are part of the exhibition are the depiction of slave history in a figurative form by Sachin Naik or documentation of foreigners and hippies who preferred to stay in Goa, by artist Waswo X Waswo in the series ‘Longtimers.’ These are digital black and white prints hand coloured by Rajesh Soni.

When asked whether there was a difference in interpretation of migration history between international and national artists, she says, “Looking at the works I can make out those international artists have done lot of research and have really gone deep in the subject compared to national artists.” She also confessed that she was expecting much more from the local artists as they are in the better position to understand the subject as it is directly related to their history.

There are many such stories in the 40-odd pieces which adorn the walls of MOG and it ranges from natural history to mythology to recent history.

Such visual and interactive interpretations are an interesting way to learn about our history. During the course of this exhibition artist Subodh Kerkar will conduct a lecture on the history of food followed by a dinner – which will have the similar flavours and dishes that would be mentioned in the lecture.

Sabitha opines that the event not only makes learning history fun, but also gies the visitor an opportunity to learn more about art. “In Europe you will regularly see children flocking the museums and sitting there and drawing sketches, etc. We also need to make children aware about our museums and this exhibition at MOG is the best example. Such exhibitions connect and invite people to participate. Hopefully in the coming days it will be a part of people’s everyday experience,” says Sabitha.


(‘Morphology of Archive: Connected Histories of Goa’ is an ongoing exhibition at Museum of Goa (MOG), Pilerne Industrial Estate. It will remain open till the month of May, 2016.)