Showcasing History For Posterity

Museums filled with antiques are a dime a dozen, but a walk
through Victor Hugo Gomes' out-of-the-box ethnography museum
at Benaulim is like turning the pages of Goa's rich
eco-cultural and agrarian history, finds Paul Fernandes in
THE TIMES OF INDIA (Goa edition, Dec 13, 2008)

"It is a tribute to our forefathers, their eco-friendly
agrarian techniques, their traditional way of living and
their deep concern for the environment," Victor Hugo Gomes
says of his Goa Chitra Museum.

The soon to open museum that's based in Benaulim is filled to
the brim with objects ranging from occupational tools to
quaint utensils and even rare instruments such as the
'technology' used for preparing milk products.

The Journey

Angered by people's visionless shift to modern utilities and
filled with pride about Goa's traditions, Victor, 40, was
driven by a searing passion to collect rare things for

A fine arts graduate and national award-winning painter, the
trained heritage conservationist spent almost half his
lifetime hand-picking the pieces from remote corners of Goa.

"I gathered old and discarded implements and tools from
attics and storerooms simply because they were mementoes of a
fading lifestyle," he recalls. "I spoke to elders in
different places and was shocked to learn that many things
were lost, but tried to document the ethnicity and rituals
associated with every item I collected," he adds.

Only an eccentric could have filled such a museum
single-handedly, many think. "I lived a lot in forest areas
and slept and lived in difficult conditions while gathering
them," he recalls. He transported them in his car, unmindful
of damaging it, often loading it with wooden objects such as
the whole jaggerymaking plant (photo via

Wife Aldina, a college lecturer, adds, "If Victor heard of
houses being broken down he would rush to pick up pieces he
could find. He would just rush to the remotest corner, even
if dead tired, to source material. People even laughed at his
strange passion."

In fact, Victor broke the marriage covenant of having
children in his bid to leave a rich legacy for Goa's
children, says Aldina. "It was a difficult decision but one
made by choice," she stresses.

Finances were another point. Victor poured all his earnings
into fulfilling his dream. Having studied restoration and
conservation at the Indian National Trust for Art and
Cultural Heritage (INTACH), he returned to Goa and helped set
up the Christian Art Museum and later, eked out a living by
restoring old houses.

"Whatever I earned from my restoration work went into
gathering and saving these rare objects from extinction," he

Most of the objects were badly battered by the elements and
neglect. His experience as a curator helped in their
painstaking restoration. "A team of workers and carpenters
worked for several months. Some objects needed extensive
restoration while very few were picked up from antique shops
at great cost and few were gifted by friends," he says.

As the collection grew into a treasure-trove, realization hit
Victor about its richness and inestimable value. "We think
modern technologies are the best, but the pieces collected
show the hardwork, wisdom and ingenuity of our ancestors."

Museum, Ahoy!

The construction of the museum for the large assortment of
objects, designed by himself and set against the backdrop of
the organic farm -- another showcase of his skills -- took
three years to complete. Built bit by bit.

"The material for the house, right from stones to wood for
the roofing and to the doors and windows, came from 300
houses from all over Goa," says Victor. Aldina adds, "Victor
has a scientific mind and being creative as an artist
there's no half way for him."

Victor has formed a trust in his mother's name, Dona Angela
Memorial Trust, with the long-term objective of securing the
museum's upkeep and management in the future. "The museum
should be a place where children can walk in freely and enjoy
man's link with nature and culture - a classroom, a playroom,
zoo and garden for them."

He dislikes that antiques today have become "lifestyle
objects" for the nuveau riche. "They do not understand the
object's value and utility," he opines. Explaining the
ingenuity of implements crafted by artisans of yore, he says,
"Take the crab catcher apparatus for instance, there's no way
the crab can come out from this simple bamboo trap."

"We are dying as a society and once we have lost our
old technologies it means we regress to primitivity,"
Victor, for whom modern amenities hold no fascination,

"My aim is to put our heritage and indigenous technology on
the world map and the museum should create a sense of pride
for our culture among our youth," he concludes. TNN

Antiquity's Ingenuity

* Kerosene-fired refrigerator, iron, fan, oven, lamps, petromaxes

* Nail-less ghano (wooden machines) that extracted oil and
sugarcane juice (for jaggery)

* Traditional games such as tabulam (board game of chance)

* Ploughs that suggest the types of soils -- hard, soft and
sandy -- they were used on spike roller used to soften soil
after ploughing, before sowing

* Seed drill machine that helped farmers sow seeds

* Musical instruments, including valve trombone, C-tenor
saxophone, souzaphone, gumot, temple drums and surpanvo
(shepherd's flute)

* Rare wooden kitchen and service implements such as shovge
(vermicille makers); also scrapers, graters and milk churners

* Ancient modes of transport such as bridal cart, bridal
palanquin, religious palanquin, calderina (a seated

* Weights and measures, including ancient rato, rob and
tolas, besides measures of volumes

* Canework, including kondes (raincoats), mats, baskets, fish

* Grinders, wash basins, rice dehuskers

* Pottery pieces

* Tools and implements used by carpenters, metalsmiths,
goldsmiths and others

Journalist Paul Jose Fernandes

Victor-Hugo Gomes


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