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Silver ties that bind

With Fundação Oriente having completed 25 years in India, president of the board of directors, Carlos Monjardino, looks back at the work done over the years, how the institution has grown, and  been instrumental in the promotion of Indo-Portuguese ties

CHRISTINE MACHADO

Aptly situated in a charming old house with Portuguese influenced architecture in a quiet corner of the Latin Quarters of Fontainhas, Panaji, Fundação Oriente has over the years been vastly instrumental in the cultivation and promotion of Indo-Portuguese cultural ties.

Indeed over the years, the foundation has organised a number of events and activities, be it in the hosting of exhibitions, discussions, seminars, competitions, book releases, all focusing around Goa and Portugal. Their annual singing competition Vêm Cantar has become a hit among locals, leading to the discovery of many new music talents, while also encouraging more people to learn about Portuguese music. A few years ago, they also began the fado competition, which has generated a lot of interest.

But it is their Monte Music Festival, the 18th edition of which was just held recently, that has become one of their huge successes. Held at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount, Old Goa, which the Foundation played an important role in renovating it, the festival witnesses some of the best music talent, both western and Indian, putting up mesmerising performances, attracting an audience from far and wide.

“The Monte Festival has become something very important with some great quality musicians. And you could not have asked for a better site,” says president of the board of directors, Fundação Oriente, Carlos Monjardino, who was down in Goa to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the institute in India.

Indeed, it was in 1995 that the foundation was set up in Goa. “Although the delegation is for India, it was natural for us to set up our headquarters in Goa,” says Monjardino, adding that it was on the request of the then President Mario Soares that the foundation was established here in Goa.

“The relations between the two countries (Portugal and India) were not as good as they are today. So we had to navigate carefully while we began setting it up so as not to create any problems and we did it,” he recalls.

Since then the foundation has also been helping in the teaching of the Portuguese language in the state and offers scholarships to students who want to visit Portugal for further studies.

And like the Monte chapel, it has also been involved in the renovations of other buildings of historical importance like the St Sebastian Chapel, Fontainhas and the Saptakoteshwar Temple, Narve.

The foundation is also residence to the permanent exhibition of late Goan artist Antonio Xavier Trinidade’s paintings. “The paintings were donated to us some years ago and we had to find a home for them. So we decided to keep them at the foundation in Goa,” he says, adding that the paintings will also shortly be travelling to an exhibition in New Delhi.

And after 25 years of being in India, Monjardino says that today, the suspicions that some people used to have earlier when they first began are no longer there.

“Today, they know us. They know that we will not do anything to hurt the feelings of the nation,” he says.

Even so, occasionally, there are still questions put forth to him with regards to the Portuguese colonial rule in Goa. “Before 1974-75, Portugal was not a democracy. We were under the Salazar regime. In fact our families were imprisoned for many years during this regime for fighting against the dictatorship.Therefore all the things which we are accused of are no longer valid today,” he says.

And Monjardino states that in the coming years they will continue with the work that they have been carrying out in India. “We we will remain here in Goa for as long as we are accepted,” he says.

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