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By Salil | Issue No.2 Journeys | |

Map us a market!

Orijit Sen

To market, to market to buy a fat pig.

Home again, home again, jiggety jig!

To market, to market to buy a penny bun.

Home again, home again, market is done!

This little ditty, which originated somewhere in Europe many centuries ago, reflects the close, to-and-fro relationship that markets and homes have had in almost every community in human history. Having made Aldona my home for five years during the late 1990s, I grew fascinated by the bustling life of Mapusa market, and—over the course of innumerable to-and-fro trips—came to discover many of its pleasures, secrets and sorrows. Even though I am now no longer a full time resident, I continue to find excuses to frequent Mapusa’s shops, by-lanes and cafes every time I visit Goa.

Unsurprisingly therefore, I chose to use the wonderful opportunity provided by my appointment to Goa University’s Visiting Research Professors Programme earlier this year to explore my passion in a collective, collaborative way with my ‘students’ (I use the word students within inverted commas here, because many of those who have registered for my course are not students at all, but practicing artists, photographers, architects, media people and teachers themselves – thanks to the University’s unique initiative of opening the VRPP courses to interested members of the general public.) We have named it the Mapping Mapusa Market Project.

Poster for the Mapping Mapusa Project.

Poster for the Mapping Mapusa Project.

Maps and journeys are of course intertwined notions, and my imagination has always been stoked by them. My father was a cartographer who worked for the Survey of India. I grew up surrounded by maps, mapping tools and tales of mapping expeditions. Humans have been drawing maps from ancient times—and they have meant different things in different contexts. Maps do not belong only to the realm of geography: we know of Astral maps from the ancient cave settlements of Lascaux, of Spiritual maps such as those drawn by Australian aborigine artists and Cosmological and Symbolic maps from many different cultures. Mapping in its various forms has been instrumental to the development of trade and cultural exchange throughout history.

For me, Mapusa market is a microcosm of something much vaster—and as an artist I feel driven to try and reveal it in more concrete forms through the process of mapping.I am excited by the market’s richness and diversity. It is a space that accommodates everything from locally grown pumpkins and crafted products, to Chinese imports and high-end electronics—all crammed within a few hundred intense square meters in the centre of town. And as such, it bears an intricate network of relationships with places both close by and far-flung. Above all, it is a truly public space, open to all, with a huge diversity of human and animal life that seems to ebb and flow through it like diurnal tides. But there is a method to the apparent madness of Mapusa market – an order underlying the chaos. This is what makes me interested in unraveling the role that it plays in producing, sustaining and re-fashioning local culture, values and lifestyle. What is the importance of market interactions beyond that of pure economics? Do these interactions have a vital but often overlooked social, cultural and historical dimension as well?

Mapping Mapusa Market Project seeks to explore these questions and to document the complex life of the market from a variety of perspectives — through illustrations, photographs, videos, recorded interviews and data gathering. The context for this project is the changing landscape of markets, retail spaces and local produce and crafts outlets in Goa and elsewhere in India. We want to look at how the market town of Mapusa has evolved, and how it is responding to the challenges of globalisation, consumerism, emergence of malls and supermarket culture, the introduction of Foreign Direct Investment in retail and related developments.

At this point, the project has taken only its first few steps, but its clear already thatwe have embarked on a journey full of promise. Looking back at the first session with my richly talented team in September–October 2013, I feel at times that the three weeks went by in three days. At other times the sheer quality and quantity of the output that emerged seems like the fruit of three months of work. But it really does not matter. This is the kind of journey that will not lend itself to simple measures of days and distances.

Mapping is our way of understanding and communicating ideas about market relationships. Hopefully, this kind of mapping will help create the ground for interpreting the ‘chaos’ of Mapusa market in creative, inspiring and useful ways.The challenges facing the market today are many – from space, infrastructure and waste management to the need for more human-centric planning and growth. We hope that our project will play a part in raising public awareness on the need to address these issues sensitively and sustainably.

Photos and videos on the Net:

1. The Project Blog:

2. Repair and recycling stories, a video project by Salil and Prashant:

View the playlist on YouTube.

3. A street play conceived by Chandru and his team, in progress at the exhibition at the Mapusa market (Picture).

4. Sunanda, the banana seller, and subject of a short film by Salil Konkar, at the Mapping Mapusa Market exhibition (Picture).

5. Tracking the flow of headloads in the market, by Bahbak (Video).

6. A model of the central area of the market made from materials and objects found within the market, by Prerna (Picture).

7. A documentation of a few of the variety of medicinal plants and cures available at the market, by Tabasheer and Joel (Picture).

8. Rice and its measure. A photograph by Joel

Orijit Sen.

Orijit Sen.

Orijit Sen is a Mario Miranda Chair Visiting Research Professor at Goa University. He is a graphic artist and designer, based in New Delhi. Orijit also works with graphic narrative forms. He is one of the founders of the Pao Collective a group of comics artists and graphic novelists in Delhi. In 1990, he cofounded People Tree, a centre for design, crafts and sustainable living, which has grown to become a celebrated and unique cultural space. 

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