Over the next two months, Goa will celebrate its colonial tryst with Portugal over wine, film, song and a slice of photographic nostalgia at a time when organisers of the Goa-Portuguese festival have expressed concern over erosion of the state’s cultural heritage.
The Semana de Cultura Indo-Portuguese festival is in its eighth edition and according to Jose Elmano Coelho Pereira, chairman of the executive committee, its explicit purpose is to promote Goan culture, which according to him is intrinsically connected with Portugal, which colonised it for over four centuries.
“Semana de Cultura was set up in 2008 as an NGO to promote Goan culture. Goan culture has Portuguese culture ingrained in it. It is a blend which has taught Goans to live in unity and harmony, irrespective of their caste, creed and social status,” Pereira told IANS.
The line-up for this year, Pereira said, included a festival of Lusofonian films, a culinary soiree based on Goan-Portuguese food, a Fado (classical Portuguese song genre) and a photography exhibition on Indo-Portuguese memorabilia – all during the months of November and December.
“India is a mingling of diverse cultures, all special in their own way. Goa too has its own unique identity and culture which is a blend of Indian and western nuances. Goa has assimilated the essence of both regions where people coexist in harmony and joy. Through this event, we would like to share and enjoy the essence of our diverse culture and keep the unique Goan identity alive,” Pereira said.
Literally translated as the ‘Indo-Portuguese cultural Week’ the festival was initiated in 2008 to celebrate the unique Goan fusion culture and Goan identity honed over 451 years of Portuguese rule.
“If I remember well it was in 2008, amid turbulence from some quarters who were opposed to our ideas to start the organisation, we set it up and went ahead with our pursuit with a positive aim to preserve and maintain Goa’s culture,” Pereira recalled.
The festival has roped in several local organizations, many of which are steeped in social lore and date back to the Portuguese regime like Clube Vasco da Gama, Clube Nacional, Clube Harmonia Centro de LAngua Portuguesa/CamAues, Fundacao Oriente and Bernado Peres da Silva (BPS) Club Margao.
Unlike most parts of India which experienced British rule for nearly 200 years, Goa’s engagement with its Luso colonisers spread over more than double that period, making the connect deeper, richer and hence more complex.
Even though the Indian armed forces liberated Goa in 1961, the fusion between the culture of the colonist and colonizer is still evident in Goa’s food, music, dance, architecture, laws and even language.
The earlier editions of the Semana have portrayed Goan culture, including art, cuisine, films and other art forms through Goan and Portuguese artists both here and in Portugal.
Pereira, however, claims that festivals like these are especially relevant in these times when swift demographic changes are threatening to drive the uniqueness of Goan culture to extinction.
“At this juncture we are faced with the situation that Goan culture runs the risk of extinction for ethnic reasons. The fact is, for reasons of employment, Goan youth is migrating amass from the state irrespective of caste and creed,” Pereira said.
“Taking note of this situation, the objective of the Semana da Cultura is to preserve and unite Goans here and overseas, making them think that Goa exists for them, he said.