Herald News


24 May 2015 02:24am IST
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24 May 2015 02:24am IST

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.
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