The Janave Across Goan History

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In the popular imagination, Goan history generally begins with the arrival of the Portuguese, followed by conquest and religious conversions. This four-and-a-half-century long period contains periods of oppression and cultural efflorescence, but mostly unbridled oppression. However, this changes once the Indian army marches into Goa in December 1961, leading Goa and its people, from the centuries-long darkness that they suffered, into the light of unfettered freedom. What the average Goan knows about this narrative is filtered through the lenses of a good amount of political machinations, besides family lore and myth. These unreliable and fragmented memories lead to a skewed understanding of Goan history and identity. The hold of this narrative is so complete that one finds it pervading in all walks of Goan life. Using Kalidas Mhamal’s installation “Caste Thread”, this essay will talk about the popular narrative of Goan history and its tenacious hold on the people of Goa.



Jason Keith Fernandes at Fundação Oriente, 6 July, 2017

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In March this year Dr. Jason Keith Fernandes was invited to choose one piece from the Museu Oriente’s Kwok On collection (Lisbon) and make a presentation as a part of their India Visual cycle.


Choosing the idol of the Goddess Yellamma as a starting point, in a reprise of his presentation at the Museu Oriente, Dr. Fernandes will suggest that what often appears Hindu is in fact also profoundly Islamic in nature.

“The Unsung Glories of the imam: Silence, Absence and the Islamicate in the Kwok On Collection’s India holdings” will demonstrate the manner in which practices associated with the Shia faith, and the historic figure of Imam Hussein are central to much South Asian (Indian), and indeed Goan culture.


Jason Keith Fernandes was awarded a Doctorate in anthropology for his research that examined the conflicts around the demand for the recognition of Konkani in the Roman script in Goa’s Official Language Act. Jason came to anthropology after a Bachelor’s degree from the National Law School of India, Bangalore and a Master’s degree from the International Institute for the Sociology of Law. A recipient of various scholarships, he has worked in the developmental sector, taught at the National Law School, and is a contributor to various local and national newspapers.


Dr. Fernandes is currently a post-doctoral scholar at the University Institute of Lisbon.

The Unsung Glories of the Imam: Silence, Absence and the Islamicate in the Kwok On Collection’s India holdings

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(English version of the text presented at the Museu Oriente on April 19, 2017, as part of the series A Índia Visual. The original Portuguese version can be downloaded here. For the PDF of the English version click here.)


Before anything else I would like to thank a couple of people who have ensured that I have this opportunity today. I would like to thank, first of all Ines Lourenco for having invited to make this presentation. I have been following the India Visual series for a while and always nursed a secret desire to be able to speak from this platform. For this opportunity Ines, many thanks.


I would also like to thank the team at Museu Oriente, Liliana Cruz, Sofia Lopes and Cátia Souto for their help with this presentation. I recognize the presence of my doctoral supervisor Profa. Rosa Maria Perez. And finally, I would like to thank the members of the audience for their presence.


To move on to the substance of today’s presentation, I would like to begin with a confession. When I received the invitation to present at the India Visual lecture series I was told that I would have the option to visit the reserves of the Kwok On Collection and choose a piece, or pieces I would like to speak on.


As any museum aficionado knows, it is a huge opportunity to visit the reserves of a Museum, and not one to be missed. I was particularly excited because it would give me the chance to determine if my suspicion about the nature of the holdings was fact or simply a wild idea. The suspicion was that the India segment of the Kwok On collection would in fact be a collection of Hindu objects. This is to say, that India will have been implicitly understood as ‘Hindu’ by those who constitute the collection. I was not wrong in my assessment, and what I beheld in the collection, or at least the portion I was able to review, was rack upon rack of material that is associated with what we call Hinduism. Missing from these racks, at least on first glance, were materials that could be associated with Islam and Christianity. It is to this absence that the title of my presentation makes reference to, and which I would like to reflect on for just a moment before moving forward.


Good Muslim, Bad Muslim

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In the furor that followed the renaming of New Delhi’s Aurangzeb Road, the long dead emperor has been enjoying some of the best press he has had for the past 100 years. While there were some critics who still clung to his standard demonical image, saying that the renaming has just given an evil man unnecessary publicity, or that there are even worse characters gracing Delhi roads, quite a few appear to have realised that he was not as bad as all that.