Monday, 8 May 2017


-Brian Mendonça

Once again the Lusophone Society of Goa has brought a veritable feast of cultural events to Goa. A wide range of activities covering film,  song, music  and exhibition is here. Arching across a month, from February 17 to March 18, 2017 the 3rd Lusofonia festival, Goa attempts to bring together 10 Portuguese-speaking nations to offer a peep into their culture.

To curate such a festival might have been mind-boggling but as the schedule shows, it has been accomplished with élan. This year’s fare includes nature walks – the Portuguese experience and the Goan way; contemporary Brazilian cinema; a photography exhibition of the cultural heritage of Macao; a photography exhibition of the land and the people of East Timor (13-15 March), and even a photography exhibition of a documentary on the Makonde tribe of northern Mozambique. The festival culminates in a ‘Feijoada and Samba’ fest – an alchemy of food, music and dance from Lusophone countries on 18 March.

What I found fascinating was the exhibition of newspapers published during the visit of the Brazilian poet Cecília Meireles (1901-64) to Goa in 1953. For a poet to have the savoir faire to hobnob with the political echelon in India was a lesson in social graces. But it is her poetry written in Brazilian Portuguese which humbles the reader. In a collection of poems written in India she sees India as a vast canvas in which to paint her poetry.

In ‘Bazaar’ she is riveted to the ‘olhos negros’ the black eyes, which lurk behind the sandals, sweets, toys and grain. ‘Estudantes’ describes the students as they ‘scatter around the square.’ She ends with a query ‘Que mundo construirão?’ /What world will they construct? ‘Marinha’/Seascape took us to the Goan beaches. In this poem she contrasts the blue colour with the black: ‘Black are the voices of the fishermen / words cast over the blue.’ Ever on the road  in ‘Poeira’/ Dust she philosophizes, ‘However much I shake my hair / however much I shake my clothes / the dust of the roads lies on me.’*

Lusophone countries include Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guiné-Bissau, the region of Macau, Mozambique, Portugal, and São-Tomé and Príncipe. Of special mention on the website are ‘the Indian State of Goa, the Union Territory of Daman and Diu in India.’ The brainchild of Aurobindo Xavier, the website  has events listed from 2013.

Goa with its rich Portuguese legacy is called to preserve its traditions. More importantly it is the young who need to feel at home in the language. Nuggets of poetry from the Portuguese poet Sofia de Mello Breyner Andresen have shaped my nostalgia for Goa when I was away:


Quando eu morrer voltarei para buscar
Os instantes que não vivi junto do mar 
[When I die, I will return to search
For those moments which I could not live beside the sea]
Published in Gomantak Times, Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 9 April, 2017. Pix of Nizia Moniz Barbosa do Carmo Lobo reading the poems of Cecilia Meireles in Portuguese to students on the sidelines of the Meireles exhibition at State Central Library, Patto, Panjim, Goa on 3 March 2017. Jovito Lopes looks on. Pix. courtesy Brian Mendonca.

*Cecília Meireles, Travelling and Meditating: Poems Written in India and Other Poems. Translated by Rita Sanyal and Dilip Loundo. Embassy of Brazil, New Delhi 2003. 

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