Sunaparanta – Goa Centre for the Arts will host the launch of ‘Shadow of the Palm Tree’ by Vatsala Mendonça on April 7 at 6.30 p.m. at its centre in Panaji. The book will be launched at the hands of novelist, critic and scriptwriter, Damodar Mauzo.
The launch will spotlight historical and cultural aspects of Goa that have an impact even today on the Goan identity. There will also be a discussion with author and journalist, Devika Sequeira on interesting aspects of the novel like the slave trade, Goan Diaspora, the difference between the British and the Portuguese as colonial powers, the influence of Africans on Goan culture, the presence of descendants of runaway Goan slaves among the Siddhis—an ethnic tribe living in neighbouring states.
‘Shadow of the Palm Tree’ is set in colonial Goa which spotlights a little known facet of Goan history, the presence of African slaves in Goa who were brought down by the Portuguese from their colonies in Angola and Mozambique. In time, some Goans not only bought slaves to serve in their homes but also played a role in the slave trade.
The novel narrates a tale of a Goan family, the Abreus. It opens with a heart-rending tragedy: the death of a mother at her own hands. Yet the shadow of sadness cast on the Abreus took shape in the 1700s, when the family converted to Christianity and joined the most lucrative enterprise of Christian Europe: the slave trade. From the day Imaculada, a traditional healer from Mozambique, entered the Abreu home, the destinies of her family and theirs would be entwined in a dark dance of intimacy. After their mother’s death, the Abreus flee from the penumbra of their collective grief becoming an inadvertent metaphor for the diasporic nature of the Goan community. As Goa gains independence, family equations are realigned once again. Claudinha, a descendant of Imaculada, flees Goa and the Abreus to take refuge with the Siddhis, a primitive tribal group that can be found in Karnataka even today. There is now no one left to deflect Imaculada’s malevolence. Will her prophecy finally be fulfilled? ‘Shadow of the Palm Tree’ is a story of identity and survival, love and sacrifice, forgotten histories and cultural conflicts.
The author Vatsala Mendonça has been writing for over three decades. She completed her education in India and England, and started as a copywriter and then gravitated to a career in journalism working with several publishing houses. She co-edited ‘This is Goa’ a collection of historical and cultural essays, and authored the Cathay Pacific Gentleman’s Guide to Business Travel.