Mumbai: A magnificent altar of saints looks over a new exhibition, which opened on Saturday as part of the Serendipity Arts Festival (15-22 December). “The Sacred Everyday", curated by Mumbai-based cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote, is an exhibition installed across two venues in Panjim and Old Goa. It draws attention to the historical and artistic heritage of the state that is only too often associated with the touristy seaside and beach parties.

In Old Goa, “The Sacred Everyday" is being hosted at the Church of Santa Monica, a state-protected monument that also functions as the Museum of Christian Art. The 17th century church was restored in 2016 by the Museum of Christian Art and the Goa government’s Directorate of Archives and Archaeology.

In this historic site, Hoskote has curated, among others, four paintings by Angelo da Fonseca, an artist of Goan origin, who pioneered the Indianization of Christian iconography. In a similar vein, and of particular interest, is the Issanama series, a unique experiment that traces some of the major events in Christ’s life. Inspired by miniature traditions of the Mughal, Rajput, Pahari and Safavid traditions, the depiction of Christ is refreshingly “Indian".

“‘The Sacred Everyday’ explores the interrelationship between the domain of the divine, iconic and sublime on one hand, and the realm of the human, intimate and domestic on the other. It celebrates the history of these interrelationships not as a fossil heritage but as an integral element of the subcontinent’s lived experience, even in the face of a tendency towards polarization," Hoskote said in an interview, adding that the reason he chose these venues is “to create a new intersection of audience".

Smriti Rajgarhia, director, Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF), said: “Museum of Christian Art is a fantastic space. The collection consists of documents which talk about history and culture. At SAF we want to explore different collaborations and support initiatives that work towards supporting the need for reasserting value in the arts."

“The Sacred Everyday" continues at the Adil Shah Palace, the main venue for SAF. Now in its third edition, SAF has come to find a place in the annual cultural festival map of India. It has systematically sought other venues, eschewing the gallery model of viewing art. This year, the festival had to contend with anonymous allegations of sexual harassment against two of its curators, artists Subodh Gupta and Riyas Komu, also the co-founder of Kochi Muziris Biennale. Both stepped down.

While Adil Shah Palace is located close to some of the indulgent casinos that Goa is popular for, the historic summer palace—among the oldest buildings in Panaji—hosts some of the collections of the Goa State Museum.

Another exhibition that celebrates Goa’s heritage is “Panjim 175", curated by Vivek Menezes and Swati Salgaocar. The group exhibition commemorates the 175th anniversary of the capital of Goa, ever since it became the primary urban centre of the Portuguese in India. Rajgarhia said: “We have reinvented several iconic architectural sites across the city and there are special events celebrating the 175th anniversary of Panaji."

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