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Conservation, by design

The 450-year-old Casa Donna Maria bungalow, home to Wendell Rodricks and his dream project, the Moda Goa museum, in Colvale, Goa. Photo: Revati Upadhya

The 450-year-old Casa Donna Maria bungalow, home to Wendell Rodricks and his dream project, the Moda Goa museum, in Colvale, Goa. Photo: Revati Upadhya  

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Wendell Rodricks is all set to play curator, as he starts to convert his 450-year-old house in Goa into a textile heritage museum

A couple of Banarasi and Jamdhani sarees with real gold thread work, a Khoja turban with gold embroidery, a jewel-encrusted Bishop’s mitre from the 18th century, a pair of Marcasite pearl earrings and a pendant — they all have two things in common. One, their Goan ancestry and two, their current place of residence — the Moda Goa museum in Colvale.

Celebrated fashion designer Wendell Rodricks is bringing together two passions, Goan culture and clothing, in his newest big thing: turning his 450-year-old home in Colvale into a museum of Goa’s sartorial heritage.

Although best known for his work in contemporary fashion, Rodricks has long been reviving lesser-known aspects of Goan fabric and weaving traditions. For example, he has been breathing fresh life into the near-extinct traditional Kunbi weave.

Rodricks’ vision for the Moda Goa museum is as a space that will document, restore, preserve and present some of the finest of Goan textile heritage. What makes the project extra special is that it calls upon Goans to contribute their heirlooms to the museum, making the experience an authentically vintage one.

In his book, Moda Goa, Rodricks delves into the state’s immense history and heritage, gathering influences — tribal, Mughal, Portuguese, Hindu — along the way.

“I have been collecting clothing and accessories from 2000, when Moda Goa was in its research stage,” says Rodricks. These artefacts and collectibles, along with photographs, wall projections and other information, will eventually form a large part of the museum display.

A trust has been put in place, to source and gather some of the new pieces as and when they appear on the market, but much of the collectibles have already made their way into the museum, thanks to generous donations from collections owned by Goan families.

“This will stay for perpetuity and the museum will be the best place to preserve and honour this heritage,” he says. “It is amazing how people have saved wedding gowns, old saris and vestments in mint condition.” Whether fragile or falling apart, no piece will be turned away. Rodricks is committed to reviving as much as he possibly can.

“Just yesterday I received a package with two saris — one Banarasi and the other a Jamdhani. They may be fragile but they have real gold thread,” says a visibly excited Rodricks. The expertise he has gained from working with the conservation departments of international museums will now come into play. “I have learnt to catalogue, store, display and effectively extend the life of a garment for as long as possible.”

The oldest parts of the Casa Donna Maria bungalow, where the museum is coming up, are about 450 years old, with newer parts dating back 200-300 years. It was purchased by Rodricks in 1993 and has since been home. This year, many parts of it will undergo restoration and alteration to make way for the museum. While much of what makes the house a home will remain, a lot of it will be auctioned off to make space for the vitrines (glass display cases) that will house the museum pieces.

As structural and other work on the house will begin in October this year, entire rooms of the once quaint, yellow home will be transformed into display areas.

The regal furniture and all the exquisite art inside will be moved out allowing the museum to take shape.

The team working on the project includes an art historian, who helped with the historic development of Rodricks’ book. The fundamental structure of the museum will follow that of the book, though it may not have a strictly linear evolution.

The museum could well become a centre for Rodricks’ other projects, like the Kunbi revival line. It could make an ideal repository for the display and presentation of these stories, putting them in context for modern audiences. But for the moment, Rodricks has dedicated himself wholly to getting Moda Goa up and running. “I am focusing on the museum till December 2018. I want people to come forward and add to the collections from their wardrobes,” he says. “This is a new and exciting phase of my life. I have played designer, writer, teacher, and now it is time to add museum curator to the list.”

Revati Upadhya, based in Goa, writes on food, travel, culture and lifestyle.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 3:59:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/Conservation-by-design/article14466851.ece

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