Oviyo: How Goa’s rural women sang through the grind
International Women’s Day March 8, 2019 was celebrated uniquely with ‘Grinding Stories’ They explored domestic spaces and gendered objects, highlighting women’s resilience through the Grinding Stories. Café has the details
What is Grinding Stories? Do you remember in the olden days how women used the cylindrical rounded stone and a round wedge-shaped stone with a pit in the middle? In those days, women expressed their emotions through the stories and experiences in the form of a poetic songs called the oviyo songs. The significance of oviyo songs is still not lost. We all must have probably heard our grandmothers hum a peculiar rhythm that’s very unusual from the rest. It could be an oviyo song. ‘Grinding stories’ is also a book written by Heta Pandit that explores the poetic expression of women’s voices, bringing together vernacular and translated renditions of ‘oviyo’ songs that are sung over the grinding stone by women in rural Goa. Tribute to Grinding stories At Sunaparanta, Goa Centre for the Arts in association with India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) and Heritage Network paid tribute to Goa’s women and the unique oviyo tradition According to Lina Vincent the entire event was not just honouring the oviyo songs, but the grinding stone being a symbol of the layered discussion revolves around gender and women’s experiences. “There where there are a multitude of objects from Goa’s socio-cultural history, provided by the Goa Chitra museum in Benaulim and the traditional ‘oviyo’ sung over the grinding stone, that have been translated in the book ‘Grinding stories’. I saw this as a collective attempt to explore aspects of Goa’s living heritage, in its material objects and oral histories,” says Vincent. There’s more to Life than a House in Goa - Heta Pandit As the author of the book Grinding Stories, Heta Pandit, heritage advocate, explains that the book is a translation of 26 songs from the Sattari taluka of Goa, collected over the course of a year. Some of these stories in the book are ancient well-known legends and some are composed and sung by the three women mentioned in the book. Oviyo Discovery by the Author Heta Pandit narrates her discovery and inspiration behind writing Grinding Stories. She discovered these songs from Goa on a chance visit to the Shri Mauli Temple in the forest village of Zholambe in neighbouring Maharashtra. The rich stock of kaavi art on the temple walls were originally from Goa and part of an on-going research project. One of the complex figures was that of Garuda holding up a serpent. The eagle and the serpent were assumed enemies in the normal lexicon. However, in this illustration on the temple wall, the expression of Garuda was benign. The serpent appeared unharmed and under Garuda’s protection. Dr Rajendra Kerkar, who had guided the team and Heta to the temple, then began to recite the Goa version, the “oviyo” version of the legend. “The story was as intriguing as the poem and thus began my fascination for the songs sung over the grinding stone,” says Heta. A Set of Glass Bangles There may be thousands of oviyos composed in the olden days by women in Goa while grinding in the kitchen or backyard. Here is one example: In A Set of Glass Bangles, the storyteller obliquely refers to the whole village in the context of her in-laws. When she marries a man from a certain village, it is as though she has married a whole village (of in-laws). Everyone sees the new bride as easy game. The reference to the 100 Kauravas from the epic Mahabharata is especially significant here. It is a younger brother who has sent the bride a set of glass bangles for his sister and yet, she says, her in-laws sit in judgement, as one hostile body. The reference to the set of glass bangles arranged as a fancy package - like a palanquin - indicates the love and care that a younger brother has lavished on a gift for his sister. The new bride also calls herself ‘beautiful’ to imply that she has brought not just expensive gifts with her but also her own physical beauty. The Theatrical Presenters at Grinding Stories event The program opened with an introduction to the project and the songs were rendered in a Marathi-Konkani dialect, with English reading of the translations, as well as theatrical interpretation of selected pieces. The stage was set with selected objects of domestic life, identifying the living/disappearing heritage of Goa, and connecting with the idea of gender-imbued objects and spaces. The event features storyteller Sarojini Bhiva Gaonkar, vocalist cum environmentalist Shubhada Chari and performer Ruchira Verekar presented a theatrical act of the grinding stories. The act was directed by Anagha Deshpande (for Abhivyaktee, Panjim) along with India for the Arts (IFA) fellow Lina Vincent and of course Heta Pandit.
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