In Focus

Goans get creative in the time of COVID-19

Manu Shrivastava

The Coronavirus pandemic has held the world in a deathly grip with a cure being far from sight. While a few countries, including India, have taken the bull by the horns and managed to control the pandemic to a great extent, several nations are still struggling to cope. Goa Chief Minister declared India's smallest state free from COVID-19 following no new reports of positive cases. In the meantime, the quintessential artistic Goan is finding unique ways to help raise awareness, raise funds, even use art to keep spirits high in such 'gloomy' times.

An artwork by Hesham Malik
Artists, cartoonists, painters, illustrators are finding inspiration in the current scenario and creating works of art depicting their view and understanding of the pandemic. Then there are art galleries finding new ways to generate awareness and offer support. Even, the common man and essential service providers are getting 'creative' in the way they live their lives and go about doing their work.

In Margao, for instance, the police constabulary got creative in their efforts to spread awareness about the pandemic during the lockdown. Vijay Dessai of the traffic cell of Curchorem Police Station donned a Yamraj avatar by dressing up as the Hindu God of death to deliver the message 'Stay Home, Stay Safe'. He urged motorists and pedestrians to follow the government-issued guidelines and maintain social distancing at all times. His makes his 'motto' clear - if people do not adhere to the rules and venture out of their homes for no reason, 'Yamraj' is waiting at the doorsteps. He says, "Stay indoors. Don't become an easy prey," as he waves his club, holds his horned crown and bursts into a wicked laughter.

Vijay Dessai of the traffic cell of Curchorem Police Station
donning a Yamraj avatar (Pic courtesy: DGP Goa)

Dessai urged motorists and pedestrians to follow the government-issued
guidelines and maintain social distancing at all times (Pic courtesy: DGP Goa)
Not too far way in Majorda, Daegal Godinho of the Carpe Diem Art Gallery couldn't be happier when Hesham Malik, an internationally-acclaimed contemporary artist with "roots in Goa", set out to document "experiences of Goans during the times of COVID-19" through a virtual art show. The motive "to be able to imagine the pain and struggles of people and at the same time, see them unite as one community". According to them, people around the world have been experiencing an extremely rare health crisis. A viral pandemic has literally put up dividers in countries which were anyways pretty divided. The current scene is isolating and ridden with anxiety.

Daegal Godinho of the Carpe Diem Art Gallery
Keeping this in mind, Daegal teamed up with Hesham in transforming this time in Goa into a memoir and documentary art in order to foster an appreciation for the Goa's unique and shared experiences. Together, they launched 'Goa Covid' stories to showcase people's stories around the community. Through the virtual art documentary, the duo wish to thank the nurses, doctors, journalists, parents and everyone from the community for joining hands and standing united even amidst the uncertainty unleashed by the COVID-19 situation.

Artist Hesham Malik at work
Hesham's art is inspired by his direct communication with locals - doctors, volunteers, journalists, photographers, etc. "As an artist, I am continuing the show in New York, London, Berlin, Prague, etc. However, I am proud and happy, I could start with the first show in Goa," says Hesham.

Hesham's work that was part of the 'Goa Covid' virtual art show
And then, there are groups that have started initiatives to share 'creative' wisdom with the public at large. The Sunaparanta Centre of Arts in Panaji launched a Surviving SQ (self-quarantine) programme amid the lockdown through which they reached out to artists 'to share strategies on how to get through this phase creatively and positively'. Programme patron Isheta Salgaocar and curator Leandre D'Souza both knew the period of isolation was ideal for the creatives.

Through the programme they will be streaming a 'Share Your Quiet' series by New Delhi-based video artist Pallavi Paul every Monday on their Instagram handle. Similarly, artist Kedar Dhondu will look into a study of people ‘Lonely Residents’ adjusting to life indoors. Ipshita Maitra is leading the 'Metaphor of Contrasts' photo-essay series that invites participants to learn about colours present in everyday spaces.

And, last but not the least, the coronavirus pandemic has also triggered the hunt for the next Mario Miranda! The contest ‘Who will be the next Mario Miranda?’ invites Goans to share cartoons on ‘Life in the time of Coronavirus’ with a tinge of humour. Late cartoonist's sons Raul and Rishaad Miranda and Mario Gallery curator Gerard da Cunha have organised an online art competition to help people make the most of the self-isolation period by working on their creative skills.

The Coronavirus pandemic has united Goa in more ways than one. And, what better medium than Art to keep the community together.