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Art and Soul

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Sadhana Dell’ Arte, Merces first showed up on the map when it played host to a few intriguing performances at the Serendipity Arts Festival in December 2018.

Since then the almost nine month old establishment has witnessed a number of interesting art presentations and talks and is quickly becoming a popular art centre.

Located in a Portuguese styled heritage home, the space which is owned by the Viegas family was restored and named after Joao Francisco by his grandson, Mario Lobo.

Having made his way to the African continent at a young age of 19, Joao Francisco Viegas, originally from Pilerne, ran his own enterprise in Mombasa, Kenya dealing in cotton, tobacco, and leather.

On his return to India, he was known as one of the first Goan Catholic licensed money lenders in Goa and Bombay. He practised ayurveda from the knowledge he acquired from the African tribals. In the village of Merces he was also known as “Mosmicar”. “His great-grandson Chirag Lobo’s vision as an artist was to keep Joao Francisco’s passion, spirit and creativity alive through Sadhana Dell ‘Arte,” says Esme Lobo, Chirag’s mother, who together with her husband (Mario) run the art space today. The centre has been supported in the endeavor by the local panchayat.

“Today, when the arts are struggling to find voice, due to many factors (lack of space, finance, censorship etc) we hope to provide a suitable venue to help artists develop and showcase their work which not only provides them a platform but also helps in changing our society,” says Esme.

While she works to expand their reach so that they can have events that represent various art forms to the people, Mario works side by side to ensure that the business module of Sadhana Dell ‘Arte, which is a family trust, remains stable.

The property today has a residency, which can hosts 12 artists, a room for the library with over 4000 books set up by Arushi and Sameer of Lotus Eaters, a performance room which can hold 40 people and another room for workshops, seminars, and film screening. A complete side of the house can be used for art exhibitions. The attic of the house has been converted into a private space for artist, writers, and group meditation, while the deck, a stage for outdoor performance can host 80 plus audience members.

“A room has been reserved for an art store as we are looking for the right person to collaborate. We are also looking for assistance to set up a café,” says Esme.

Since its inception in December 2018, the centre, besides Serendipity Arts Festival, has hosted other events like the G128-Booking Reading on the Beat, Tatva–Our Stories of Embodied Living, as well as a recently curated talk by Zehra Chappiwala on, ‘Where exactly is India?’

Explaining how they go about the process of hosting an event, Esme says that they first meet with the artist/ curator and check out the theme, the subject and the participants who will be involved. “Once confirmed, we also help them to promote the same through our data base. Besides which we have a contract with our terms and conditions to maintain the decorum of the place,” she says, adding that they are now looking at expanding further as they are keen to host theatre and music residences, art exhibitions as well as workshops and seminars for students.

And the response to the centre has been very encouraging, she says. “We are surprised to see this amount of interest and intrigue to a creative platform, of course, there is always more that one can envision with a creative space like ours, and this is just the beginning,” she says.

Esme also expresses her happiness that many ancestral homes today are being restored similarly.

“We must celebrate and embrace our culture and heritage. Of course it’s not easy financially, but if it’s sustainable, it will help carry the heritage to the next generation and keep the flame burning,” she shares, adding that there is certainly a need for more such spaces. “We have so much talent in Goa, from locals and tourists alike. It’s time to invest in a forum that encourages and promotes such beautiful ideas and talent,” she says.

(with inputs from Danuska
Da Gama)

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