12 Apr 2024  |   04:33am IST

The origins of F N Souza at Saligao on his birth centenary

One of the most renowned Goan artists, Francis Newton Souza hails from the village of Saligao. On his birth centenary today, April 12, his daughter Keren Souza-Kohn and his grandson Solomon Souza are hosting an evening at Saligao Institute to celebrate this record setting artist
The origins of F N Souza at Saligao on his birth centenary

Arti Das

Today, on April 12, the quaint village of Saligao, is all set to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of Goa’s foremost artist Francis Newton Souza (April 12, 1924 –March 28, 2002), commonly referred to as F N Souza.

F N Souza’s daughter Keren Souza-Kohn and his grandson Solomon Souza are hosting an evening at Saligao Institute on April 12 from 5 pm to 7 pm to celebrate this extraordinary artist. This event which is open to all will speak about Souza, his art and also numerous memories attached with him and the village of his birth, Saligao. It’s a rare chance to witness sharing of memories by his family and friends like freedom fighter Libia Lobo Sardesai, who grew up with Souza at Crawford Market in Mumbai in the 1930s.

Souza was born in Saligao and spent his formative years in this idyllic village. But despite the briefness of his stay, Goa provided an environment that played a key role in shaping Souza’s early forays into art, especially Saligao. “Saligao is very important as this is the starting point of the journey and this is where it all began, 100 years ago. A life came into the world from this little village. It has come a full circle, 100 years later,” says Solomon Souza, grandson and muralist, who has painted 24-odd local heroes of Goa during Serendipity Arts Festival, 2019.

Speaking of Souza’s relationship with Saligao, Solomon adds, “Saligao is deeply embedded in Souza’s essence, consciously or unconsciously, we see it in his work. He has also painted Saligao many a times in his work. Also, whenever I take a walk around the Saligao village, it feels like I am walking through his paintings.” 

Souza, whose work is always defined as radical and bold as he believed that society’s destructive aspects shouldn’t be suppressed. They should be aired and confronted. Thus, most of his works would include use of bright and vibrant colours. 

Keren Souza-Kohn mentions, “I remember and enjoyed so much when he used to paint houses with exotic colours of villages of Goa, especially of Saligao. He would reminiscent; they were definitely his love letter to his beloved Saligao, his home. He took with him like a fragrance as it was always part of him. His strong colours are so Goan. Souza’s signature was his rich and exotic colours, which is also Goa’s signature. They are synonymous. He has most astonishing colour as does Goa with surprising combinations. That also has such resonating truth. They are nature’s truth--colours of flowers, foligao. He loved, enjoyed and celebrated it all.”

Janeita Singh author of ‘FN Souza: The Archetypal Artist’ while speaking about Souza’s relationship with Saligao, states, “His work, ‘Ave Maria’, ‘Red Goddess’, ‘The Red Road’, ‘Golgotha in Goa’, ‘Girl with a Goat’ are paintings which carry clear impressions of Souza’s connection to Saligao (Goa). Besides, the pervasive mosaic of colour mirroring the paddy/tambdi bhaaji fields and stained glass windows of churches in Goa filled his landscapes even after he had moved to the US. The effect is spectacular.”

Souza, whose work is now celebrated all over the world, didn’t receive much of this acclaim during his lifetime. Sadly, we now remember him and his artwork when one of his works gets sold for millions of dollars. Like on March 20 at Christie’s Auction House in New York, 36 of the late master’s artworks were sold for almost 20 million dollars, with a new record set by the 1960 oil on board ‘The Lovers’ at $4,890,000.

Writer Vivek Menezes, who has seen and studied Souza and his work from close quarters, mentions that there is a need to look at this great artist beyond the prism of record auction results. He adds, “Souza prices keep going up, but the respect level never goes up.”

Thus, he believes that such event in his own home village of Saligao is an important step in the right direction. “In the presence of Souza’s daughter and grandson, there is none of the con man salesmanship, and instead a deeply meaningful journey of love because Keren adores her father, who in turn loved and embodied Saligao in his life and art, and so the daughter and grandson have come back to Souza’s birthplace to pay their respects in the most rooted and appropriate way: a public gathering and sharing at the Saligao Institute, where the artist himself surely spent time as a child. It’s a wonderful moment for Goan and Indian art, and I am so glad it is happening,” states Vivek Menezes.

Solomon believes that with this venture people will re-discover the true son of soil and the Saligaonkar that’s FN Souza. 

Keren Souza-Kohn and Solomon Souza are celebrating the extraordinary artistic life of FN Souza at 100, on April 12 from 5 pm to 7 pm, at the Saligao Institute, Saligao. The event is open to all.

IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar