Thursday, March 23, 2017

ENCAPSULATING GOA’S TRADITIONAL OCCUPATIONS

24 May, 2015, 02:24AM IST

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On a sojourn through Goa, collating material for his
previous volumes on his beloved homeland, celebrated
photographer-cum-writer Pantaleao Fernandes
documented some traditional occupations as he
came upon them. “I would document them randomly
whenever I visited a village. It was only when I had a
good collection of occupations that the idea of a book
cropped up. In all, the entire documentation took about
five years, and so, unfortunately, many of the artisans
featured are no more,” he explains of the genesis of his
fifth book, ‘Traditional Occupations of Goa’.
So rich is this wealth of information that Pantaleao
has dedicated one chapter to each of the fifty
occupations in this photo-documentary. “The chapter
photographically documents the artisan while he is
actually doing his job. Whenever I came across the
artisans in the midst of their work, I would ask them to
continue and only after the task was finished or during
a break did I speak to them. Their stories were very
interesting as they spoke about
occupations in the earlier days
and compared them to the
present,” he recalls.
A rich inventory of oral histories narrated by
the artisans themselves, the idea for the book was
nevertheless sparked by Pantaleao’s own personal
memories. “My childhood was spent in the lush green
village of Benaulim, in a large house. Every three months,
the coconut-pluckers came. Every summer, the mangoes
had to be plucked and ripened. Neighbouring toddy
tappers climbed our coconut trees. Just before the rains,
the roof of the house was repaired. Excess coconuts
had to be dried and oil extracted. Firewood had to be
chopped. Salt was bought from the salt pans and stored
in an outhouse. Rice was brought by nearby farmer’s wife
in a large bamboo basket. After the monsoons, the walls
were scraped and whitewashed. When the chapel feast
was around the corner, the neighbouring tailor would
come home and stitch new outfits. The local maestro
would play his violin for the nearby cross litany. All these
activities are traditional occupations that played a crucial
role in our day to day living,” Pantaleao reminisces. But
the strongest trigger was that of an incident involving
a mango tree that had to be cut. The entire process of
sawing the wood into planks, curing them and converting
them into doors for the house was a fascinating
experience for a young Pantaleao then. “When I began
touring villages, I would often try to spot similar gangs at
work; but I have not succeeded so far,” he laments.
In documenting these occupations, Pantaleao has
once again preserved a part of Goa’s history that seems to
be fast fading in the current scenario.