After a gap of nearly 20 years, Renascenca, a monthly radio show in Portuguese, was back on the airwaves (AIR FM Rainbow) this year, focusing on rediscovering India’s Portuguese connect. In its sixth episode last week, the artist interviewed was Vamona Ananta Sinai Navelcar, who is regarded as ‘Goa’s state treasure’. After all, who can be a better person to recall memories of this former Portuguese colony
than one whose work spans decades. He has lived in three continents—Goa (Asia) where he was born, Africa where his skills developed, and Portugal (Europe) where he studied.
Initially, Navelcar used Hindu forms and deities in his work, but over the time he developed a more international taste, often drawn from the literature he read and the galleries he visited throughout Europe. The 88-year-old says, “Sporadically, I draw and paint on any subject, applying techniques according to my convenience—line drawing, pastel, charcoal, and water colours. I feel pleasure in this melodious task.”
In January, an exhibition of 16 of his works titled ‘Goa/Portugal/Mozambique: The Many Lives of Vamona Navelcar’ was held in Panaji.
On the then Portugal Prime Minister Salazar’s invitation, Vamona graduated from the Escola de Belas Artes (School of Fine Arts) Lisbon in 1963. It was there that his famous line drawings were born. “I used to sit in cafes, observe people and then draw them.” A teaching position saw Vamona move from Portugal to Mozambique where he taught geometry and math. He was given an old disused toilet as a studio when he asked for a working space. Several of his works produced in this toilet studio have gained international acclaim.
His time here collided with Mozambique’s freedom movement (Mozambique got freedom in 1975) where it sought independence from Portugal. “It was the right channel to reveal my love for the people of Mozambique. For the liberation day I executed a large mural of a woman hailing the day and a portrait of Samora Machel (1.5m x 1.5m), the first president of independent Mozambique,” says Vamona.
He returned to Portugal and stayed there for seven years, but could not make ends meet and returned to Goa in 1982. Since then, he has been living in his ancestral home in Pomburpa, Goa, and works from there.
“Many visitors come to me narrating accounts about me. When they leave, I hand over a profile portrait of theirs,” says the master of line drawing. Vamona’s students from his teaching years adore his gentlemanly manners, and as an artist he continues to inspire many.