They are the first and the last word on Goa’s cultural and literary scape. The reclusive Raj and Dipti Salgaocar talk about their initiative Sunaparanta-Goa Centre for the Arts and share their journey brimming with an undying passion for the arts.
Who are the artists you both admire and why?
There are many others but I’ve chosen only two; both Goans. Francis Newton Souza’s brilliant, epic works, mostly inspired by his childhood in Goa, depict priests, women, churches and houses in complex mutated forms. From the time I first saw them I was challenged by their complexity of light and shadow, the layered textures and the profound, humane familiarity of the subject. As Ed Mulins said — “They are full of contradictions: agony, wit, pathos and satire, aggression and pity.” And the other Goan master, VS Gaitonde, whose work echoes his Zen Buddhism philosophy, radiating calm and reflection, qualities I esteem. Both are inestimable, and inspiring.
How much has each other’s presence in your life changed the both of you?
We are both different persons and respect each other’s individuality. What binds us is our firm belief in family values, traditions and culture.
What are the advantages of having a partner in the arts?
We have our own preferences.Sharing each other’s choices is a great advantage that makes our collection more inclusive which we can savour and enjoy .
Sunaparanta-Goa Centre for the Arts has become one of the prominent art bastions in the country. What’s your vision and how do you see its future?
Six years ago, I founded, Sunaparanta-Goa Centre for the Arts, which is a non-profit process- based arts initiative. While Goa has always enjoyed a rich tradition of the arts few spaces in Goa exhibited art as well as provided the space to inspire and learn at the same time. Today, Sunaparanta does both: we have some of the most elegant and efficient viewing rooms in the state and the arts centre runs several programs and workshops where young artists hone their skills in a variety of mediums under a diversity of excellent mentor/teachers and shows that inspire and educate. Sunaparanta aims to be a strong advocate for Goan arts funding and support, serving as an umbrella venue for various groups by promoting understanding of the arts.
We believe that a thriving arts culture helps to build a community and can provide economic benefits to the communities in which it exists. For example, we decided to fully back the prison art project initiated by Margaret Mascarenhas and Swati Kotwal Nair partly due to its social importance in contributing to a more humane and productive approach with the incarcerated, some of who are integrated back into society. Using the arts as a rehabilitative tool is a method that has been under-explored in India (although this is gaining prominence in Europe and America).
Apropos the future of the institution: we want to follow through with initiatives like the prison art endeavour, and also renew the conversation on contemporary art in Goa. To achieve this we regularly host talks and show films and documentaries — all of this generates discussion, which can have an extraordinary effect on individual consciousness, spurring it onwards on a path of creativity.
Our curatorial program strengthens by the day as we enlist curators from across the country to bring their vision to the centre, in a bid of cultural cross-pollination. Our recent show of Olivia Fraser paintings, for instance, was curated by her London based gallerist Conor Macklin of Grosvenor Gallery.
What’s the root of your artistic expressions?
Raj: The source could be our deep rooted family culture dedicated to Goddess Saraswati. We hold knowledge as the highest ideal to aspire to, and my love for the arts follows in this suit. Goa has always inspired me with its myths and folk-lore. I am constantly inspired also by the beauty of Goa’s landscape, which is most beautiful in the monsoon.
Dipti: The root is my love for the performing arts starting with Bharat Natyam at a young age. The Gujarati Raas Leela and the Bhakti aspect of devotion of Shrinathji in all his Sringars by my mother have greatly influenced me.
What are the common areas of interest between you and Dipti?
We love the visual and performing arts. In recent times we believe that art education can change the lives of children and people and make the world a better place and we are working on this.
Dipti: I am more interested in the educational side of things, and sit on the board of a school in Goa. Raj, outside of his family and business, is devoted to the arts, and is a great champion of artists. This is something I have learned from him.
What’s that one thing which you would want to change about each other?
We each have our individual tastes and respect that.
You both come from different worlds — Mumbai and Goa. How do you keep the ying and yang synchronised?
Raj: Mumbai and Goa are Ying and Yang with their own energy levels and frequencies of vibrations which for me balance each other in perfect harmony.
Dipti: Goa is a place of great calm while Mumbai is where life is lived on kinetic speed — and one balances out the other. I am lucky to live in Goa, as in Mumbai.