- December 11, 2020
- Posted by: Planet Goa Team
- Category: Bookshelf
By Frederick Noronha
FOR a place so filled of history, culture and colour, Goa has a surprising limited number of vibrant coffee-table books that give a visual hint of its real-life riches. “Riches” is being used in the broadest possible sense. Not real estate, but culture, traditions, ancient wisdom, people and more. Some of the handful of books that do get published come in from overseas.
Expectedly, these are aimed largely at the tourist market. The assumption appears to be that in-depth or original information is not really needed.
‘Goa: Rare Portraits’ is rare and unusual for two reasons. Firstly, it is locally written, and can surely claim to be one of those missing coffee- table books on Goa. It’s photographer-author Pantaleão Fernandes was once actually an civil contractor, who fell in love with the complexities of Goa. He has been intensely moving around this small state with his camera and pen for years now, adding value to our understanding of this small but complex region.
The blurb describes this book as “a rare glimpse into the rural and tribal culture of Goa”. Fashion designer Wendell Rodricks calls this “an insight into a Goa rarely seen”. He also notes that the pages of the book take us to Konkani terms, typical local traditional professions, clothing, accessories, working implements that have been almost forgotten, and Goan culture too.
But if one expects to find a Goa of the Westernised middle- classes, this is not your book. As the noted photographer Pablo Bartholomew says in an afterword: “Unfortunately, Goa today is caught between the mirage of the touristic and trivialized gaze both internationally and within India.”
In this large sized, lavishly- printed and hard-bound book, the images are of Goa’s aborigines, “the tribal people known as Gauddi, Kunnbi and Kulmi” (p. 3) some of whom are still nature-worshippers.
We are told of their lifestyles, humble abodes, food, farming and festivals. Some now practise Christianity and Hinduism.
Toddy-tappers were menfolk of an ancient profession, now sadly dying away with all the ‘development’ that Goa has seen in recent times. So is the case with fishing, and a large beach-seine net called the ‘rampon’ (which can be kilometres long) is also introduced to the reader. Some of our generation would see such forms of fishing regularly in action in beaches across Goa, even as recently as in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, this is rarely seen. One can recall this only with a sense of loss.
The music of the Christian Gauddi — males being good percussionists and women adept at dancing and singing — is highlighted too. So is the modest loin-cloth that some rural menfolk wore, called the ‘kashtti’.
This is a face of Goa the traveller to the beach and coast seldom encounters. So much so, that the images of the persons photographed might even seem unrecognisable compared to the more urbanised and Westernised Goan we are used to seeing.
Fashion designer Wendell Rodrigues, one of the known faces of Goa, describes the little-known clothes of this community. Close-up images take us face-to-face with tribal weaving mats, and others engaged in inland fishing. Traditional
medical remedies (zhadpalyachem vokod, literally, the medicine
of trees and roots) is sharply depicted.
These humble rural- dwellers’ lives, from the paan (chewing betel leaf) to scouring the neighbourhood for wood, smoky-flavoured
food, the vegetable they grow and the food they cook, each gets colourful images depicting their story.
An image of live within the state boundaries of Goa and its neighbouring areas.” The colours are vibrant, the details are impressive, and this is a Goa that seldom gets depicted.
This book would be worth it just for the documentation it achieves, leave aside the knowledge it imparts and preserves.