Arts and Crafts of Goa: A Cultural Blend of the Present and Past
When someone talks about the folk art forms of India, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bengal, and Bihar are the states that are most talked about. However, while Goa has a thriving tourism industry, the arts and crafts of Goa are never talked about. When tourists visit a beautiful place, they often like to carry a physical memento of their visit with them. Goan artisans practise a wide range of different art practises, and the items they make are extremely popular with tourists. Thus, many craft items in Goa are sold as souvenirs.
Let’s look at the different arts and crafts that are popular in the beautiful state of Goa.
The Goan Handicraft Industry: A Thriving Sea of Colour
From flea markets to quaint shop displays, the Goan arts and crafts have a lot of variety to offer. Products such as wooden lacquerware, embroidery, terracotta, papier mache, and bamboo-crafted items are all extremely popular. Goa has a different vibe—a laid-back, relaxed, and rustic environment—that continues to captivate the hearts of tourists.
The arts and crafts of Goa are no different. They contain a soulful charm and a youthful nostalgia that stay with you long after Goa is just a memory. They are a testament to the rich and vibrant nature of this state and the ingenuity and artistic vision of its people. These intricate crafts captivate both tourists and locals alike. The high quality and expert craftsmanship behind these products have made them a favourite of art collectors and connoisseurs.
The Various Arts and Crafts of Goa
The major arts and crafts of the state include pottery and terracotta, brass and metal work, wood work, crochet and embroidery, bamboo craft, fibre craft, jute macramé, coconut mask making, sea shell craft, batik prints and metal embossing.
Pottery and Terracotta
Traditional Goan pottery comprises utilitarian and decorative items made with rich red-coloured clay. It is part of a traditional art form called Kumbhar pottery. Pottery plays an important role in the local economy and is practised all over the state. However, Bicholim and Borde are the two main centres of Goan pottery. Kumbhar pottery is prevalent in north Goa in Bicholim, Bardem, Mayem, and Calangute. Products like flower pots, bowls, ashtrays, pen holders, figures of saints, gods and goddesses, and animals are highly popular and feature elaborate floral designs, smooth polished surfaces, and a unique artistic flair.
Also read: The Intricacies of Molela Terracotta
Brass Metal Work
Brass metal work (commonly called otim kaam) is a generational occupation. Goan artisans produce various types of handicrafts, such as sarnais, candle stands, church bells, ashtrays, oil lamps, etc. Otim kaam is practised in Mapusa, Sanquelim, and Bicholim in Goa.
Wooden Lacquer Ware
Wood carving is locally called ‘kastha kari‘. Goan artisans create intricate wood-carved items such as cradles, baby carts, corner stands, toys, small tables, etc. They cater to the likes of Hindu families, as these items are typically used in their religious ceremonies. Goan wood carving is reminiscent of Portuguese western furniture. This style was very popular during the colonial period, and such western furniture was usually exported to other countries.
In Goa, artisans in Canacona, Sanguem, Cuncolim, Verem, Bardez, and Bicholim practise kastha kari wood lacquer work. Popular designs are mainly floral, with animal and human motifs.
Crochet, Embroidery, and Lace Work
Crochet was introduced in the 15th century in Goa and has since become an integral part of Goan culture. Craftsmen create tablecloths, pillow covers, linen, handkerchiefs, bed sheets, and apparel featuring beautiful embroidery and crochet work. The Portuguese traditional embroidery that was first introduced in Goa has evolved with each generation of artists.
One interesting fact about crochet is that, unlike other types of embroidery, it cannot be machine-replicated. Every single crochet article has to be handmade! So we should do our best to buy crochet that was made in ethical conditions. Panaji, Asagaon, Mapliso, and Mulgaon in North Goa are centers of the crochet and embroidery industry. In south Goa, the art form flourishes in Sanguem.
Bamboo craft, also called Maniche kaam, is one of the most popular arts and crafts of Goa. Items such as flower baskets, pen holders, mats, fans, and other decorative items make up the bulk of this craft sector. Other bamboo and cane craft products include supli (used to clean rice), patlo (used to wash rice and grains), and dali (used to dry food grains).
The ‘Mahar’ scheduled caste typically practises bamboo and cane crafts. With the passage of time, the craftsmen of Goa have innovated a unique style of bamboo craft that distinguishes it from similar crafts of other regions. Maniche kaam is practised in Porvorim, Pernem, Bicholim, and Mangueshi in North Goa and in the Madgaon and Cuncolim districts in the south.
Nuns from Kerala introduced the fibre craft to the arts and crafts of Goa. In this craft form, utility items are made from banana, sisal, or other natural fibres. Fibre craft products such as coasters, shopping bags, wall hangings, etc. are very popular items. Quepem in south Goa is a centre of fibre craft production.
Jute Macramé Craft
Jute macramé is a very popular and unique craft. The craftsmen who practise it excel at creating bags, belts, hangers, lamp shades, hangers, flower pots, and other beautiful decorative items. These items are especially popular among tourists, who collect them as souvenirs.
Coconut Mask Making
Goan craftsmen use empty coconut shells to make decorative and functional masks. They also use these shells to carve different decorative and household items. Coconuts are found in abundance in the coastal areas, which makes it easy for artisans to collect the raw material required for this craft.
Sea Shell Craft
Since Goa is situated on the coast, items like coconuts, sea glass, and sea shells frequently wash up on shore. Local artisans collect seashells from the beaches and use them to make fabulous decorative items. Some popular seashell crafted products, such as lampshades, coasters, table mats, ashtrays, chandeliers, mirrors with shell frames, pot holders, curtains, clocks, etc. are especially loved by tourists.
Shimpla hast kala is another name for the seashell craft of Goa. This practise is popular in the Panaji, Porvorim, Mangueshi, and Mandrem districts in the north and Madgaon in the south.
Papier mache items are also a popular handicraft in Goa. Artisans make colourful utility and decorative items from recycled waste paper. Masks, wall hangings, pen stands, flower vases, jewellery boxes, etc. are popular tourist items.
This ancient art form originated in the Middle East and later reached Spain and Portugal. The Portuguese brought this art to Goa. However, the tiles were initially produced in Portugal and only sold in Goa to meet local demand. Later on, certain Goan artists studied the art of Azulejos tile making and brought the industry to Goa. Azulejos tiles contain geometric, natural motifs, and scenes of human life.
Goan artisans hand-paint these white ceramic tiles at various art studios in the state. Mass-produced tiles are printed with the designs, while custom pieces are always hand-painted.
Kaavi art murals are named after ‘kaav’ the Konkani name for the red colour that is derived from laterite soil. These murals are found in the Konkan region but especially in the old buildings and temples of Goa. The artist uses reddish brown pigment to draw designs on prepped white lime surfaces. This is a dying art form and there are no attempts being made to revive it.
The Rustic Beauty of the Arts and Crafts of Goa
Although Goa may be famous for its scenic beaches and laid-back culture, it has a lot more to offer than what meets the eye. Its lively arts and crafts industry is proof of the creativity, ingenuity, and artistic spirit of its people. The craftsmen of Goa have carved out a niche for themselves in the highly competitive Indian handicrafts market. Many handicrafts are sold at the arts and crafts emporiums run by the government and in stalls at tourist spots. A blend of Indian and Portuguese aesthetics as well as a rustic and ethnic ambience make the arts and crafts of Goa stand out from the rest and give them a unique look, feel, and identity.
Goan handicrafts are exported to various countries like Switzerland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Austria, the Czech Republic, etc. The Goa Handicrafts, Rural & Small Scale Industries Development Corporation Limited (GHRSSIDC) plays an important role in safeguarding the livelihoods of local craftsmen and providing them with financial assistance and employment opportunities.
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By Melissa D’Mello