For generations, Goans have been embroiled in a series of existential struggles. The first half of the 20th century was fully occupied with dis sent and decolonization, and the second brought further challenges of integration into the Indian polity. In all this, nothing has come easy: Goans had to fight to keep their political integrity, and for their homeland to be come a state. They have had to fight to have Konkani rec ognized, and more recently almost the entire state has become engaged in a tense battle over land use and demographics.
">Things are exactly the same in the arena of culture, where the In dian intelligentsia has always been deeply reluctant to accept the in convenient realities of Goa’s distinct identity. But here there is consider able good news because things are changing fast in our favour. A new generation of scholars and critics is finally shedding the colonial and nativist blinkers that have distracted and distorted almost all prevailing analysis of our state’s long artistic legacy.
In this regard, critic, curator and translator Ranjit Hoskote has emerged a powerful champion of Goa’s cultural strand. And next weekend, he releases two significant new books which each have serious implications for the way our culture is understood.
On August 17, Konkani writer Damodar Mauzo will release Hos kote’s ‘ Dom Moraes: Selected Poems’, a labour of love that has completely re- cast this great Goan writer. The following morning, noted psychologist and writer Sud hir Kakar will engage the author in conversation about ‘ Confluences: Forgotten Histories from East and West’, a slim, polemical book Hos kote co- authored with the Bulgarian German intellectual Ilija Trojanow.
Both new books are intimately connected to Hoskote’s earlier work and overarching pre- occupations, and both build on Hoskote’s impor tant contribution to Goan culture: the survey exhibition ‘ Aparanta’ that he had curated in Panjim in 2007.
The curatorial essay for that show was a significant acknowledgement of the consistent internal logic of Goa’s cultural expression. Hoskote wrote “ Goan art has long been an invisible river, one that has fed into the wider flow of Indian art but has not always been recognized as so doing,” and “ Goa’s special historic evolution, with its Lusitanian route to the Enlightenment and print mo dernity, its Iberian emphasis on a vibrant public sphere, its pride in its ancient internationalism avant la lettre, sets it at a tangent to the self- image of an India that has been formed with the experience of Brit ish colonialism as its basis.” Even in that exhibition, Hoskote’s chose to “ place the idea of conflu ence at the core” of the project, to try and grapple with the full range of Goa’s cultural DNA that lies in “ diverse sources, among them Indian and Iberian, Kashmiri and Persian, Arab and Chinese, Medi terranean and East African, Hindu and Catholic, Sufi and Bhakti.” It is an approach that Hoskote has richly mined ever since.
Along with Trojanow, Hoskote now declares, “ no confluence, no culture” by directly rebutting Sam uel Huntington’s famous war apolo gia of ‘ the clash of civilizations’. In their new book they make a forceful case that “ no culture has ever been pure, no tradition self- enclosed, no identity monolithic.” The two authors trace “ the umbilical con nections between Europe and Asia, Zoroastrianism and Christianity, Western revolutionary thought and the annihilatory politics of Jihad and Hindutva” with real consequence for the proper understanding of our own unique cultural strand, born from the thousands of years of profound contact and exchange that the Konkan and Malabar coasts have experienced.
Hoskote’s critical edition of Moraes’ poems engages in similarly vital intellectual re- engineering by rescuing the late poet from “ mind less nativist critics” with “ ideologi cal axes to grind” in a scintillating introductory essay which positions him as “ an early but unrecognized example of the transcultural artist.” It is a novel, but utterly convincing approach. The writer Jerry Pinto, who knew Moraes, says of Hos kote’s book: “ I have to say, I did not know Dom until I read this in troduction,” that it is “ another mag nificent addition to our knowledge of who we are.” As it happens, Pinto is speaking of modern Indians when he says “ we” here, but he could eas ily be speaking specifically about Goans.•