Never Too Old to Learn

Posted by Helen 
[6] Comments  Now leave your comment!

As you (probably!) know by now, our focus is primarily on kids’ education. But we’re always mindful of what happens after schooldays have ended – perhaps college or apprenticeships. So this, combined with our love of finding new things in Goa, justified a post on a couple of our recent experiences.

The first was initiated when an invitation dropped into our inbox inviting us to a ‘Quilts of Goa – Workshop & Exhibition’ at the Goa College of Home Science in centrally located Panjim. This was due to take place at the time of our transfer from North to South Goa so it was easy to drop in. Then I thought Colin would not be all that wowed by the thought of a needlework workshop, but he was just as interested in the social history aspects and the fact that bona fide researchers would be taking part. We knew nothing but that traditional quits in Goa are called godhadis.

So we arrived to a very buzzy room with a very diverse crowd – Sujata and Elaine from Bookworm (they also are involved in an embroidery group), four traditional godhadi wallis (workers), lots of interested stitchers, many students and quite a few researchers. There was a palpable sense of anticipation as a nearly 97 year old doyenne of godhadi making would soon be arriving as well.

Colin got stuck in with Patrick J Finn who is writing a book on this subject and viewed other researchers’ slides. I got stuck into the nitty-gritty.

godhadi - traditional Goan quilts

Traditional godharis are made either from recycled material patchwork-style or old cotton sari lengths, or a mixture of both. In the old days, for most of the Goan community, thrift was a necessity and nothing was wasted. The Indo-Portuguese landed classes had their own crafts and it was beneath them to reuse scraps. But they wrote the books and so this craft was basically ignored in the literature.

The Godhadi wallis showed everyone how an old sari is folded so that the folds create the quilt and wadding is not needed. The layers are sewn together with many patterns of running stitch – including glorious freehand spirals that must take years of practice to perfect and are indicative of Goan work. The more decorative pallu (the bit that normally drapes over the shoulder of a sari wearer) is used to create a border for the quilt. It gets quite cold at night (for Goans!) in winter (mid-December to mid-February) so full sized quilts are used on beds and around shoulders for warmth, and smaller versions are used as perpetually washed baby mats.

After lunch the highlight was our 96 years young elder stateswoman of needlecraft. She is still quilting (although she has to use a sewing machine nowadays) and is very much still the businesswoman as she brought patchwork bags to sell! Marvelously lively for her age, she told us she would rather sew than gossip!

godhadi - nearly 97 years young

So after seeing what the ‘college of life’ gets up to, we next travelled to Bicholim, the centre of earthenware production in North Goa.

After a scenic journey (another fantastic ferry trip watching manual sand dredging!) we first visited Zila and his wife of Zila Art at his small workshop. He is a master craftsman who works with terracotta articles through to vast murals. We liked the figures that he produces to adorn the gateposts of Goan houses – lions, cockerels and soldiers/policemen. He also produces decorative outside lights and large terracotta vessels used for storing drinking water and keeping it cool.

Then we popped round the corner to Goa Potteries where we had an equally good reception from Mr Pandit. The premises are a bit larger and we were invited to see how it all works. In the room behind the showroom we saw a large group of mainly female workers, hand applying decoration and finishing various items. Clay was also being pressed into moulds. Some finished goods were being painted.

Pottery workshop - hard at work

In a separated building next door, we were shown the still warm, hand-built, wood-fired kiln. It gets loaded and fired up every fifteen days to produce the next batch.

We asked, and were readily told, that apprenticeships are the norm and last two years. All the required skills are taught. They were very keen to see knowledge being passed down generation to generation.

Well, I’m off to finish a godhadi (really!) so catch you all next time.


6 Responses to “Never Too Old to Learn”

  1. Shabana says, September 9th, 2013 at 22:50

    hi, i wanted to learn to stitch godhdi. as my Granny use to stitch but then we were small n was in school and college then job by the time we realised the value of learning this I lost my mom and granny too who knew to stitch… now I have nobody to make me learn.. I 28yr, stay in hyderabad after my marriage. Here I have no source to learn the godhdi how we do in mumbai or karnataka and Goan. kindly provide me video or any info to start it.
    awaiting for response +ve one.

  2. Helen says, September 9th, 2013 at 23:12

    Hi Shabana – well, I actually made my first godhari after watching and talking with these marvellous ladies and I really enjoyed it.

    I’ll send you an email on how I approached it, but I’m back in Goa in a couple of weeks and I’ll show Sujata your comment and I hope she can help you further too!

  3. Sandhya says, February 28th, 2015 at 11:32

    Hi..want to learn godhadi making ..just wanted to know when is the class will start… i am in bangalore… i want all details

  4. Helen says, February 28th, 2015 at 11:49

    Hi Sandhya

    We don’t run courses ourselves, but I am making one myself at the moment, so I can email you brief ideas on how to get going and then you just use your imagination for your own stitching design.

    I’ll email you in a few days!

    Love, Helen

  5. Godhadi quilts of Goa – The Gallery Cobblestone Walk says, March 31st, 2016 at 22:45

    […] I was writing my ‘insight’ on kantha, it reminded me of my experience in Goa when I met a lady that had been creating godhadis for over 75 years and was now well into her […]

  6. Godhadi quilts of Goa – The Gallery Cobblestone Walk says, April 1st, 2016 at 17:27

    […] I was writing my ‘insight’ on kantha, it reminded me of my experience in Goa when I met a lady that had been stitching godhadi work for over 75 years and was now well into her […]

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