Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Story of a Market

Artist Orijit Sen spoke about one of the most popular shopping areas in Goa - the decades-old Mapusa Market

Photos: Orijit Sen (left) with Australian artist Alistair Rowe; bread in Mapusa Market 

By Shevlin Sebastian

A first glance of graphic artist Orijit Sen can cause a surprise. He has long hair, parted in the middle, that goes way beyond his shoulders. While the hair is black, the moustache and goatee are a mix of grey and black. Sen was in Kochi to give a 'Let's Talk' outreach programme, titled 'Mapping Mapusa Market', organised by the Kochi Biennale Foundation, and moderated by Australian artist Alistair Rowe.

Mapusa Market is one of Goa's most famous old-style markets, set in the town of Mapusa in Northern Goa. In the late 1990s, Sen lived in a village near Mapusa for a few years. He was fascinated by this market and spent a lot of time there. “The market has multiple layers of products, activities, and people,” says Sen.

The mapping of the market was facilitated by Goa University under its Mario Miranda Chair Visiting Professor Programme.

Incidentally, the first object that catches the visitor's eye is a statue of Shakuntala sitting on a crop of rocks, surrounded by a couple of deer. The statue came up just as the Portuguese were leaving India in 1961.

Initially, there was a plan to put up a statue of a Portuguese hero like Vasco Da Gama,” says Sen. “But that was shelved. The market comprised mostly of Hindu and Catholic traders. The latter were not keen for a Hindu god to come up. Somebody suggested Shakuntala. Everybody agreed that it was a good idea.”

Like most markets in India, the variety is mind-boggling. “There are numerous bakeries, which offer different types of traditional bread, like pao and poee,” says Sen. “You can get all types of fish, chicken, foodgrains, vegetables, clay pots, plastic buckets, watches, apart from computer parts and Chinese items.”

There are also many small outlets where men do elementary repair work of old stoves, mixers, fans, and umbrellas. And there are restaurants and bars - 'Market Cafe Bar & Rest' - to name one, to quench the shoppers' hunger and thirst.

Using pertinent visuals, Sen presented an absorbing show of life in the market.

Thereafter, he spoke about his comic book, 'River of Stories', which is regarded today as the first graphic novel in India, about the agitation against the Narmada Dam.

Here are some thought-provoking lines:

'Here is the story of a river
But stories themselves are rivers
Rivers that well up from the underground
Of Consciousness.'

Sen also showed a visual of the 246-feet long mural, 'From Punjab, With Love', which he had done at the Virasat-e-Khalsa Museum in Anandpur Sahib, Punjab. It shows an immense variety of life in Punjab - farmers in the fields, women washing clothes, children flying kites, and buffaloes wading into a pond. It is a mind-boggling work by a top quality artist.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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