Moda Goa: Designer Wendell Rodricks on India’s first costume museum and his vision for its future

The country's first world-class costume museum, the Moda Goa Museum and Research Centre, is all set to open its doors in the state of Goa. Housed in a 450-year-old traditional Goan residence, ‘Casa Dona Maria', which served as a home for its founding member and managing trustee, designer Wendell Rodricks, for the past 20 years, it will also host social activities and include an entertainment zone.

There will be 15 galleries in the restored heritage building on a floor area of 750 square metres set on two levels. The museum will also have an extensive in-house library between the main museum and the phase two building. Phase two, in traditional Goan style, will consist of house storage, conservation, a scholar residence and an administration zone.

Firstpost recently spoke to Rodricks about what to look forward to.

What sets this museum apart from others in the country?

The Moda Goa Museum and Research Centre will be the first costume museum in India. There are many textile museums but this is a first.

Casa Dona Maria. Photo by: Guillemette Feroul

Casa Dona Maria. Photo by: Guillemette Feroul

How did you come up with the idea of setting up the museum?

I researched the history of Goan Costume for ten years and took a year to write my first book Moda Goa: History and Style, published by Harper Collins in 2012. As a result of the book and two internships in New York at The Museum at FIT and the National Costume Museum in Lisbon, I realised that we could open a museum in Goa with the objects I collected over 18 years. We moved out of our home two years ago as it is the perfect heritage space for the Moda Goa in my ancestral village of Colvale in Goa.

Tell us more about the global research of over 10 years that went into your book Moda Goa: History and Style.

Moda Goa was a result of my friend Mario Miranda requesting me to research and write about a garment called the Pano Bhaju that was worn by ladies to dance the Goan Mando. I had no knowledge of this garment when I started out. But when I finished the research, I decided to research the entire history of Goan costume, as this topic was never done before. It was a daunting task — which is why it took ten years of research. The book and the museum will be a legacy for Goa and India.

Wedding dress in Tussar silk, Karachi 1913. Donated by Priscilla Santa Martha Sequeira. Photo by: Shantanu Sheorey, The One School Goa.

Wedding dress in Tussar silk, Karachi 1913. Donated by Priscilla Santa Martha Sequeira. Photo by: Shantanu Sheorey, The One School Goa.

What is the vast collection of objects one can look forward to seeing at the museum?

The museum has 800 artefacts — covering statues, objects, furniture, photographs, costumes, jewellery and accessories — from the 7th century AD till the present date. The objects were selected based on their rare and unique characteristics, and if they told a story related to clothing.

What were some of the challenges you faced while putting together this museum?

I naively thought one would shutter all the windows and doors, air condition the spaces and start the museum. But there was much more to the project. When we got museum consultant Deepthi Sasidharan from Eka onto the project, we realised that to create a world-class museum one would have to do it to international standards in all areas of display, storage, conservation, etc. Also, we had to add the research angle to the museum to make this a learning experience and create a research-oriented project for scholars, students and the public at large. We also added a temporary exhibition space that will change every three months.

Moda Goa Museum & Research Centre. Sketch by architect Arvind D’Souza.

Moda Goa Museum & Research Centre. Sketch by architect Arvind D’Souza.

Has the museum been recognised by the International Committee of Museums? What will this entitle the museum to do?

Not yet, but we will get their approval once the museum is up and running in March 2019. Why it is important to have the ICOM approval is that we will become a part of world museums where international museums can take objects on loan from us and vice versa.

Any interesting facts and trivia about the history of Goan costumes that the museum will showcase?

There are so many! For instance, one of the galleries explores the freedom influence on the Konkan coast, with anecdotes related to The Ranes, the Bhonsles, Cuncolim Revolution, Pinto Revolution and the Tunica of Barino Monteiro. The Moda Goa will be a huge learning curve about the state, India, Goan costumes, history, Indian textiles, weaves and embroideries.

Muslim embroidered turban, 19th century, Konkan coast. Silk with gold thread embroidery. Donated by Maharukh Desai. Photo by: Dnyanesh Moghe, Vinsan Academy of Film and Media.

Muslim embroidered turban, 19th century, Konkan coast. Silk with gold thread embroidery. Donated by Maharukh Desai. Photo by: Dnyanesh Moghe, Vinsan Academy of Film and Media.

The research centre will also have learning spaces with a library and scholars residence. Tell us more about the activities you are planning in this space.

The library at the museum will have a collection of books that I have amassed over three decades. Every conceivable book on Goa and fashion is in the library. Each week, we add to the collection. In our visual gallery space, we will display every Indian textile, weave, sari, print, dye and clothing technique related to Goa and India. We will have a scholar’s residence on the premises as we want scholars and researchers from India and the overseas to add new dimensions based on their research and expertise to the museum archive.

What kind of support are you hoping for from the government?

We are seeking the help and approval of the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Textiles for the museum. Both ministries have been very encouraging in their response. We are looking at government support because this is a pioneering museum in India and their support will mean a lot to the trustees and the professionals involved with the museum.

Wendell Rodricks. Photo by Francois Matthys

Wendell Rodricks. Photo by Francois Matthys

What about support from private entities and ordinary people?

We are indebted to the many people — corporates, trusts and foundations — who have placed their trust in us at the Moda Goa. I am overwhelmed by the donations of Goans who have donated not just objects and gold, but also to the galleries in their names so that they or their loved ones' names can stay at the Moda Goa for posterity.

The museum opens in December this year. What are the plans for its launch?

We will have a soft launch for our patrons in December as part of the Serendipity Arts Festival in mid-December. The museum will open to the public in March 2019 if everything goes as per schedule.


Updated Date: Nov 10, 2018 18:31 PM

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