In the course of developing my Kaza Nunteng Porta series of the Koboi Project, I have acquired a small ( 17cm tall) Icon of St. Francis Xavier. It is a polychromed wood carving believed to be of the early 20th Century from Goa. According the reputable seller, Church Antiques, it came from the collection of the previous Bishop of London (the Rt Revd Richard Chartres KCVO). The hands are missing. This seems quite common in these wooden figures of St. Francis whose hands are delicate, sometimes carved separately and attached, and easily broken off. It is notable however that the missing hands of the figure echo a deeply symbolic aspect of the Saint’s hagiography.
St. Xavier, who was one of the founders of the Jesuit Order in 1943, spent the last 15 years of his life as a missionary in Asia. He died in China 1552 and his body was moved to St. Paul’s Church in Malacca where it was buried for 9 months. When it was disinterred to be moved to a permanent tomb in Goa in 1614 the corpse had not decayed. It was deemed divinely incorrupt by the Catholic Church and his arm, which is said to have baptized 100,000 people in Asia, was removed and placed in a silver reliquary in Rome. According to Stephen Young, it is said that when a statue of St. Francis was erected in front of the ruins of St. Paul’s Church in 1952, a large tree branch is said to have fallen on it, breaking off its right arm.
A terrific discovery for the Koboi Project – a photograph from the 3rd October, 1902 inauguration of the monument to Afonso de Albuquerque, the second governor of Portuguese India, in the D. Fernando Square, Belem. (renamed for Afonso de Albuquerque following the republican revolution of 1910) This square is located in front of 18th-century Belém Royal Palace. The delight of this image of the preparations for the arrival of King D. Carlos and the Royal Family for the ceremony is that it is shot from the same point of view as the images of the Kaza Nunteng Porta series highlighting the ‘The fall of Malacca’ relief. The other 3 three reliefs represent the ‘The Delivery of the keys of Goa,’ ‘The Reception of the Ambassador of the King of Narcinga’ and ‘The defeat of the army of the king of Hormuz.’
‘Kaza Nunteng Porta’ is Kristang (Melaka Portugese) for ‘House Without a Door’. It is the title of the latest Koboi Project series shot in Belem, Lisboa. This series addresses notions imperialism, globalization, migration, miscegenation and tourism in the course of my expansive Koboi Narrative. In impromptu photo-performances that took place at the Alfonso De Albuquerque Monument and the Discoveries Monument in Belem, Lisbon on 7th and 8th July 2018 respectively, I recast two important Portuguese memorials to discovery and ascendancy in an allegory of diasporic identity. In the course of each performance I raised my Pazaham Neeyappa banner with its image of Tamil movie SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth and played audio clips on a megaphone. The audio included Fausto’s A Guerra é a Guerra and Soundararajan & Janaki’s Ulagam Ulagam and a rendition of Jingkli Nona on the cello by Tara Rajah. I also played verses from the Malay pantun (poem) Kalau Roboh Kota Melaka and the lyrics of Ulagam Ulagam spoken in Portuguese by Hugo Moss. At the heart of each street intervention was the convivial engagement with the passers-by. Cards presenting the state flag of Melaka were handed out.