GOA IS SO MUCH MORE!By Joanne Pinto Pereira

Heritage studie: Figueiredo House lit up for the launch of Heta Pandit’s new book ‘Stories from Goan Houses’; & Sonia Shirsat singing at Madra Goa

By Joanne Pinto Pereira

Interactive experiences bring you the essence of Goa…it’s your time to soak in not just sun, sand and seafood but a sensual soulful repast. Here’s a starter!

GOA goes way beyond scenic beaches and languorous sunsets. It is a melting pot of culture nourished by four-and-a-half centuries of Portuguese influences imbibed and meshed into the fabric of Goan lifestyles to create a unique identity!
Over almost six decades of ferry rides and bus operators hollering their bus destinations at Panjim, the flashy neon lit Mandovi is in stark contrast to the blissful river of my growing years. What is heartening though are the many enterprising initiatives that encompass the multifaceted dimensions of Goa. One such well thought out venture is Make it Happen! Its walk around tours and interactive experiences initiate visitors to the nuances of Goa in its rich multi-imensional entirety.
Their recent ‘Stories from Goa’ festival from the November 10 to 13 were a precursor to the Goa Heritage Festival at Campal promenade, Panjim. The tours around Fontainhas and Campal promenade brought to life nuggets of landmarks like the Pillar at Ponte de Minerva and historical references that have defined the character of the beautiful Latin Quarter and the Nova City Campal. Access to places otherwise not open to the public like the 18th century private chapel of the Maquinez Palace. You are sensitized to the environment, introduced to the local cafes and heaps of narratives and sights to explore.
What more could you wish for? Narratives from folklore, a session on Guardian Spirits to the local dance performances and music traditions at Gitanjali Art Gallery were all part of the festival.The visit to MOCA (Museum of Christian Art) led by Natasha Fernandes, the curator of the Museum, lent insights into the magnificent collection at the historic location in Old Goa. It sets your imagination to the period of each of the objects that stand testimony to centuries gone by. A feast for lovers of art and history. The big plus is that the con-temporized renovation is differently-abled friendly with chair lifts and ramps.
Heta Pandit, a prolific writer, co-founder of Goa Heritage Action Group and also a member on the MOCA board took over. Her rousing narrative immersed the rapt group into her passionate research and efforts to revive and nurture the fading Kaavi art seen in churches and temples. This is a must do heritage tour, you will be inspired in your journey to discover the abundance in our taken-for-granted legacy.
Heta’s much awaited book ‘Stories from Goan Houses’ was launched at the regal Figueiredo Mansion to bring the curtain down on this five-day celebration of Goan heritage. What touched a chord was Goa’s mellifluous fadista Sonia Shirsat’s rendition at Madragoa. CIPA (Centre for Indo Portuguese Arts), the love child of multifaceted Orlando de Noronha, nurtures performing arts that acquired a Goan identity over centuries. The lilting, melancholic narrative of life, yearning, lost love or the sea comprise the saudade characteristic of the redolent Portuguese fado music. This genre was added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The mando adopted the fado structure in Konkani, weaving in local hues and historic laments. “Adeus korcho vellu Paulo…” is typical of the farewell narrative when a bride-to-be leaves her maternal home with distinct Portuguese words like
“Adeus” or until we meet again in the refrain. The songs are rendered to the accompaniment of the ghumot (earthern or brass percussion pot covered with hide), Orlando alternating from the Guitarra Portuguesa and the violin, his family accompanists on the viola do fado and violin.
The space houses the enterprising revival of the tradition of Indo-Portuguese hand-painted azulejos tiles that recreate the ambience of Coimbra. In every eyeful are creations of “azulejos de Goa,” another of Orlando’s pursuits, that offers a prolific variety of decorative tiles. Ideal for homes, gifting or souvenirs. The blue and white azulejos have Mario Miranda’s caricatures that are really popular among the tourist diaspora.
For the love of good food are Tina and Marlene with their daughters Danielle and Myra de Noronha, and Renee Meneses with their decadent delectable bites…take the pasties de nata or Portuguese custard tarts which are a step to gourmet paradise. This is a labor of love, a visible family effort that translates the ethos of Goan hospitality at its best.
Another heartening trend well received is the elemental culinary offerings of the fab sibling duo of Praveen and Rohan D’Souza in North Goa. Local produce, community employment and outstanding flavors are simple facets that go a long way in their business models. Thoughtfully branded with the total mojo; live music at Lazy Goose, a happening vibe at Tora Tora or the scenic Pesco by the Beach are the other side of hearty rossa omelet and local fare that co-exists for the pocket friendly. The young entrepreneurs host interactive boating experiences and homestays that take you to the tranquil lap of Goa of yore.
Further South, young chefs exposed to Michelin- starred culinary trails like Avinash Martin, elevate traditional Goan cuisine at his “Cavatina” at Benaulim, to recreate nostalgia on your palette in an innovative way. It is about capturing a mouthful of the essence of Goa on your tastebuds. Heard of jackfruit sorpotel? Yes, the vegan too now has his/her choice seeped in Goan identity.
The “Goan Kitchen” run by Oliver and Cresey too capture the best of Sarawat and Indo-Portuguese cuisine. As part of the authentic Goan identity and experience they are known to be part of heritage performing arts held in ancestral homes.
“Stories from Goa” include bringing to the table a repository of cultural influences and its impactful legacy of performing arts. The many activities which include manifold visual arts and literary initiatives in places like the Saligao Institute, Pilerne and Anjuna are good news for us all!

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