All the images used in the exposition were taken by us, and the shadow images are from our installation. The objects used in the installation were gleaned from places around our locality in Bardez, North Goa (paths, fields, rivers, beaches, etc.)
The story of the Rakhondar that we begin with is prevalent across the oral tradition of Goa. So is the story about Parashuram, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, reclaiming (Konkan) land from the Arabian sea.
People who shared stories about Rakhondars and their experiences with us -
Ajit Naik (Socorro, Goa)
Anthony (Cashew farmer; Mandrem, Goa)
Antonetta Sequiera (Aradi Socorro, Goa)
Deepak Naik (Mandrem, Goa)
Francesca Cotta (Panjim, Goa)
Norman Sequiera (Aradi Socorro, Goa)
We were already in contact with most of these people. One of us (Rai) shared an apartment with Francesca for a month, where she recounted hearing these myths growing up. Anthony (a cashew farmer from Mandrem) shared his experience of being safely guided through his cashew plantation while making alcohol in the hills. Norman, whose taxi service we always use for airport pick-up and drops, took us around his village and to the Rakhondar (although he calls them Gaonkar) shrine in the village. His mother, Antonetta, shared anecdotes about seeing shadowy figures (who she believes to be the Gaonkar) and hearing the Rakhondar's walking stick sounds (taps and three strikes at the end of the walk) in the dead of night. We frequented Ajit uncle's bar (Ajit bar) in Socorro often during the grant period and would discuss the stories we had heard with him. He would say there are so many street lights now; who needs Rakhondars anymore? They have vanished.
However, we don't mention these stories in detail in the exposition. The Rakhondar are only an entry point to the conversation about inside/outside and resource management in Goa's current and historical context, a conversation that shaped and informed our essay and our walks. The research, in this case, is ingrained with day-to-day life experiences in some sense, and not removed from it. Embracing our positionality as outsiders, we consciously chose to navigate the space and draw from our own experiences instead of relying on written histories. In this process everyday personal experiences became vital for us in order to feel sociocultural differences, subtly expressed through quotidian acts.
The text in the following pages is an essay we wrote together, looking back at our photographs and notes. First, we would write our experiences and then combine them to build a collective narrative. This was divided into multiple chapters to introduce important elements gradually throughout the essay. The exposition begins with 'Rakhno's path', establishing a periphery of the village. It then leads to an invitation to this village through 'A house up for rent'. 'Wet feet' and 'Two shores' are the first impressions of a place we are beginning to understand. 'A ferry' takes us deeper into this world, not long before 'A foreigner' brings us right back. 'Rakhandar' and 'Uncles at a bar' compels us to think about our position, and 'A boat' helps us get there.
The work took the form of an interactive installation because we wanted to create a situation where people could touch the objects themselves and create arrangements by moving around a circle. This circle defined the periphery of the ‘inside’. The light and shadow play came to us, one night, during a power cut, when we were playing with different things we had collected. This immediately resonated with the popular description of the Rakhondar as a shadowy figure.
Walking together and with others became a method in the conception of the work. It also resonated with the Rakhondar's own circumambulation. It allowed us to stumble upon things (situations, objects, people) that we might otherwise have overlooked. We wanted these to be brought into the materiality of the conversation, and to become the ingredients that make the place and the work.
The project and the installation was supported by -
Goa Open Arts Foundation and Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts.
Altodi Poltodi / This shore That shore
Rai & Savyasachi
It began with the story of Rakhondars, spirit-protectors in Goa, and asking around about them. In the process of doing so, we were repeatedly confronted by the question of insider-outsider politics and what ‘protection’ could mean in terms of resource management in such a scenario. The mythical spirit protector protects the 'inside' from 'outside' exploitation and walks along the periphery of the inside to keep watch every night. We were thinking about that invisible dividing line through our own experiences and about what we could gather from people who still carry these myths within themselves and their communities. Eventually, our research took the form of an installation and an essay.
This exposition comprises images and texts made between 2021-2022. The black and white images of the shadows are from the installation, taken during March-April, 2022. The other images contextualise this exposition, showing places, objects and materials found across the landscape of Goa. As we walked through the landscape, we collected things that caught our attention, and felt a need to catalogue them. This, perhaps, is the old instinct of the 'explorer'.
The text moved beyond the immediate context of the work and tried to connect with common feelings of navigating an unfamiliar space -
with feeling foreign,
making a home,
walking on the beach,
getting one’s feet wet,
for the way back...
The installation invited the audience to play with it and, in the process, change it. What you see in the following pages will be the changes that we saw and experienced, both in the installation and in the world outside. For this exposition we have created narratives that weave our experiences with fictional retellings. The text is a reflection that follows the installation – it combines the 'real' space along with the 'made-up' installation space and projects it onto a two-dimensional cyberspace for another set of eyes, whether inside or outside – who knows?
The project began as an art installation in Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts, supported by the Goa Open Arts' Catalyst Grant. The installation is a cluster of four islands and their reflected shadow world. The audience could move around them in a circular path – they were metaphorically put in the shoes of Rakhandars circumambulating peripheries of villages. The landscape/village was altered each time they built or broke structures within these islands and the shadows of these activities were cast on the four walls of the gallery space. The materials used to build these islands were sourced from the ‘natural world’ during our walks through Goa. A catalogue of these materials can be accessed on the side.
This exposition is a reflection on both the effects and affects produced by the installation, as well as thoughts that came up in the process of its making. It analyses the transformation of the installation as the audience enters the space and engages with it. They are invited to touch and play with the materials to feel their effect on the space and their reflections on the walls. this is especially important because the work isn’t about the individual forms or materials as much as about how it is transformed by everyone. The shadows of these forms engulf us and immediately put us face to face with our own shadowy reflection. The exposition builds parallels between these reflections upon/interactions with the installation, and our own lived experiences in Goa, merging the real with the mystical and the personal with the public/social.
What follows is a narrative that was woven by the artists using the experience of the viewers and their own reflections. The narrative is at once fiction and non-fiction as it utilises these elements to construct parallels between the real and the mystical worlds.
Maria Aurora Couto. Goa: A Daughter's Story. India: Penguin, 2005.
Vinayaka Vishnu Khedekara. Goa: Land, Life and Legacy. Goa: Directorate of Arts and Culture, 2016.
José Laurenço. The Fever and Other Stories. Goa: Miskutt imprint, 2020.
Sardar Ziauddin, Nandy Ashis, Davies Merryl Wyn, and Alvares Claude. The Blinded Eye - 500 years of Christopher Columbus. Mapusa: The Other India Press, 1993.
Padgaonkar Preeti, Mesta Rajeshwari, Gonsalves Avita, De Souza Cheryl, Fernandes Venisha, Bara Elizabeth, Fernandes Mozinha, Velip Priyanka, Moraes Sachin Savio, Narangi Khushboo I. Hanv Konn? (Who am I?). Goa: Goa 1556, 2019.
D'Souza JP. The Village Home and Other Stories. Goa: Michael Lobo Publishers, 1998.
Junqueiro Guerra. Simple Folk. Translated by Gomes Olivinho. Goa: Konknni Sorospot Prakashan, 1994.
Mauzo Damodar. Mirage and Other Stories. Translated by Pai Vidya. Goa: Under the Peepal Tree, 2014.
Pereira Jose, Martins Micael, da Costa Antonio. Undra Muja Mam - Folk Songs of Goa: An Anthology of Duipods. Goa: Goa 1556, 2011.
Dr. Sangeeta Mahesh Sonak. Khazan ecosystem of Goa: Building on Indigenous solutions to cope with Global Environmental change. Dordrecht: Springer, 2014.
Luis Antonio De Souza, "Daad the forgotten rakhno...," Herald Insight, October 23, 1999, 2.
Luis Antonio De Souza, "Sunshine in the rains," Goa Today, May, 2003, 42.
Luis Antonio De Souza, "Bonderam," Herald Insight, August 21, 1999, 1.
Luis Antonio De Souza, "Ancient Bunds: Backbone of Goa's Rich Heritage," Herald Insight, June 2, 2001, 1.
Nielsen Kenneth, Bedi Heather, Da Silva Solano, "The Great Goa Land Grab," Goa 1556, 2022.
1. This catalogue displays all the materials collected during our research for the project. Most of these were used in building the installation for the final exhibition, where the audience played with them to build their own structures. These structures cast shadows on the walls of the gallery space that became reflections of the audience's interactions.
Catalogue created on March 20, 2022. Right before the installation/exhibition opening.