Sunday, January 14, 2007

Looking at Goa's heritage... in its various shapes

One of my favourite Goa-related journals was released the other day. Parmal. It's latest issue has on its cover this photo showing traditionally-attired Goan Hindu young women at a festive celebration. Parmal is published by the Goa Heritage Action Group, and calls itself "an annual publication brought to you by the GHAG, an NGO (non-governmental organisation) based in Goa dedicated to the preservation, protection and conservation of Goa's natural, cultural and man-made heritage".

Prava Rai is Parmal's editor. She does a great job of it. It fits in with my view that some of the so-called "non-Goans" (and returned expats) are among those who are contributing the most significantly to Goan society today. The simplistic barrage against them notwithstanding.

Prava says in the editorial: "The danger of equating heritage with identity fosters untenable claims to the bones, belongings, riddles and the refuse of every forbear into the mists of time: ipossible claims in the face of historical reality."

My view of the GHAG is that it tends to be a bit elitist in nature. Sometimes. This places it somewhat closer-to-comfort to the Establishment than it perhaps should be, and blocks it from taking more strong, campaign-oriented stands. But, on the positive side, it helps them get an official hearing. Sometimes. Their approach also means they do a great job to generate content that has much relevance to the debate about Goa.

This issue contains articles, among others, focussed on the mother goddess cult (by Portuguese studies specialist Ana Paula Lopes da Silva Damas Fita), the feminine space in Goan houses (architecture writer Heta Pandit), sacred groves (field ecologist Nirmal Kulkarni), the Fontainhas Festival of the Arts (artist and journalist Deviprasad C Rao), Goan residential architecture (Sanskrit scholar and prof of theology Jose Pereira), the parish churches of Goa (civil engineer-turned-author and Goalogist Jose Lourenco), the legacy of the house of Menezes Braganca (sociologist Nishtha Desai), forgetting Pio Gama Pinto (by SOAS-London educated researcher Rochelle Pinto), and Mumbai-based freelance writer Veena Gomes-Patwardhan's The Stars of Yesterday (from the Konkani stage).

If you'll allow me to brag a little (which is what one is usually doing!), we managed to point to the interesting ideas of some writers by having them e-published on Goanet Reader... and Parmal/Prava did a good job of following up. Of course, we should be doing far, far more on this front....

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