Goa, on the inside

19 November,2023 08:35 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Arpika Bhosale

Ulka Chauhan weaves the story of ancestors and majestic Goan homes with words and visuals

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Photographer Ulka Chauhan sits just at the right angle to the camera as if the photographer knows she can bend sunlight to her will, giving her an effervescent glow while the rest of us mere mortals are relegated to the shadows.

Chauhan has been working on her long-term and ongoing work - The Memory Keepers - which is a portrait of the Goan homes, some of which date back a decade before even the Taj Mahal was built (1648 AD).

Peppered amongst Goa's villages are the Goan homes with their unique architectural language, forming an intrinsic part of the landscape; (right) The centuries-old Goan homes are not only ancient monuments or grand structures in stone and wood. They are the current homes of their occupants and continue to function as the stage on which the rituals of daily life play out

The photographer shuttles between Mumbai, Goa and Zurich and met us in her family home at Vile Parle. This stepping in and out of different worlds and sensibilities is exactly what drew her to documenting Goan homes at the beginning of 2021, she says. "I am drawn to the story of the Goan homes.

My ongoing work, reveals a rare inside glimpse into these Goan heritage homes that continue to function as ancestral home."

Ulka Chauhan

The photographer informs us that every object in these homes has a history, right from the mosaic tiles in the flooring to the chandeliers, that were all imported during the Portuguese rule from other colonies like Macau.

"These homes have remained in the same family for generations. They are homes with a lineage of 300-400 years and have a rich and storied past. My own search for the meaning of home has led me to visually and textually document these historic Goan homes that continue to function as homes," says the memory keeper, who says that the camera has always been her companion throughout her life. The photographer tells us that she was the designator documentarian of family vacations and festivals.

When Chauhan was eight-years-old, she contracted Chicken Pox and was quarantined at home, "My journey with photography started in the early 80s when my father gifted me my first red Olympus camera. The turning point was when I went on a photo safari in Masai Mara in August 2019. It was there that I discovered my passion for the craft," she says. The next time she was quarantined, so was the rest of the world, and like many of us stuck in our homes, Chauhan ordered photo books of masters of the craft, one of which was Edge of Faith Book by Prabuddha Dasgupta who had documented Goan homes in black and white, "In art and in life, what we leave out is as important as what we put in. This is an important part of my creative process. I like creating works that reveal but also which withhold," she adds about her creative process.

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