01 Apr 2024  |   05:33am IST

A tribute in tales and thread: Carmona’s Savia Viegas narrates her mother’s stories through embroidery

Savia hopes to elevate embroidery from a domestic craft to an art form. Using only old jeans as her canvas, Savia’s embroidery breathes life into stories of people, their struggles, dreams and aspirations. Each piece is a vibrant homage to the human experience, rendered in bold hues and intricate stitches
A tribute in tales and thread: Carmona’s Savia Viegas narrates her mother’s stories through embroidery


CARMONA: Born in Xetmalem, Carmona, Maria Savia Viegas, 66, is a true polymath, excelling in various professions. She is a journalist, an art historian, a dog breeder, a scriptwriter, a professor, a museum curator, an artist, and the founder of a successful pre-primary school. Her passion for growth, culture, and all things that add laughter and meaning to life knows no bounds. But amidst her multifaceted career, one passion holds a special place in her heart: embroidery. Rooted in her family history, embroidery was not just a skill, but a tradition passed down by her mother. “Doing embroidery has always been in the house,” Savia reminisces. “My mom was an excellent seamstress who taught girls to stitch and embroider, at a time when needlework was considered a ‘feminine thing’ and every girl had to compulsorily learn the art.” 

As a young girl, Savia was captivated by her mother’s students and their joy in embroidering, while she was in school, not at all enjoying the restrictions of traditional schooling. Savia longed to learn embroidery, and would pester her mother to let her stay home from school and learn needlework. However, her mother, foreseeing a different, brighter future for her daughter, banned her from learning the craft. 

“My mom, however, retained every article featuring me and my work, clarifying the fact that she wanted me to reach heights, and not just be a full-time embroiderer in Carmona,” says Savia. Initially, when Savia was in Bombay, she embroidered banners and so on. However, when she came back to Goa, she began painting and later resumed creating embroidery.

When she came down to Goa in 2005, she found a few of her kids’ outgrown jeans, which she used as base material to embroider. “Several months after my mother passed away, while cleaning a cupboard, I found a heavy, folded cloth. On opening it up, I was awestruck to see it fully embroidered by my beloved mom. It was at that very moment that I decided to create something out of it since it was in bad shape and could not be preserved as such,” says Viegas. “This piece would be a requiem tribute to my mom.”

She laundered the material and cut the whole sheet of cloth into small pieces, trying to fit together the various embroideries on it. Further, she crocheted the borders, making the pieces stable and aesthetically presentable. She then joined these pieces together, creating a quilt, which she completed in March 2023. 

“I could see the stories my mother used to tell me embroidered on this piece of cloth,” she says. However, these stories were only narrated orally and had never been written down. It was a tedious task for Savia to understand these oral stories represented in embroidery, and to pen them down on paper. She was able to decipher ten tales from these pieces of embroidery, which drew her attention towards the possibility of using embroidery as an effective means to narrate stories. “This quilt is homage to my dear mother,” says Savia.

 “I found it fascinating to take forward a so-called ‘women’s craft’ to the higher level, where it can be displayed at an art gallery just like canvas paintings are.” Savia would do a lot of textile embroideries on clothes but never thought of creating artistic works like this until she crafted the quilt as a tribute to her mother. Savia uses only denim material from old jeans as a substrate for her work and would gladly accept old jeans or khadi fabric from anyone giving them away, to create more art.

Overall, Savia is something of an acrobat, managing her home, her work and following her passion to the fullest. When is working on a piece she is completely immersed into her work and is not at rest until she completes it. All her works are people-oriented and speak about their dreams, aspirations and troubles, executed in bright strong hues. For those curious about her embroidery, Savia Viegas’ work will be displayed at an exhibition titled ‘Carmona’s Talking Quilt’ April 6 at the Museum of Goa, Pilerne.


Iddhar Udhar