24 Jun 2024  |   06:18am IST

The Zo family of Chimbel: A legacy of carving through generations

Rooted in centuries of skill and tradition, the wood craftsmanship of Santosh Zo and his sons Mihir and Munil continues to evolve as they navigate the challenges of the modern world
The Zo family of Chimbel: A legacy  of carving through generations


MERCES: The Zo family of Chimbel has been a beacon of craftsmanship for centuries, excelling in the art of carving across various media. Descendants of the Chari community, they migrated from Maharashtra to Goa long ago, with one branch of the family establishing itself in Chimbel. While many in the Chari community possess carving skills, the Zo family has set itself apart by crafting exquisite furniture and statues of saints and deities.Their work has garnered admiration and patronage from both the church and the landed gentry. A notable moment in their history was when Kashinath Vaman Zo impressed Manuel António Vassalo e Silva, the last Governor-General of Portuguese India, with his ivory carvings. The Governor-General was so taken with Kashinath’s craftsmanship that he arranged for him to attend a course in Portugal to further hone his skills.

Today, Kashinath’s son, Santosh Zo, continues the family tradition, focusing primarily on wood. His creations are found in many homes across Goa, known for their intricate design and craftsmanship. However, the family faces several challenges, particularly in sourcing quality wood, such as rosewood, which is essential for their furniture and altars. Additionally, reliance on middlemen has often limited their profits, and a lack of extensive marketing has constrained their outreach.

Santosh’s sons, Mihir and Munil, share their father’s passion for woodworking. Mihir, who balances a regular job while helping his father, is determined to preserve the family’s traditions and skills. He has innovative ideas to enhance efficiency through the use of modern machinery for the initial stages of work and strategic marketing for their specialized products.

“We need to adapt to the changing times while preserving our heritage,” Mihir says. He envisions transitioning to full-time involvement but faces financial hurdles in acquiring expensive equipment, with costs running into lakhs. Mihir is hopeful of securing support through various schemes and aims to establish reliable and consistent wood suppliers. He is also exploring the repurposing of wood to address supply challenges.

Looking ahead, Mihir aspires to market the Zo brand of carved furniture to enthusiasts worldwide, ensuring that the workmanship and skill are properly valued.

Despite a consistent flow of work, the rise of online sales and ready-made furniture has created new market dynamics that the Zo family has yet to fully explore. “We need to tap into the online market to reach a wider audience,” Mihir adds.

With a young son of his own, Mihir is determined to pass on the family’s rich legacy to the fourth generation. “It’s not just about preserving a tradition; it’s about ensuring that the art and skill are recognised and valued in today’s market,” he says.


Idhar Udhar