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Azulejos get a Goan upgrade

Twenty five Goan-based artists have come together to produce 21st century Goan azulejo artworks that will be on display for an exhibition titled ‘Azulejo’ during the Serendipity Arts Festival 2019. NT BUZZ gets more details


The fourth edition of the annual Serendipity Arts Festival will witness a group exhibition titled ‘Azulejo’ where 25 selected artists from Goa, all under the age of 40, will exhibit Goan azulejo artworks set in the 21st century. The exhibition which is part of Vivek Menezes’ curated section of the festival will be on display at Instituto Camões, Panaji. The dates for the festival are December 15-22, 2019.

And the artists have already been undergoing workshops on Indo-Portuguese art and culture in preparation for the show.

“The reason we have chosen the azulejo is because it has so many meanings in different parts of the world and is something that has a very rich meaning for India as well. For the exhibition, we are looking at the tradition of azulejo and envisioning what could be a Goan azulejo in the 21st century,” says Menezes.

He adds that today the azulejo is considered an iconic Portuguese art form. “When the Portuguese think of their own identity they think of things like fado, olive oil, port wine, and they think of azulejo. Our idea is that it does not only belong to Portugal but is a global art form. It definitely belongs in Goa as much as it does anywhere else in the world,” he says.

The exhibition is thus focused more on making contemporary artworks based on themes that tie an azulejo to Goan culture. “One of the reasons for selecting young artists is because we are looking towards the future. We are not producing ceramic tiles. We are producing artworks inspired by azulejo. So there will be paintings, sculpture, installations, and there will be performance,” says Menezes, adding that besides this exhibition, they will be highlighting all of the different examples of azulejos in Panaji.

The 25 selected artists come from various field – painters, graphic designers, architects, a trained classical dancer, etc.

Among these is Saligao-based artist Nadia De Souza whose forte is painting illustrations in watercolours. Talking about the poster she painted for one of the azulejo talks, she says: “I have got into the style of making dark fairytales and all my work kind of tells a story. I saw a couple of azulejos in Portugal recently. In Lisbon especially, it is like walking through a museum because there is art everywhere, in streets, the metros etc. I think I was quite inspired by that whole experience and plus my own style encompassed with it. I looked at some of the Goan azulejos at Menezes Braganza as well.”

She further states that animals are an essential part of her style. “So you can be assured that there will be animals and nature in the work I am producing for the exhibition,” she says.

Bharatnatyam dancer, Impana Kulkarni from Vasco, who has been dancing for the last 15 years and also teaches and choreographs, will present a classical Bharatnatyam-based performance on her interpretation of what an azulejo is at the exhibition.

Professionally trained as an animator, Nishant Saldanha from Verem, will be making one of the posters for the show in December 2019 and another main artwork which will be his entry for the show.

Saldanha who made an image for a poster for one of azulejo workshops says that the image is his interpretation of the familiar image of ‘The Last Supper’, where he have depicted the figures as native flowers of Goa and Christ as a grapevine.

Another artist, Waylon D’Souza from Porvorim says that he was asked to do a self-portrait. This enabled him to get a better  understanding of how to address a bigger theme. “In this first azulejo I have used typical blue and yellow colour and I have tried to showcase environmental issues and current developments as well,” he explains.

He states that usually azulejos are always looking at the past. However, in his azulejo he is trying to tell stories about changes in Goa, for example: whether it is the highway development or construction or the new bridge. “I am turning all these into design elements which I am using in my artwork. In the next piece which will be at the exhibition, I will be doing something similar, maybe with glass and ceramic. I could also do paintings or narrative in terms of a story,” says D’Souza.

History of the azulejo

Azulejos are Islamic Iberian ceramic tiles that emerged from the Muslim period in Iberia. Menezes says: “There was a state called ‘Andalusia’, an Arab state which is now known as Spain from where this ceramic tile emerged. But with the fall of Islamic Spain, azulejos spread all over the world. It spread into South America where the Spanish went and it spread all through the Arab world, where the Muslims who were expelled from Iberia were. Then with the Portuguese it also came to Goa.”

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