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Goodbye ‘Goencho festakar’

Goodbye ‘Goencho festakar’

As the festakar of Goa Marius Fernandes is getting his bags packed to cross over the boundaries and explore the world once again, he gives a shout out to all ‘niz goenkars’ to stay united and do their bit in keeping the rich Goan legacy and heritage alive. In conversation with NT BUZZ Marius gives an insight into his life and work

VENITA GOMES| NT BUZZ

Beside the traditional festivals of Goa in last few years we have seen the emergence of several new eco-friendly festivals like pattoleanchem, moll’lamchem, ramponkaranchem, ponsachem, ghumatache fest and many others being celebrated at the community level in Goa. The driving force behind these festivals has been socio-cultural activist Marius Fernandes from Divar, who will soon be leaving the country to go back to the United Kingdom (UK). Does this also spell the end of the saga of festivals? Well If it ends or not, only time will tell.

If you have heard about Marius and the fests he has been celebrating in Goa by involving the community then we are sure you’ve had the question running through your mind as to why does he celebrate so many festivals. When NT BUZZ caught up with Marius to understand his reasons behind organising these festivals he says: “For me Goa is a place that is very close to my heart. I always found my connect here. There is so much talent among the people and they are always willing to do something new. I felt that there was a need to channelise this energy in right way by directing it towards preserving and conserving the rich cultural heritage of this place.”

Though born in Larre, a village bordering Kenya and Somalia, Marius was always a Goan at heart. His mother brought the family to Divar in an attempt to familiarise them with their roots but the call of work led Marius to the European shores. All through this, Goa remained close to his heart; his love for Goa was so immense that he even got his children Gemma and Ashley enrolled in a Konkani medium school in Goa. “People ridiculed us for enrolling them in a village school after we returned from Europe but I was firm on my decision that I wanted my children to learn Konkani and know about Goa,” says Marius.

Recalling his times in England, Marius says: “My campaign for Goa was not only in Goa but began much earlier when I was in England. A few friends and I had started a ‘Save Goa’ campaign in London. At that time Goa was plagued with various developmental and environmental issues and we started the campaign to garner support from people and to create awareness in 1992.”

Then somewhere in 2000, when Marius was in the Parents Teachers Association of St Elizabeth High School, there was a 15-day summer camp called ‘Son of the Soil project’. A list of activities was planned for the students and everyone was volunteering for free. It is then that he realised that there was a need to continue this momentum. “I thought to myself that if there were summer camps why can’t we have feasts for the children and that’s when volunteers like Miguel Braganza, Alexyz, Prajal Sakhardande, Caroline Colaco came forward to lend a helping hand to join the initiative to keep Goa’s rich traditions alive,” says Marius, who along with the support of like-minded people began a series of small festivals in various parts of Goa.

Marius was also part of the Pomburpa Spring Festival with the aim of the revival of the spring; this was his first attempt at celebrating a festival the eco-friendly and traditional way that continued through the years.

When we think of Sao Joao festival we inadvertently think of people jumping in the well, but Marius changed that mindset and revived the festival in another sense. “Every year the Sao Joao scene is the same. People jump in the well and end up polluting the water. Firstly, there is shortage of water, so we thought of sticking to tradition as the focus of the festival. Therefore, on this day you will find some villages in Goa making the traditional kopels and celebrating with each other rather than jumping in the well,” adds Marius.

When Marius conceptualised the idea of having festivals involving the community, parish priest of Socorro, Fr Santana Carvalho supported him and keeping the people in the forefront they laid the ground rules for the festivals. “We realised that for other festivals there were chief guests who would often be late and when the event was sponsored, the demands of the sponsors were endless. So, finally when I met Fr Santana and the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) of Socorro Church we laid the rules of the festival including ‘no chief guest’ ‘no alcohol’, ‘no prizes’, ‘no sponsors’ and ‘no competition’.”

Soon under Marius’ guidance and his like-minded friends’ the saga of festivals started in Goa. There were several festivals happening in various parts of Goa: like in August you would find pattoleachem fest, ekvottachem fest in Carmona, then there was poderanchem fest in September followed by ramponkaranchem, ponsachem, ghumatache, zaddachem, Joelachem, ambaichem, vangodd de Saligao, casuchem fest etc.

Marius was also able to give the musical instrument ‘ghumot’ a new identity and today thousands of people have bought the ghumot into their homes and we even see women play the instrument something unheard of in the earlier times. Also, the ghumot has now travelled to the various corners of the world through his initiative.

“I was surprised by the response we were getting. People were enjoying and were ready to do anything we told them. People would wait for the next planned festival and with their support we were able to pull a huge crowd. I am glad Goans welcomed me wholeheartedly. It was also a learning episode for the newer generation – an opportunity to know about the traditions of Goa,” says Mairus. He is humbled by the farewell ‘fest’ that his friends and people have planned for him on January 28. “All my people have come together to celebrate ‘me’- yes! They are going to have festival called ‘Festamkarchem fest’ and they will also be releasing a book about me; which will merely focus how to make cost-effective festivals with ease. I hope the people of Goa continue this tradition and keep celebrating every occasion in an eco-friendly manner involving all the members of the community.”

When Marius goes to UK he has some plans for the people of UK which he is yet to reveal to us.

This article was first published on Navhind Times on 27th Jan 2017

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