Pamila Gupta

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Pamila Gupta is Professor at WISER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research) at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. She holds a PhD in Socio-cultural Anthropology from Columbia University. Her research explores Lusophone (post)colonial links and legacies in India and Africa. She has published in Interventions, South African Historical Journal, African Studies, Social Dynamics, Journal of Asian and African Studies, Ler Historia, Ecologie & Politique, and Public Culture. She has recently co-edited thematic special issues for Feminist Theory, Radical History Review, and Critical Arts. She is the co-editor of Eyes Across the Water: Navigating the Indian Ocean with Isabel Hofmeyr and Michael Pearson (UNISA, 2010). Her monograph entitled The Relic State: St. Francis Xavier and the  Politics of Ritual in Portuguese India was published by Manchester University Press (2014). Her newest collection of essays entitled Portuguese Decolonization in the Indian Ocean World: History and Ethnography was recently published with Bloomsbury Academic Press (2019). 

Of Boats, Plates, and Waves: Portrait of a Goan Sea Artist

In this paper, I sketch a portrait of Goan sculptor Subodh Kerkar (b. 1959). Kerkar is a medical doctor-turned-artist who opened MOG (Museum of Goa), with “mog” also meaning love in Konkani, the local Goan dialect) in 2015; Located in the industrial estate of Pilerne near Goa’s coastline, it houses the largest private art collection on the Indian subcontinent. Kerkar calls himself a sea artist, and uses the littoral Indian Ocean as a canvas, medium, and carver of things. I focus on three recent projects of his that take on three distinct materialities: boats, plates and waves. I explore Kerkar’s artworks both as a form of ‘relational imaginary’ following Fendler (2019) and as a way of expressing Goan history by way of ‘tidalectics’ (Brathwaite 1973). Based on interviews with the artist at MOG (in 2017 and 2019), a long-time urban resident of Goa, as well as the sourcing of images and online materials, I use his paintings, sculptures, installation and performance pieces (set both on beaches and underwater) to reflect on various aspects of coastal monsoonal Goa in relation to climate change: Goa’s submarine imperial (Portuguese) past and rich fishing industry; the role of sea art in documenting everyday experiences of the environment, and charting now submerged heritage-scapes, and finally, the potential of the medium (of art) to produce new water ontologies (based on time, ocean and the ‘interface of the human and non-human, the biological and geophysical, the historic and the contemporary’, following Deloughrey 2017) in an era of the Anthropocene.    

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Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER), University of the Witwatersrand