Noted artist Orijit Sen’s game-based installation of a popular Portuguese-era Friday market at Mapusa town in North Goa, where heaps of colourful spices often contest with stacks of fresh slaughtered pork for attention, will feature in the Serendipity Arts festival due to be held in Goa later this year.
The recreation of the weekly market, invariably on the to-do list for most locals as well as foreign tourists for the variety of local condiments, baked products, meats, fish and other staple on offer, is essential, claims Sen, who has been working on the “Mapping Mapusa Market” project with Goa University since 2013.
“To me markets are really interesting, because there is a very foolish conception that art and commerce are two ends of a spectrum. But I find that real art and culture in a broader sense emerges from markets. It brings out the multicultural nature of a place, people and society,” Sen told IANS.
The noted graphic artist, who is giving finishing touches to his walk-through map of the vibrant marketplace for the festival, said that the objective was to “create an understanding, awareness and an articulation of the importance of this market among sections of the public who live there and use it”.
“It is laid out horizontally and isn’t up on the walls. One can walk between the alleys and lanes and can see all the things that Mapusa market comprises,” he said.
The origin of the market place goes way back to the 1500s when Mapusa, also known as Mhapshe, relied on the adjoining Mapusa river for trade and transport. Over time, the river has shrunk to a smelly gutter now, but the market was relocated by the Portuguese in the 1950s by land-filling some nearby paddy fields, where it has more than thrived.
The market is known for its local produce which includes dried fish, spices, indigenous grown vegetables, food-grain and fruit species, traditional sweets and savories, sausages and a plethora of uniquely local articles.
Its uniqueness, which has in recent times been marred somewhat by its ‘mainstreamisation’, has made it popular with locals as well as tourists, who wander its busy streets looking for something exotic and hopefully a good bargain.
It is this sense of commotion and cultural overlap, which Sen, an alumnus of the prestigious Ahmedabad-based National Institute of Design, says is essential to document.
“Studying the market and its current and past dynamics is essential because the market is a micropolis of the rich culture and social life of Goa and it involves the study of relationships between people, work, produce, the economy and their culture. The market brings together all of these things and helps one to understand the relationships within the context of the market much better,” he said.
Despite online purchasing taking root, Sen claims that unlike app-shopping or heading to a mall for purchases, a marketplace like the one in Mapusa is a socio-cultural space, where interactions broaden one’s horizon.
“Commodity purchase online or in a mall is taking place only in a space which is engineered for commerce, while a Mapusa market is like a socio-cultural space which is a much bigger world than the mall. So for somebody who chooses to interact with malls as a market, their lives are narrow and dull. I think that’s a crisis,” he said.
“A lot of people are denied the opportunity and ability to access art in the genuine sense. A lot of problems would have disappeared if this happened. Art is so important in keeping alive your inner being.
“Art gives the meaning of life to me and, without it, it’s just a series of functions like a physical object. The idea of individuality, beauty, love belong to the world of art. The fact of the matter is art is what sustains us as people,” he added.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar