A confluence of stories


‘Retelling’, a multimedia group exhibition inspired by the artists’ unique experiences and interrogation of life in Goa, opens on February 10 at Sunaparanta-Goa Centre for the Arts, Altinho. NT BUZZ gets a peek

Ever since its founding, the team behind Goa Open Arts has been actively involved in galvanising the art talent in Goa and also organised the Goa Open Arts Festival in 2020.
“However, because of the pandemic we realised that we couldn’t do the festival this year and so we gave out grants to six artists to support a project that they were already working on or had an idea to work on,” says artist Gopika Chowfla, who is part of the organising team.
This Goa Open Arts Catalyst Grant was initiated in May 2020, where an open call was put out inviting proposals from artists. The winners of these grants were then announced in August. The artists selected were Afrah Shafiq, Asavari Gurav, Bhisaji Gadekar, Poonam Pandit, Nandita Kumar, and three-piece artist collective Komas.
And now the artists are all ready to showcase their completed projects at the art show ‘Retelling’, which opens on February 10 at Sunaparanta-Goa Centre for the Arts, Altinho.
“This is not a curated show. The artists were allowed total freedom, but what we observed is that the artists here are very interested in issues pertaining to Goa be it cultural, music or environmental and this comes out in their work. It is an unusual thing because we don’t find this in Delhi or Mumbai where a lot of work is far more general. And this is characteristic not only of people native to Goa but also those who have moved here from other parts of the country,” says Chowfla.
Afrah Shafiq is one such artist who moved to the state about three years ago and soon became interested in the many different titles given to Mother Mary here. This translated into a whole project in itself on Marian worship which she completed two months ago. However in the process of researching for this she came across the links between Mother Mary and Shantadurga, who incidentally are both referred to as ‘Saibinn’. She also read the writings of anthropologist Robert Newman who has written extensively on Shantadurga of Cuncolim, Fatorpa, and found interesting parallels. “Both Mother Mary and Shantadurga are treated with equal reverence and this is striking because it is not common in other parts of the country, and I think it is a beautiful approach given Goa’s uncomfortable history of forced conversions and the Inquisition,” she says.
For her art installation where she dwells on this synthesis of religions, Shafiq has used the grinding stone as a symbol. The idea to use the grinding stone, she says, first came about when she observed these being sold at the Mapusa feast fair. However, the idea gained more traction when she read Heta Pandit’s book ‘Grinding Stories’, which is a collection of folk songs or ‘oviyo’ that were sung by women while they were using the grinding stone. Thus, the grinding stone in a way is a witness of time, a confidant of sorts.
And this made her think of Mother Mary and Shantadurga as young women themselves and at the grinding stone. “I began wondering what would they say if they had a song. Everyone is always dreaming about them but has anyone asked them what are their dreams?” she says.
Komas, a three-piece band/artist collective which includes Enit Maria, Minam Apang and Srinivas Mangipudi, has created a sound/music/visual composition ‘Mollem Resonance’ inspired by the Mollem National Park, its forest and wildlife. “Being inspired as artistes as well as citizens responding to the fast-track forest clearances during the pandemic lockdown, we wanted to propose this project to bring to life a sound/music-based composition with the forest as a living entity, harmonising with us,” they say, adding that they believe that it is very important for all of us to protect Mollem National Park, which is a natural heritage of Goa. “Everyday the forest gives us so much, the oxygen, the clean air, healthy biodiversity for agriculture, gardens and on and on, what do we give it back? We need to start listening more closely to the natural world because we are very much part of it as it is a part of us,” they say.
Asavari Gurav meanwhile explores Goan folk tales using various media. “These are motifs in a theatrical dream-like space, mostly gouache, water colour and acrylic paintings. I referred to Jayanti Naik’s writings on folk tales of Goa and derived my own interpretations and played with the stories in the modern, urban context. I wanted the space to give a sense of watching a play,” she says, adding that some of her personal favourite folk tales growing up were ‘Kundekuskut’, ‘ok Kolho’ and ‘Raajputra ani kuli’.
Bhisaji Gadekar’s project ‘Second Skin II’ explores the changing face of Goan craftsmanship in the face of modernity and technology. He worked with bamboo craftsmen to create garments out of bamboo.
“Both my parents come from a tailoring background and while traditionally the next generation continues in the same occupation line, this has not been the case with me. However, I wanted to see how as an artist I could use those same skills in my art,” he explains. Further, he says, he chose to focus on bamboo because this bamboo making community is slowly fading out as the younger generation does not want to continue in this line owing to a number of reasons. “So I also wanted to make a statement that this is not a low class practice and I wanted to push them to take it to the next level,” he says.
Nandita Kumar’s installation ‘From Paradigm To Paradigm, Into The Biomic Time’ is representational of a newspaper-press going in a constant loop that comments on the constant regurgitation of misinformed and manipulative facts by individuals who have the ability to influence public opinion to protect their own interests. “This new media work deconstructs political statements related to varied environmental issues by collating statements made by influential individuals, media, politicians; that were then put through a code generating Haiku poems, which will form the basis of creating a chance composition generating music through a punch piano,” she says. A book placed next to the installation will allow the viewer to connect the different Haiku generated and understand the functioning of the ecosystem and its
Weaver and textile artist, Poonam Pandit’s piece draws upon the cultural, social and environmental narratives of fibre to create a series of tactile women compositions. “I look at the progression of fibres from the past to the present and the work is based on my experiences of working with Goa weavers,” she says.
Apart from the exhibition, the month-long show will also include workshops conducted by the artists, storytelling sessions
and talks.
‘Retellings’ opens on February 10, from 10 a.m. till 6:30 p.m. at Sunaparanta-Goa Centre for the Arts, Altinho. The exhibition is in partnership with Goa Open Arts and the Goethe-Institut (Max Mueller Bhavan