How Goans can get better at valuing Art

Why does Goan society wholeheartedly support science and technology, yet de-value the arts, when in fact, art is a reflection of our society and culture?
Why Goans need to value Art more: A colonial legacy of undervaluing local artists
Why Goans need to value Art more: A colonial legacy of undervaluing local artistsGomantak Times

By Maya Rose Fernandes

I was recently at an art gallery event in Goa, where I got to talking to someone about the low footfall in art galleries and similar spaces across Goa. This particular art gallery runs exhibitions, workshops and events, and often invites schools to organise trips so that schoolchildren can be exposed to the visual arts. But, they said that the invitations are rarely taken up and even they couldn’t explain the low footfall from the general public, in spite of widespread publicity.

Why Goans need to value Art more: A colonial legacy of undervaluing local artists
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It made me wonder how we might still be living out the trauma of our colonial past. The colonial powers that took root in Goa promoted only that which served their empire. Local skilled labour, technical expertise and professional artisans, at most, were allowed to contribute to the economy and provide the colonial administration in Goa with much needed support.

While Portugal was experiencing a literal Renaissance period in literature, painting and other arts, there was no encouragement of local study or investment in the arts across their colonies because the empire didn’t see how it could directly benefit them or the economy.

Why Goans need to value Art more: A colonial legacy of undervaluing local artists
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This cultural rip is still present deep in the psyches of most Goans, who seem to de-value the arts every chance they get. I manage to eke out a living from publishing my writing and teaching others how to improve their own. But, people still insist that my writing is a ‘hobby.’ I imagine that every struggling, committed artist in Goa encounters a variation of the same theme. Can we be more encouraging in our language about art and artists, in Goa?

Goans also need to breakthrough the very outdated preconception that supporting the Arts in any form, is an elitist preoccupation.

Why Goans need to value Art more: A colonial legacy of undervaluing local artists
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It’s true that paid or supportive opportunities are so few and far in between, and they’re very competitive, but thankfully, some do exist. For example, there’s the ‘Sunaparanta Art Initiator Lab (SAIL)’ mentorship programme for creative practitioners which is a ten month, multi-disciplinary programme that supports artists to improve their own practice and create new work. There’s ‘The Fireflies Grants’ in memory of Goan author Margaret Mascarenhas, funded by an informal collective of her friends which supports a seat for a writer at Sangam House Residency.

Why Goans need to value Art more: A colonial legacy of undervaluing local artists
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There’s the biennial Short story writing competition run by Fundacao Oriente Goa, which not only has cash prizes for winners, and publishes the best works submitted in an anthology, but also funds a pre-competition creative writing workshop for the public to improve their fiction-writing skills. These are just a few of the opportunities that are out there for Goans to capitalize on.

The multidisciplinary Serendipity Arts Festival, held in Goa every year, has an open call for people to submit grant proposals for projects. I’m sure there are other such opportunities around, too. But, I truly wonder, how many Goans are taking advantage of any of these opportunities? And, why aren’t they?

Why Goans need to value Art more: A colonial legacy of undervaluing local artists
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The act of creation itself stirs up things at a cellular level, for both the artist and the observer, reader or whoever is experiencing the art. Art can help us feel things we’ve never felt before. Art has existed since the birth of civilisation. It reflects our society and culture. It mirrors our collective thoughts, fears and deepest desires. It mirrors our experiences.

Art helps us feel understood, makes us feel less alone. It inspires us, stirs up long-dormant feelings inside us. Italian novelist, philosopher and historian, Umberto Eco, said, “To survive, you must tell stories.” American artist, Thomas Kinkade, believed that art transcended cultural boundaries. American author, Flannery O’Connor, said, “I write to discover what I know.”

Why Goans need to value Art more: A colonial legacy of undervaluing local artists
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It can be enjoyed for its aesthetic or intellectual beauty, or for its socio-cultural and political statements. Art has power and can help shape minds. So, we need to get better, as a collective, at understanding the value of art in our lives, and our children’s lives and shift into valuing and supporting the arts more actively than science, technology and other areas that tend to absorb a disproportionately unequal amount of resources.

Personally speaking, some of my favourite places in the world are libraries, museums and art galleries.

Why Goans need to value Art more: A colonial legacy of undervaluing local artists
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The next time you’re dying for a distraction and want to scroll down Instagram or Facebook, step out instead and explore the street art of Panjim on various walls across the city. Or, explore Navelim District library and sneak in some quiet time, surrounded by great ideas and inspirational writing. The Panjim Central Library has amazing art on display within its walls. Ask if they will give you a tour. Attend the annual Goa Arts and Literary Festival where you can hear published authors speak, and hob-nob with all sorts of creative and interesting people.

Why Goans need to value Art more: A colonial legacy of undervaluing local artists
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From attending a few lectures and short talks, you can slowly start to discover more about symbolism and meaning, discover eras and periods, learn about specific writers or artists and their techniques. Over time, you will gradually develop a taste and understanding of the arts that you enjoy, that is your own. This is how those necessary shifts in thinking can happen, so that we can teach the next generation the value of art in our lives and encourage them not only to create, but to make lucrative careers out of it.

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