Raul Costa reveals the secrets of the perfect Azulejo at Velha Goa, his quaint ceramic boutique.
Goa has put India on the global party map, that’s for sure. It is that unique mix of locals and ‘firangs’ that entice people from Britain to Russia to come sample the Feni and perhaps the hippie life. But there is certainly more to this beach paradise than rum and raves!
As you walk along the St. Sebastian Chapel street, which lies parallel to the Ourem Creek, you reach a set of windows adorned with vases, artsy souvenirs and exquisite tiles, all of which have been handmade and etched with alluring Mediterranean patterns. These objets d’art tempt, intrigue and beckon you inside – welcome to Velha Goa, enter the world of Azulejos and more.
Our conversation with Raul Costa, owner of Velha Goa begins on a reflective note, “After the death of my father, Ivo Da Costa Azaredo, who was the founder of Velha Goa, I took over. My parents loved to travel and one of their favourite countries was Portugal, as my paternal grand parents were born and brought up there. Thus began my dad’s love affair with Azulejo, and Velha Goa was born in 1999.”
Before our conversation proceeds any further Raul explains, “Azulejo is a form of Portuguese and Spanish painted ceramic tile work. It has become typical of Portuguese culture, being produced for five centuries. Azulejos are found on the interiors and exteriors of churches, palaces, ordinary houses and even train and subway stations. They constitute a major aspect of Portuguese architecture and are applied on walls, floors and even the ceilings!”
Post our chat, our background check on the history of Azulejos reveals further that the art was introduced to Portugal via Spain by the Moors, which possibly explains the unmistakable Arab influences in many tiles; interlocking curvilinear, geometric or floral motifs. It all began in the 15th century and the art is still practiced today.
Back in Goa as we walk through Rahul’s workshop where numerous artisans are employed, we wonder if the raw materials are sourced locally. “Most of our raw materials are imported from Portugal, like our clay, colours, glazes, kiln, tiles, decals and even our brushes. We also import finished exhibition items as well,”
As a senior artisan from Velha Goa explicates, “To make a perfect Azulejo you require a lot of patience, practice and a steady hand – creativity is imperative. The perfect balance of colour and glaze is important, as is the precise temperature needed to fire the objects – only a perfect combination of all these factors will give you a faultless Azulejo.”
Since the artisan was not an Abade, Abadesso or Abadito (which actually happen to be common Portuguese surnames), we wondered how he mastered the art in the first place. “Our artists have all been trained by professionals who we have flown down to Goa from Portugal, and who have been working on Azulejos for many many years. Training our artists was a tough job, but now after practicing for so many years, they have become experts themselves,” says Rahul.
Velha Goa has not only mastered the art of the flawless Azulejo, but has also made it hugely popular, which is why so many churches, chapels, homes and hotels all over Goa are decorated with their products.
Though the Costa’s have high flying customers across India who visit regularly, Raul chooses to be tightlipped about them, only disclosing a few in the public domain, “We have done work for hotels like Mayfair, Marriot, Cidade de Goa, Park Hyatt, Country Club, Calangute Resort, Casa Goa, Mapusa Residency, the Portuguese Consulate in Goa and Jambaulem Temple,” he proudly declares.
So, on your next trip to Goa, apart from trying to spot the Baywatch babe on the beach, take a trip to Panjim and you may just land up with more than you bargained for.
Text By : Vikas Bhadra