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Photography, videos as ‘history’

FREDERICK NORONHA

There must be tens of thousands of denizens of Goa who are active in cyberspace, if not a few lakhs of them. Most of them have cameras attached to their smart phones. They use these to regularly click selfies, images of places they visit, or recordings of events they go for. Yet, what strikes one is the fact that we still have so little ‘crowd sourced’ content from Goa itself emerging in cyberspace.

Visitors to Goa and tourists tend to posts quite a few images and videos of places that impress them. But then, what catches their eye might not tally exactly (or even remotely) with how the resident in Goa sees this place. If we seldom share our own images and stories, can we blame someone else for doing it more enthusiastically than us?

Some time ago, students at a Dhempe College seminar on the media were ruing the fact of how “Goa” is depicted in cyberspace. They’re right. Search for “Goa” on YouTube – the global video-sharing website – and don’t be surprised to find the most bizarre videos right on top.

Among the top ten that showed up on my list after searching are bikini-clad Caucasian women, Indian tourists crowding around foreign tourists in a selfie-creating frenzy, and Candolim beach pictures with an emphasis on the white female anatomy. Of course, all this is undeniably a part of Goa. But it is not something which attracts us extraordinarily.

For this, we are ourselves partly to blame for not actively shaping the image of Goa in the way we’d like it to be. Of course, part of the problem is structural. The media (and online) world works in a manner that grants privileges to bigger and larger markets and players. If lakhs of tourists share a vision of what is Goa, then that becomes the dominant one. Small voices have virtually little or no say in the matter.

The past week saw the death of the talented Goan violinist Sanya Cotta in her early thirties. Someone commenting in cyberspace wanted to know why there were so few recordings of this talented young achiever on the net. This person making this point noted that today almost every venue where concerts are performed has the capacity for live recordings. Many concerts and performances are indeed recorded. Yet, it is as if these recordings simply vanish into some black hole. You cannot find them when you want to view once again.

Maybe the short answer to why this happens is the fact that we lack a sense of history. We don’t believe in keeping records, in publicly remembering how events were and about the lives people once led.

Last week, a long-time friend in the UK, the former Goa photographer Lui Godinho, whose work I much admire, shared via WhatsApp some of his age-old photographs. Many of these date back to the 1980s or even earlier. That is still only a generation ago. So, it is within memory of some of us. It also reminds us that the recent past is also history, and is rather meaningful to us. History is not something only from the remote past, about people we never knew and only about stories deemed significant enough for wider audiences.

As we chatted, Lui kept digging up one and then another interesting photograph, earning a number of “wows” from me. For a start, he shared an image of the Chicalim church (near Vasco), photographed from a helicopter around the year 1984. “A similar photo would now show less trees and more buildings and flats,” he wistfully commented.

In between sharing tidbits of information about life and work in the Goa of the 1970s and thereabouts, Lui also sent across other amazing images. One was off boys from the small island of Corjuvem, in Aldona. In those times this place was an island, without a bridge. Lui reminds us that the guys in the photo from the 1970s had formed the first ‘Africander’ (Africa-returned Goan) beat group called ‘The Brood of Vipers’. I seem to vaguely recall that unusual and off-beat name. In the photo were lead guitarist Theo Vaz, rhythm guitarist and vocalist Paul Vaz and the bass guitarist Bing Dias. (Bing died of drowning young when the bus he was travelling to Bombay in fell into a swollen river en route. Anyone remember the Mahad accident?)

We got talking about life and those times. This ranged from the rough handed treatment returning expats got from Customs officials at the port then, to architectural photography of the times. He connected me with the story of the architect Anthony ‘Tony’ Almeida, a professional who had made a name for himself in Tanzania, and happened to be the brother of Sarto Almeida. We got into scanning negatives, and how one could give new life to these old, fading images.

What is the point here? Simply that Goa has a wide range of memories, images, old videos or films, and even recordings. Unless this all is treasured, saved and kept for the next generations, we are simply going to lose it. In Africa, they say, when an old person dies, a library is lost. This is definitely true.

Almost every second family has an album in which they have treasures of photographs and memories. A few books have been published on what I call Goa-stalgia. These publications contain some images. But it’s only the tip of the iceberg. What is really needed is much more to happen to save our memories. 

History is even that small incident which happened to you, and you never know how it will connect with other incidents to tell an impressive big picture. Record (and share) your story, and make sure it lives on.

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