In every country, icons are celebrated and their legacies are kept alive through various initiatives. In India, Goa’s very own Mario Miranda was bestowed with several honours, including the Padma Shri, the Padma Bhushan and the lifetime achievement award from the All India Cartoonist’s Association. He received a posthumous Padma Vibhushan in 2012, a few months after he passed away at the age of 85. However, when this calls for befitting tributes by his home state, a recent decision has done the very opposite. What’s even more disheartening to note is that this has occurred at a place where Mario Miranda put in all his efforts at the later stage of his life. To many, the Reis Magos Fort is synonymous with the efforts put in by the legendary cartoonist in restoring it. Sadly, the same fort has decided to remove Mario Miranda’s paintings that were displayed at its galleries even though the likes of architect Gerard da Cunha had appealed against such a decision. “ I am in the management committee, and this decision to move Mario’s paintings out was never discussed. There is little point in the Government appointing an Autonomous Management Committee and then foisting decisions from above. If the Government had a valid suggestion, they should have made it and left the committee to make the final decision. “Personally, I feel that moving the Mario Exhibition out of the Reis Magos Fort displays a complete absence of vision by the Government. Hundreds of visitors come specifically to see this exhibition in a wonderful setting; they are going away disappointed and angry. Mario was Goa’s most popular artist and was instrumental in restoring Reis Magos Fort. I plead with the Government to retain the Mario Gallery at the Reis Magos Fort,” says Gerard. Gerard had worked with Mario to restore the fort and even campaigned with Mario against the opposition to the fort from certain sections. “For some reason, this Fort, with its acute angles, was Mario’s favourite monument in Goa and its abandonment upset him deeply. From 1999, he kept on urging well known restorer and philanthropist Helen Hamlyn to sponsor its restoration. Then finally in 2007 an MoU was signed between the Government of Goa, INTACH and the Helen Hamlyn Trust for the restoration of the Fort and it’s subsequent management. A year after the restoration began, there was a threat to the project from a group of people who mistakenly believed that it was a hotel project and that heritage was being destroyed. The protests were vicious and threatened violence and the Government of Goa meekly retreated. Mario was the only public figure who came to the defence of the restoration and visited the Fort in the face of physical threats. He was 81 years old at the time. Fortunately, the restoration was completed and the Fort was inaugurated in June 2012. Alas, Mario had passed away in December 2011 and did not see his dream realised,” recounts Gerard. “As an architect, I wanted to present to the public a complete monument with all the spaces used. Having worked so extensively with Mario, I suggested to use two of the halls for an exhibition entitled ‘The World of Mario 1949, an Exhibition and Retrospective’. The exhibition was a great success and had become very popular, becoming synonymous with the Fort. Last year, the exhibition in the larger Gallery was removed to make way for a freedom fighters Gallery. About a month ago, the remainder of Mario’s paintings in the second Gallery were also removed and the Gallery is being used to sell paintings on a consignment basis,” adds Gerard. Not just the gallery but other plans such as a proposed restaurant and other suggestions have now been ignored despite the years of work that was put in for the same. This move led to considerable outrage among Goans and even visitors to the fort and the same can be seen on the visitor’s book. Recently, renowned fashion designer and author Wendell Rodricks took to social media to lash out against the authorities for their decision. “Tourists who went recently to Reis Magos Fort were disappointed that Mario Miranda’s works have been removed and replaced by other paintings. Considering the history and passion Mario had for this fort, it is sad and depressing that today the works and legacy of a gentleman who did so much to save a crumbling fort from falling to total ruin is not remembered and has no resting place for his legacy. Bring back the paintings please and respect this internationally known artist and Padma Vibhushan who has brought so much pride and honour to Goa,” says Wendell. Several Goans and art aficionados have also expressed their great disappointment with the development. As of now, until the situation changes, the paintings are stored at the fort and the exhibition that belongs to the Helen Hamlyn Trust will have to be returned. The fort is owned by the Goa Government, and is listed under the Goa Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act. It’s the oldest fort in Goa.