It’s another momentous occasion for Goa when the prestigious Instituto Felga-Gracias Arte e Cultura, Rio De Janario, Brazil, conferred its Arte e Cultura Award on Goans here for their pioneering work in preserving the heritage and culture of Goa at an august gathering at Goa Chitra at Benaulim on Sunday.
It comes as no surprise that the Goa Chitra Museum and the pioneering work by curator/founder Victor Hugo Gomes headed the list of awardees. Writer Savia Viegas, environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar, and international footballing legend Zico made merit as well. An original sculpture by the renowned artist and founder of the institute, Felga De Moraes, especially executed for the occasion, was presented to the first four awardees. Kanta Gaude (Folklore), Loretti Pinto (Art), Pantaleao Fernandes (Photography), Prajal Sakhardande (History) and Sujata Noronha (Education) were also conferred with an award of excellence for their contribution towards the preservation of art and culture of the state.
“It is a great feeling that while the state government and corporate world have ignored us, a globally prestigious institute has recognised our work,” avers Victor Hugo Gomes who has received several international awards for his pioneering work at Goa Chitra and Goa Chakra, including the one from Fundacao Oriente in Portugal, Goa Sudharop, Verodina award. Victor also had the honour of being the only private museologist in India to conduct workshops at some of the most prestigious museums in the world. Having column space dedicated to his work in globally reputed magazines like TIME, National Geographic, Vogue and having been featured on BBC and CNN-IBN, Victor is in sync with the trends around the world, which he laments that neither Goa nor India have followed. “Culture and heritage around the world is being taken seriously. It is becoming exotic, but unfortunately we have not realised it. Hence our marketing is not focussed on the right things. Last year, when on a tour to Europe, I visited over 40 museums. I was shocked to find that all these places were supported by their governments. Sensitivity towards heritage and culture is very high in Europe. In fact, there is a citizen’s fund that is specially collected to preserve the country’s art and culture. What they lack is a narrative and story behind the objects, as most of them are from other countries and not their own,” explains Victor while pointing out that Goa or India has no such lack, but they are killing it by moving objects out of the country. “I have managed to keep the story of Goa within Goa through my 40,000 odd collections and documentations. I have not done this to earn awards, but to reach out and sensitise fellow Goans about the importance of our heritage and culture and also help them to revisit their roots through the collection of object which belonged to our ancestors. But no museums has survived only on personal funds. Goa Chitra is not mine. It belongs to every Goan and I am its caretaker, but I need a helping hand,” maintains Victor who is dis-enamoured with the government for their empty promises. Crystallising over 100 years of Goan history in her work, writer/author Savia Viegas is elated at receiving the award from an international institution, although the state has sidelined her. “It reaffirms a lot of things I believe in. The other international award was the Fulbright Fellowship (USA). My work has been valued a lot. Especially ‘Let me tell you about Quinta’. In fact it is being taught in two American universities and that is the greatest recognition for me. One’s recognition should come from outside, only then do your peers recognise you,” she avers. In the forefront of the mission to protect the natural heritage of Goa, environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar has been instrumental in setting up the Mhadei and Netravali Wildlife sanctuaries. “I mainly protect the water resources in Goa which originate in the forests. So my focus is ‘jal’, ‘jungle’ and ‘zameen’!” says this gentleman who considers such an award even more significant coming from a country with the largest rainforest in the world. The world is slowly embracing the true grit of these pioneers and protectors of the culture and history of the land.