Friday, December 23, 2016

Ten Histories-Goan Costume:Text On Walls


Curated by Wendell Rodricks

The time is ripe for the recounting of Goan histories, opening a dialogue in Goan heritage and commencing a narrative about the rich legacy of Goa beyond the reputed beaches and famed natural beauty of a splendid land. A majority of visiting tourists that visit Goa are as astounded to hear stories from the hinterland as some Goans who imagine that Goan costume history begins and ends with the Portuguese.

Padma Shree award winning Goan fashion designer Wendell Rodricks, author of Moda Goa:History and Style and The Green Room, is presently working on converting his heritage home into The Moda Goa Museum in his native village of Colvale. In a pioneering curatorial presentation, he brings to the Serendipity Arts Festival 2016 ten objects related to Goan costume that are not mere museum objects. Each has a story worth recounting. A history about Goan mythology, Gods, people, customs, traditions, festivals and folklore. In a setting inspired from graffiti painted walls of religious sanctums, palatial manors and humble homes, the lacy effect of the Goan graffiti painting set the ambience of Ten Histories: Goan Costume.

Apart from the sole prehistoric photograph in the exhibition that has an engraved laterite rock to support it, the objects are part of a sixteen year collection that represent a minuscule part of what the Moda Goa Museum in Colvale will display when it opens in late 2018. This collection is an attempt to reveal Goan histories pertaining to costume. But it is also a door to open a dialogue with you the viewer. Suggestions are welcome and encouraged in our Vistors Comment book.

The Serendipty Arts Festival 2016 and Wendell Rodricks welcome you to Ten Histories: Goan Costume. 


Ten Objects: Goan Costume
(Text on walls)


Not many have seen the Usgalimal petroglyphs (rock art) at Pansaimol in South Goa. Reputed to be from the Upper Palaeolithic or Mesolithic period 20,00-30,00 years ago, discovered in 1993 near the Khushawati river; among the labyrinth spirals and bulls is a figure of what can be termed as a Mother Goddess with a swollen vaginal area. The vaginal cavity was possibly used to place offerings of flowers or scared powders to evoke fertility. On the Verna plateau, near Dabolim airport, is another colossal Mother Goddess that some historians claim is ancient. It was moved at great expense from a nearby village site. However the authenticity of this Mother Goddess is in doubt as some experts claim that the laterite is not old and was carved by idle stone masons from Pernem while they were working on a house in South Goa. Whatever the truth, the fact is the cult of the Mother Goddess, common to many ancient cultures worldwide, was prevalent in Goa. She is most often depicted without clothing.


While the Goddess ShantaDurga appears in most parts of India as a warrior goddess riding a tiger, in Goa she appears in a 'shanth', peaceful avtar. She sits on a lion and has a wide appeal for Goans who believe that she appears in dreams and asks for 'mangnechem' in the form of children, houses and saris. A child or home is consecrated in Her name by couples whose wishes are delivered. When a lady dreams that the Goddess requests a sari, a precious sari is offered to the temple. These are kept within the temple and considered sacred. They are later sold to the faithful who cherish these saris touched by the Goddess. Displayed here is one such sari from the ShantaDurga Mandir. The story of the ShantaDurga idol at Fatorpa and the celebration of the Sontrio (umbrella) festival by both the twelve Kshatriya converted Christian family clans and Hindus at Cuncolim is worthy of a recounting for it's rare communal harmony between two religions.


The Buddhist and Jain period in Goa is not spoken about for many reasons. Some blame the Muslims for destroying the Buddhists sites in Goa while others claim the destruction was by Brahmanical forces who were marginalised and later resumed power on the death of the Emperor Ashoka. Whatever the reason, it is important to note that it was during the Buddhist period of prosperity in India that guilds pertaining to textiles were formed. From weaving to dyeing, embroidery and trade, Buddhism left a legacy for the art of textiles. Each guild specialised in a part of the process from fibre cultivation to final product. In Colvale village, near Mapuca city, a large statue of the Buddha was found by Father Henry Heras in the field at Munshir in 1930. The statue is today preserved at the Heras Institute, St Xavier's, Mumbai. The sculpture in the vitrine of a man adorned with jewels and carrying a fly whisk on one shoulder, was found in the same field and donated to the Moda Goa museum due to open in 2018.

Lisa Ray in Kunbi Sari


The Kunbi sari, once woven in Goa, is an important clothing icon for the state. Worn by the Kunbi tribe that settled on the ancient Konkan coast, the sari was lost to history due to caste implications and the lack of weaving in Goa. Dyed in red, blue or black, the sari is woven in checks with a double row of dobby design at the border and draped with a single 'dentli' knot at the shoulder. The red saris were used for celebrations and the blue/lilac sari was worn by young widows. In 2010 designer Wendell Rodricks revived the Kunbi sari in his minimalist style using natural dyes and weaving the sari in Goa with Poonam Pandit. After almost a century of the sari not woven in the state, the Kunbi sari revival was widely acclaimed at India Fashion Week among fashionistas and cotton sari lovers. Displayed is the original Kunbi sari and the Wendell Rodricks version of the sari. See Kunbi culture with dance performances on 7-8 Jan 2017 at the Adivasi Sangatna Quepem festival organised by Advocate John Fernandes at Xeldem Panchayat ground in Quepem.


While Lord Krishna appears in India as a playful, romantic God with gopis, in Goa he appears in His Kshatriya warrior avtar to slay the Demon Goa Narkasur. Noted mythologist Devdutt Patanaik explains that burning an effigy is a post harvest ritual celebrating good over evil. The Narkasur effigy is burnt in the early hours before the Diwali dawn, when Goddess Laxmi is welcomed into homes and new account books opened. During the Portuguese rule in Goa (1510-1961) the coloniser imposed many edicts on the converted Goans via the Inquisition post 1560. Public displays of Hinduism were forbidden even though recent converts yearned for their old Gods. Converted Goans tried to keep their customs (Catholic brides wearing red/green bangles and returning home in a red 'sado' sari the next day). There are Catholic enclaves on the Konkan Coast where they burn an old man, often with a demon face, to herald the New Year. This seems to be a throwback to Narkasur to hoodwink the Portguese. Effigies are burnt in some Latin American places but not in Europe (except Guy Fawkes which is based on a political event). This points to the fact that the New Year burning did not come from the European colonisers. Did the Americas and Asia take this ritual from Goa like we took their new world fruits? In the 16th century trade by sea, there was endless cross pollination of ideas and customs. The burning of the Narkasur and in turn the Old Man may well be one of those traditions that went from Goa to the Americas and the Far East.


At the turn of the 20th Century, the famed Goan 'mandos' were composed. They were the basis to create an adapted Renaissance Western form of dance. While the men wore tuxedo coat tails, the ladies wore a garment called the Pano Bhaju. There were also less formal versions, some even worn at home. There are endless theories about the origin of the Pano Bhaju which is a sarong skirt with a blouse under a below waist level jacket. The embroidered motifs are taken from Persian Parsi ghara using the Chinese long and short stitch. Alternately for weddings, the embroidery was done in gold zari thread on velvet. The pattern pieces come from Central Asia. The sarong from Malacca, Indonesia or Malaysia. The blouse is European influenced. The chenillo shoes can be Persian or Chinese. With so many influences, and the fact that the very words Pano (cloth in Portuguese) and Bhaju (a generic word for clothes in Indonesia), the Pano Bhaju is a garment of many influences. The most likely is the Peranakan Chinese ladies as they came to Goa, jewellery and all. The origin of this hybrid garment exclusive to Goa is open to debate.


If it were not for the invasions from Central Asian countries (mainly around Uzbekistan) and their eventual domination in India, we would continue to wear drapes created from flat fabric like South India still does as they were not impacted by the invasions. Vedic Indian dress comprised nivi, vasa and adivasa (upper, lower, shawl or overdrape fabric pieces). Though the needle was known since Mohenjadaro and Harappa, it was used to sew leather. Cut pattern pieces came to India, Goa in turn, by the invading Muslims from Central Asia. In Goa, Deccani Muslims and Bijapuri Shahs left their mark on Goan clothing. Sheer effects, elaborate embroidery and jewellery appeared to a shocked local populace who marvelled at the splendid layered garments. Turbans for men and veils for women were a part of the clothing repertoire of the Deccani Muslims. Displayed is a gold 'zari thread' embroidered turban. Like most turbans of the 18 to 21st century, these turbans were not draped around the head but sewn from turban pattern pieces to fit the head of the wearer.



Goan leather sandals are made by the Chamar caste in the state. Chamar is a generic word for lower caste workers who deal with the treatment of leather and leather goods. Zottim are one of the sandal styles used till the 21st century. One can find Zottim sandals in some markets but the Chamars have dissolved into mainstream Goan working class. Their tradition of fine leather sewing continues. Displayed are 'Chabedeo' sandals made from the Kumbyo tree bark in Quepem, Zottin sandals and Goa's most creative shoe maker. Edwin Pinto has been involved in creative footwear since 1994, coaxed by designer Wendell Rodricks abandon his tailoring services to focus on footwear. Today at Janota in Porvorim, Edwin Pinto  creates beautiful, hand made, superbly finished footwear like the fish and bird styles displayed here from the Wendell Rodricks Tropical Island collection, Lakme Grand Finale 2008. The tradition of the Chamars via modern revivalist like Edwin Pinto continue Goa's sartorial style. 


There is a theory that people near the ocean are good at needle work because they make, and perfect, the art of crafting fishing nest. This is turn results in knitting, crochet and lace making. Till today it is not unusual to find a Goan lady indulging in needle work as a leisurely pursuit. The tradition of hand sewn, embroidered garments is many generations old in Goa. The art of needlework was applied to Holy pictures that were embroidered and framed in homes, bed linen, table cloths, grand crochet bed spreads, table covers, serviettes and handkerchiefs. Rarely seen are undergarments and lingerie. When the Moda Goa museum acquired a cache of garments from a kind donor that included pristine lingerie, it was a revealing testimony to the delicate and keen attention to detail on garments that were not seen by most, except spouses and family members. Displayed are fine lingerie examples from the early 1900's. Most can compete or possibly triumph over modern lingerie and sleepwear today. 


Gold has always been worshipped as the Goddess Laxmi. Which is why Konkan coast women never wear gold or precious stones on their feet. Anklets and toe rings are made in silver out of respect for the Goddess. A sect of Brahmins called Daivaidyana are jewellers renowned for their integrity,  trustworthiness and art in creating gold objects of great beauty, set with precious stones. When the Portuguese arrived in Goa in 1510, they realised the specialised artisans they had on hand. Contrary to who one would expect to be the first Indians to sail the seas to Europe, it was a group of Daivaidyana Brahmins, headed by Raulo Xett from Divar island, who were the first Indians to land in Lisbon ...and later welcomed at the courts of Spain and France. Displayed is a filigree gold cross, 18th-19th century attributed to an Abbess of the Santa Monica Convent, Old Goa. Drawings and photographs attest to the grand tradition of gold. The exquisite Daivaidyana golden heritage continues in Goa today.

Khoja turban with gold embroidery



Concept and Curation: Wendell Rodricks

Retreat 'N' Style India Pvt Ltd: Jerome Marrel, Mahesh Tuenker, Schulen Fernandes, Siddesh Chanekar, Vinayak Mandrekar.

The Serendipity Trust, Scenografia Sumant, Scoop Brand Holdings Pvt Ltd :  
Co-ordination and Production. Lirio Lopez Electrical & Lighting Consultant.
Nixon Fernandes for the Graffiti Stencil wall decoration.

Moda Goa: History and Style by Wendell Rodricks, Harper Collins, 2012

Historical and Location inputs for Moda Goa: History and Style by Prajal Shakardande. 

MOTHER GODDESS : Photograph by Mark Sequeira, Laterite stone: Vinayak Mandrekar with Mahesh Tuenker.

SHANTADURGA : Shahpuri Sari, originally Belgaum. On loan: Shreedevi Deshpande Puri.  ShantaDurga Temple idol photograph by Rajan Parrikar.

BUDDHISM IN GOA : Statue gifted to The Moda Goa Museum by Philip D'Silva. Photograph by Rafique Sayed at the Heras Institute, St Xavier's College, Mumbai.

THE KUNBI SARI : Original Kunbi sari and fragments on loan by Adv. John Fernandes, Quepem. Wendell Rodricks revival Kunbi sari woven by Poonam Pandit. Actress Lisa Ray photograph by Wendell Rodricks. Kunbi women at Tambdi Surla temple festival photograph by Mark Sequeira.

NARKASUR : Made by artisans Vallabh V. Chari and Mahesh Chari. Co-ordinated by Mahesh Tuenker.

THE PANO BHAJU : Jacket recreated by Schulen Fernandes based on the original by Telma Costa Gracias. Photographs by Mark Sequeira. 

PATTERN PIECES : Embroidered turban donated to The Moda Goa Museum by Maharukh Desai. Photograph of Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur and Sketches by Wendell Rodricks.

ZOTTIM : Chabodeo sandals made with Kumbyo tree bark. Sourced by Adv. John Fernandes, Quepem. Zottim from Mapuca Friday Bazar. Wendell Rodricks Tropical Island Collection, Lakme Fashion Week Grand Finale 2008 sandals designed by Wendell Rodricks, handcrafted by Edwin Pinto. Edwin Pinto photograph by Prasad Pankar.

THE ART OF NEEDLEWORK : 1930's (circa) lingerie donated to The Moda Goa Museum by Belisa D'Sousa e Ferreira. Model Masumeh Makhija photographed by Anand Seth.

GOAN GOLD : Gold crossed donated to the Moda Goa Museum by Catherine Pardi Alliott. Cushion by Schulen Fernandes at the Wendell Rodricks Studio. Sketches of Goan gold jewellery by Wendell Rodricks. Photographs of jewellery by Mark Sequeira (For Goan owners, refer Moda Goa, History and Style by Wendell Rodricks, Harper Collins 2012).