Vamona Navelcar with his painting of “The Last Supper” photo taken on 31 March, 2011. He describes his painting as representing his life where truth is betrayed by lies, where the lies always won the upper hand to destroy the good in his life and the world.
By Rajan Narayan
VAMONA Ananta Sinai Navelcar was the best line artist of the last century. He is the only Hindu painter who has drawn more than a dozen variations of the famous ‘The Last Supper.’ This is the depiction of the last meal Jesus had with his disciples including Judas, who later betrayed him for betrayed him for 40 pieces of silver (not unlike Luizinho Faleiro who betrayed Sonia Gandhi more recently)!
Vamona was born in the Pomburpa village in Bardez district on May 5, 1930, close to Porvorim. He was forced to migrate to Portugal as there was no market for his work in Goa and India. Unlike FN Souza who was a bit of a dramabaazi and some other painters of Indian origin, Vamona was a simple person who grew up in a village. He did not get an opportunity to go to Paris, like the late Akbar Padamsee and SH Raza. He was not part of the high profile artists of the Progressive Artists Group on Bombay.
Instead, Vamona went out to Portugal where he studied and taught art in Lisbon. His students loved him as a human being and recognized his unique painting style and quality. No other artist has the finesse and delicacy of touch which Vamona had and no Hindu Goan understood Christian art as much as Vamona did.
Unlike the other great artists I have had the opportunity to meet over the years, when I met Vamona I instantly recognized that he was someone who was a soul of humility. I still recall the warmth of his hug when I attended one of his exhibitions at the Sunaparanta, Goa Centre for the Arts at Altinho in Panaji.
It may not be out context to note that the discerning and encouraging art collector Dattaraj Salgaocar looked after Vamona and his family during his sunset years. In fact, Vamona had been ailing with a cardiac condition for some time and he expired at the Manipal Hospital on October 18, 2021.
It is only in recent years that his work received the high accolades and recognition he so richly deserves. Though Vamona’s paintings are in several art galleries and private collections the world over. The Government Art Museum in Goa does not have any works of Vamona. Nor do we remember the state government offering help to meet the medical needs of this artist as it did routinely in the case of politicians like Pandurang Madkaikar. But ironically, all our MLAs compete in basking in the reflected glory of the long and heart-warming tributes and obituaries being paid to the artist in the international and national media.
Vamona bab you were the true common man of the artists fraternity of Goa! Your lines were delicate and more powerful than that of RK Laxman, the painter. Vamona chose to come back to Goa in the evening of his life, the world citizen was more comfortable in his gloomy ancestral home rooms in Pomburpa! Rest in peace, my friend.