The artist’s guide to Goa

This monsoon, go beyond the sun and sand clichés to discover the places and people that are making this coastal state an art haven

A few months ago, a young novelist-in-the-making from Chennai was one of 10 writers who congregated on Goa’s Divar Island to take part in an immersive writers’ retreat. Set in a stimulating locale, the writers honed their craft under the critical lens of three mentors at the retreat called Bound.

A little to the East, in Porvorim, designer Anjali Mody’s three-month-old experimental store, And So — a collective of “designers, artists, storytellers and thinkers who create and curate unique pieces for everyday life” — is becoming a subject of conversation. With frequent collaborations, it stemmed from Mody’s realisation that the art scene in Goa is booming.

Over in Colvale, a village 14 km away, Wendell Rodricks is gearing up to unveil his dream project, the Moda Goa Museum and Research Centre — a celebration of the state’s sartorial history — in December. “Work is going on full throttle,” he shares. Rodricks describes the museum as “a platform to encourage scholars to pursue their research on fashion and other art-related projects, and to become a space where Indian designers can share their art with the world”.

Art has been the heart of Goa for a while now, with annual festivals like the Serendipity Arts Festival and Sensorium bringing vibrant exchange to the state. It is not merely confined to galleries and museums (of which there are many). You will find artistic expression in your hotel room, on dilapidated walls, in office lobbies, and even in your food. Last November, heritage homes in Saligao transformed into exhibition spaces for the biannual GoaPhoto Festival. The homes offered a living heritage, forming a narrative with the photographers’ work.

It is evident that with the growing number of artists from across the country making Goa either their new or second home, creative expression is gathering momentum. Laila Vaziralli is one such example. The photographer-turned-artist who founded Bengaluru’s arts festival Kitsch Mandi, moved to Goa and opened the Village Studio — an art studio and community space that rents out its rooms — in late 2017.

Miriam Koshy Sukhiji, director-curator at Gallery Gitanjali in Panjim, agrees that the state is in the midst of an artistic movement. “Goa is attracting artistes who have found stimulation and inspiration here,” she observes. And opportunities abound. An encounter with Priya Paul of The Park Hotels, for instance, won art student Siddhart Kerkar a project, which can be viewed in the suites at The Park Baga River.

The writer was in Goa at the invitation of The Park Baga River and The Project Café.

Point of reflection – The Park Baga River

This newly-opened hotel is an adults-only space, with river views from every room

The artist’s guide to Goa

Priya Paul, Chairperson of the Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels, does what she unarguably does best — showcasing local, contemporary art. In this adults-only hotel that faces the river Baga, artists, both local and international, have created pieces that are inspired by Goa. Paul, whose own art collection is among the most eclectic and evolved in the country, firmly believes that art and local craft are integral to the larger narrative. “We have consciously populated all our spaces with art that makes you think, feel, and reflect upon it,” she says.

I do just that. On my first night at the hotel, I go to bed pondering over the sepia-toned print of a Goan home from some 40 years ago that frames the back of my bed. It transforms my experience of what would otherwise have been a classic suite in a luxury hotel.

The Park Baga is subtly crafted with the intent of allowing art to flow seamlessly across its spaces. Encircling its restaurant, Saltwater, is a series of 10 photographs called Open Wound by a Dhaka-based photographer and performance artist, Atish Saha. Captured by Saha as he walked the streets of Panjim looking for “love”, the images sparkle with human emotions — sorrow, joy, humour — allowing us a glimpse into the fantastic and vulnerable mind of an artist.

The artist’s guide to Goa

The hotel encourages its guests to step out and discover the local flavours of the state. In addition to a tour of the local Mapusa market where I stock up on dried coconut, I accompany Maria — who handles Guest Relations — to the Museum of Goa, curated by doctor and veteran artist Subodh Kerkar. The ingenuity of the curator is visible in the museum’s Mahatma Gandhi installation. Maria and I step into the room and are privy to a beating sound — perhaps the closest to Gandhi’s heartbeat — based on Kerkar’s research of old ECG reports from medical archives. We say hello to Kerkar, who happens to be around, and he talks to us about the importance of art, especially in the world we live in: “Art teaches you to be plural, to be tolerant, to connect deeper with the cosmos, to slow down, to meditate.”

Back at the hotel, I enjoy the signature Bento Box, an authentic Saraswat Goan meal inspired by the Konkan community. With an abundance of coconut and curry leaves, the food is unbelievably light. I am grateful for the dried coconut in my bag, making plans to preserve the flavours and memories of Goa even after I leave.

Tariffs start at ₹10,000 per night. Details: theparkhotels.com/goa/park-baga-river

A living art gallery - The Project Café

At this 130-year-old Portuguese villa, art is not just on display. It is yours to own

The artist’s guide to Goa

Assagaon is still waking up when my cab screeches to a halt at The Project Café. I walk along a narrow pathway to my room, which is named The Jetsetter. With its minimalist appearance and red oxide flooring, it exudes a Zen-like oomph, and before I know it, the tall four-poster seesham bed has made me its own. Two hours later, when I wake up to the faint din of human conversation, Assagaon is ready for breakfast, and so am I.

Founders Drasty Shah and Ekta Chopra describe their venture, which originated in Ahmedabad, as an experiential design consortium. Working with over 160 artists, they present carefully curated products and works of art. “The Project Café is a celebration of continuity,” says Shah, “It’s like a communal house where different designers and artists decide to showcase and share their work.” The good news is, if you like something, you do not have to settle for just an Instagram photo; everything at the venue — from the furniture and the art in the six rooms, to the cutlery and crockery, and even the light fixtures — is for sale.

The five rooms are all one-of-a-kind, exuding the aesthetic of the artist who has designed and furnished it. There is the indigo-inspired Urbane by Neeta Kumar; the opulent, over-the-top and aptly-titled The Eccentric by Pulin Shah, and my own abode for the night, The Jetsetter, furnished by Ruchika Rawat’s Delhi-based The Design Collective.

The artist’s guide to Goa

It is mid-morning, and Dhan, the manager, gives me a tour. The two gardens that encircle the house, she tells me, are called the Garden of Sound and the Garden of Silence. The former features a locally-made udu, a vessel-like Nigerian instrument traditionally used by Igbo women. And in the second stands the villa’s most charming fixture, a sprawling Bismarckia tree. We go back inside and head to the dining room, where Dayanita Singh’s exhibit — Museum Bhavan, showcasing nine accordion-pleated displays of photographs — was recently on display. Since its inception six months ago, the property has played host to an eclectic array of events, from the launch of Rosalyn D’mello’s book, A Handbook for my Lover, to an art residency by Allen Shaw, and a Portuguese food pop-up with travel chefs Antonio Santos and Marta Fernandes.

Adjacent to the café is the store where brands like Kharakapas and The Burlap People share space. At lunch, in the Yellow House, as the restaurant is called, I opt for the chef’s signature salad — Rucola, Fresh Figs and Blue Cheese Salad with sliced almonds. It’s beyond beautiful.

Tariffs start at ₹5,500 per night. Details: theprojectcafe.in

 

Indie stores and galleries in Goa

 

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 2:44:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/the-artists-guide-to-goa/article24290521.ece

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