The restoration and renovation of the Reis Magos Fort marks an important step in the management of the state’s architectural heritage. With a tripartite agreement between the Goa government, the Helen Hamlyn trust which sponsored the restoration work and INTACH, which oversaw the project --- the restoration has rescued and brought back to life a crumbling but magnificent fort. Much of the credit for pushing this restoration when nobody could have been bothered, must go to the late Mario Miranda. It was his idea as representative of INTACH then, to have the fort restored and revitalized as a cultural centre. He pursued the idea for over a decade and a half, before the papers were redrawn by the current parties.
As a cultural centre, the restored Reis Magos will be more than a heritage monument that tourist visit and leave. Exhibits and art areas, along with a café in the fort, will allow visitors to imbibe a whole new experience than just take in the panoramic view from the top. In that sense the managers who eventually run the fort/cultural centre will be setting a trend that has been perfected in Europe but is still fairly novel in India and Goa. Ticketed entry shall make the day visitor and tourist think twice before treating the monument with disdain. The government must ensure though that the area around the fort is kept free from the kind of economic activity, construction and stalls, which mar the ambience of the monument. It is already situated in a fragile area, with a historic church on one side, the river in front , a hillock behind and low slung residential houses in the vicinity.
The Reis Magos heritage and cultural centre is to be run by a society of prominent individuals and government representatives. This definitely augurs well for a start as a strictly government body would find it difficult to do justice running places such as these. It requires verve, passion and a dynamic energy to make it a financial and cultural success.
Goa is certainly fortunate to see more and more of its heritage public buildings restored to surpass their earlier grandeur. The Adil Shah’s palace or old secretariat, the old GMC which comes alive at each IFFI are both being used for cultural events. The challenge is to make these financially viable and sustainable, so that each of these are able to generate revenue for its upkeep. Converting these into art galleries and museums have been mooted but these ideas are yet to be implemented in full.
Our state has many more heritage monument s that require attention. Now that we have the prototype of one model in the Reis Magos restoration, that has worked fairly well, despite minor hiccups, conservationists and government could consider expanding the model to other forts and monuments. The work should not however stop at restoration. Managing the monuments thereafter and putting them to sustainable and enlightened use is by far the bigger challenge.