Solid as wood, these Goan carpenters continue to chip on

Cuncolim’s carpenters take the modern route, while Benaulim’s fall back on traditional methods and fight a battle for survival
WORK OF ART: Beautiful handicraft items can be found at Chitari Heritage Art and Craft store in Cuncolim.
WORK OF ART: Beautiful handicraft items can be found at Chitari Heritage Art and Craft store in Cuncolim.Photo: Gomantak Times

ARMSTRONG VAZ

Benaulim, a coastal village and Cuncolim, a municipal town -- both in South Goa -- are known for their carpenters. In Cuncolim, the Charis and the Chitaris, of the Demani ward, who practise the Hindu faith, are known for this craft.

The Chitaris trace their roots to Karnataka, but settled in Cuncolim several decades ago.

WORK OF ART: Beautiful handicraft items can be found at Chitari Heritage Art and Craft store in Cuncolim.
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This small community of skillful artisans, which traditionally depended on fine arts to make a living, is spread mainly in coastal Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka, carving out fascinating woodworks.

In Goa, these carpenters mainly serve Cuncolim and the surrounding areas.

While many of them still use age-old techniques, a few have modernised and employ new technology in their work.

This small community of skillful artisans, which traditionally depended on fine arts to make a living, is spread mainly in coastal Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka, carving out fascinating woodworks.

One business venture is that of the Chitari brothers -- Atul and Pradip. Under the banner of Chitari Heritage Art and Craft, they sell some beautiful handicraft items at Demani, along National Highway 66.

“We manufacture custom-made pooja mantap as well as standard sizes, ranging from one foot to 5 feet in rosewood, teakwood, jack wood, shivani, acacia and hedu wood,” says Pradip, who used to work for a company, but left that to start his own family venture.

WORK OF ART: Beautiful handicraft items can be found at Chitari Heritage Art and Craft store in Cuncolim.
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“We manufacture items in metal, wood and polyresin, in addition to traditional colourful Chitari items,” he adds, even as students of Assumpta Convent High School, from neighbouring Sarzora village, walked in to have a glimpse of the artwork on display, and to get a glimpse of artisans at work.

The items they make include murals, planters, wall art, statues, and furniture in fiberglass at their workshop in Demani.

ART APPRECIATION: Students of Assumpta Convent High School, from Sarzora at the Chitari Heritage Art and Craft store in Cuncolim, to have a glimpse of the art works on display.
ART APPRECIATION: Students of Assumpta Convent High School, from Sarzora at the Chitari Heritage Art and Craft store in Cuncolim, to have a glimpse of the art works on display.

The art gallery features items of various shapes and sizes, and showcases a blend of folk painting, modern art and mythological sculptures -- which any tourist would probably pick up as a souvenir from Goa.

“For the past few centuries, many in the family were engaged in traditional art using vivid colours on wood to carve out beautiful home utilities and wooden toys,” say the Chitaris.

"The gallery was set up with the purpose of marketing new forms of paintings, statues and sculptures, for which we have teamed up with leading artists. Our customers’ growing faith and confidence in us is our most valued possession,” they add.

No carpenter from Benaulim has made the move to innovative the business or take the craft to the next level.

On the other hand, no carpenter from Benaulim has made the move to innovative the business or take the craft to the next level.

Instead, in Benaulim, you will find Catholics, the likes of Fernandes and Ratos, who are carpenters involved in making beds, chairs, cupboards and other household items.

They make furniture at their workshops, in Benaulim, and sell their wares at village fairs and zatras.

WORK OF ART: Beautiful handicraft items can be found at Chitari Heritage Art and Craft store in Cuncolim.
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And, like most traditional Goan occupations, the number of youth venturing into the carpentry business is decreasing. The factors leading to the drop in numbers include practical hurdles.

Although there are government schemes for carpenters, they end up making endless trips to government offices to find out about these schemes as well as to supply required data.

WORK OF ART: Beautiful handicraft items can be found at Chitari Heritage Art and Craft store in Cuncolim.
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The officers and ground-level staff at these offices are supposed to interact with the traditional artisans, collect data, and based on this, take corrective measures. But, it just doesn't happen, complain the carpenters from Benaulim and Cuncolim.

The carpenters also point out that the local self-governing bodies keep a record of units only for the purpose of tax collection, and not to give the artisans any benefits.

They suggested that in the digital age, the authorities at the government level could walk an extra mile and put up their carpentry services online, so anyone could access it.

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