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Goa Cruti—A peek into Goa’s colonial past

Goa Cruti—the third museum by Victor Gomes is a tribute to Goan craftsmanship. It documents furniture, cutlery, costumes, jewellery and even the medical and legal history of Goa – something not many are aware of. In conversation with NT BUZZ Victor speaks about his endeavour, the need to document our past and his plans of setting up another four museums

ARTI DAS | NT BUZZ

Curator and the mastermind behind two museums, Goa Chitra and Goa Chakra, Victor Gomes is now ready to launch another museum which in many ways celebrates the arts and crafts of Goa and the Goans. Titled ‘Goa Cruti’, this museum endeavours to showcase the colonial past of Goa.
“The collection of Goa Cruti is precise and definite, and dates back to the 16th century, where travellers came to Goa to work and live, and the Goans who travelled abroad contributed by giving a new identity to the culture, while still retaining the ethos of the land,” says Victor.
This museum is placed within the premises of the Goa Chitra at Benaulim.
“A section of Goa Cruti displays colonial furniture which range from simple patterns of the lower-middle class to the exotic designs of the upper-middle class aristocracy. There are cupboards also referred to as ‘almirahs’ which are typically made from teak and rosewood with interesting motifs and designs with inlaid work and tile patterns. My idea is not to showcase the life of the rich but how the middle-class Goan lived,” says Victor.
He further informs that the Goan furniture including the chairs range from ornamental carvings on the back rest to intricate cane weaving. “Local artisans would carve traditional marine and floral symbols on these exquisite pieces of rose and teakwood which give uniqueness to the Goan Portuguese furniture. The chairs apart from displaying exquisite craftsmanship also portray the opulence of the middle class. Ornate legs and intricate armrests that were visible when used helped highlight the status of the owners. A few hallmark pieces adorn the collection presenting the viewer with something that is uniquely Goan such as the corner chair that has been especially designed to fit into the corner of a room, kissing chairs, side boards etc.” His collection also has few pieces which are direct imports from China and Europe.
Another important aspect of traditional Goan homes was its cutlery. Victor has a huge cutlery collection including ceramics, glassware, silverware, brassware, in addition to a variety of household goods on display. The highlight of the museum is the blue and white crockery housed in the museum.
He also has on display ornaments and costumes people wore in the colonial era. “I have jewellery which adorned the Gawda community. It includes bogbeo, sarpali and even chains used for the loin cloth. The collection also includes costumes worn by the community, kunbi saree with border, a 300-year-old nine-yard saree that was hand woven and a sharkskin coat which is rarely found. It was worn by Goans in 1940s,” says Victor. He also has a wide variety of chasubles worn by priests during various ceremonies in the church. “The chasubles of specific colour were worn for specific occasions,” says Victor.
His collection also includes western musical instruments, games and coin collections. There are sections on family photographs and one section dedicated to the different types of boxes used over the time period.
Goa Cruti has a selection that speaks of the legal and medical history of Goa. “The jury section includes the original photos of judges, all government gazettes since 1961, seals, type writers, stamps and fish cards of judgments etc. In the medical history section I have rare instruments of surgery, ENT, dentistry, pharmacy and maternity care. It provides some remarkable insights into an age-long campaign against illness, disease and injury,” he says.
Victor who loves to collect artifacts says all these objects carry with them stories and history of a place. He however, laments that few public places in Goa which are branded as museums hamper the cause. “A museum is a place to study; everything in it should have a storyline. It can’t be a replica. Mushrooming of such ‘museums’ is making our work more difficult,” says Victor.
He is hoping that his third museum, Goa Cruti, will be a laboratory for serious research and young minds who want to learn about their heritage and fulfill the wider mission of preserving the past for posterity.
However this will not stop him. He has plans for another four museums in the pipeline. “My next museum will be on the fishing community of Goa, placed in the fishing village of Betul. I already have a collection of 37 boats, nets, fishing gear, etc. It will be open hopefully before the next season. The other museum will be on the Goan folklore, the fifth museum on the traditional recreational activities including toys and games. The last one will be a gallery of fame and shame where I will showcase those Goans who brought name and fame and the others who brought the state nothing but shame,” says Victor.
Initiatives like these are in many ways an attempt to understand our past and document it for the future – before it is all lost. Victor says: “There are many people who have their private collections but are not accessible to public. Museums like these are to understand and value our past and take care of it and complete the story of Goa.”
Victor is throwing open this museum for previews on January 23, the day his colleague Jashwanth Singh or ‘Chacha’ passed away. “Over the last 17 years, Chacha, played a pivotal role in preserving Goa’s heritage and helping me to restore every implement on display at the Goa Chitra and Goa chakra museum,” says Victor.
On a concluding note when asked what inspires him to start and maintain such museums, he says, “It is the zest for life. I have taken so much from Goa; it’s my time to give back to the future generations. In other words, it is the story of four generation. The first generation was the one who created objects out of need; the second generation was the one who reaped benefits of the first generation. The third generation was the worst as they started aping west and went for modernity and forgot its past. The fourth generation is a generation of people like me who are going back to the past and understanding it,” says Victor.

(Goa Cruti Museum at Benaulim will be open for previews on January 23 at 5 p.m. For details call on 9850466165/08322772910.)

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