Growing up in her ancestral house in Saligao, Goan artist Jezreel Nathan worked hard to make it in life. Art came naturally to her as a child. Passing out from her Alma Mater – Lourdes Convent High School, Saligao, Jezreel graduated in Commercial Art from Sir J. J. College of Art, Mumbai. Equipped with a degree in art, there was no looking back. After a stint with Oglivy and Mather, one of Mumbai’s famous advertising firms, Jezreel collaborated with artists to design for projects honorarily. That gave her career the fillip it required. Her art began to be recognised. Some of her designs were also bought by an online t-shirt store. Moving to Singapore after marriage, Jezreel began to miss her home in Saligao. Fond memories of growing up in an idyllic Portuguese ancestral home began clouding her mind. That’s when the idea of putting those memories into print was born. The speciality of her series on Goa is they are done digitally. Each painting has a story to tell.
In conversation with Ritupriya Basu of Design Fabric, Jezreel reveals that though she intended to paint these memories a few years ago, she was only able to do so after settling down to married life in Singapore. Her memories take her back to 1986 when she was only two years old. Says Jezreel, “Most of these pieces are drawn from memory and in some of the artworks, I’ve combined my recollections of my house as I saw it as two-year-old, as it was when I was a teenager, and as it is today.”
Some of Jezreels illustrations from the series of her Childhood memories of her home in Goa are given below:
Says Jezreel, “One morning, I sat at my computer with a cup of chai and as I took a sip, I thought of my grandfather David Nathan, who is my morning chai buddy back in Goa. I was reminded of the slurping sound he makes while he takes his first few sips of hot tea and the giant aluminium kettle in which he’d brew it; sometimes, the kettle was also used as an iron for our damp school socks when we’d have a power cut, and we had many of those in Goa.” She also mentions “the black tea mugs with leaves and berries” that her grandmother wouldn’t allow them to use.
Old Portuguese Red Floor and slaked lime walls
“The floor of my house was red and so was the mud, the walls were painted white with chuna – a mixture of powdered shells and slaked lime — that would stain your clothes and skin if you brushed against them.”
“I woke up early every morning to the sound of the baker’s horn and ran to the back gate, where I’d wait patiently for our neighbour, Aunty Idine (pronounced – Eeeedheen, I think), to take her goats out for a walk. As they passed my gate, I’d bleat after them.”
The Baker’s cycle
“Kitchen walls blackened up to the roof by soot from using an open wood fire stove. Millipedes and black hairy caterpillars that dropped from the roof during the monsoons. There were giant red ants, hornets, wasps and bees everywhere, always ready to bite and sting. Sticky frogs would hide in my jeans and in every corner of the house. Mould, fungus and moss everywhere. We’d have power cuts for days. And of course, poor Internet connectivity and telephone network because we lived at the foot of a hill.”
“Tamarind with chilli powder, sea salt and sugar was our favourite snack. We’d actually make a meal of it, leaving nothing for my mom to cook with. My mom soon became an ace at hiding the tamarind and though she hid it in the same cupboard, she’d keep switching the dabbas, making it harder for us to find it without being caught red-handed. We’re still not sure who we feared more, my mom or the lizards that crawled out of nowhere.”
Jezreel’s paintings are “heavily influenced by her emotions.” says Ritupriya Basu.
Growing up in the lap of nature made an indelible impression on Jezreel as a child. “Millipedes and black hairy caterpillars dropped from the roof during the monsoons. There were giant red ants, hornets, wasps and bees everywhere, always ready to bite and sting. Sticky frogs would hide in my jeans and in every corner of the house. Mould, fungus and moss everywhere. We’d have power cuts for days. And of course, poor Internet connectivity and telephone network because we lived at the foot of a hill.” Coming from an “unconventional, quirky and pretty crazy family” only helped make her experiences more vivid.
“This is where I fell in love with imperfection and found beauty in dysfunction. All of these experiences played a role in shaping me as an artist. It allowed me the freedom to create work which to many might seem incomplete or lazy or incoherent.”
Design Fabric, a ‘go-to publication’ captures and documents creative explorations taking place in India in the fields of visual art and design. Ritupriya Basu captured these anecdotes beautifully in conversation with Jezreel Nathan in her interview “An illustrated trip back in time to Jezreel Nathan’s idyllic house in Goa.
Jezreel has a lot more to tell! When asked about her upcoming pieces yet to be published and whether she intended to take the project beyond Instagram, Jezreel replied, “I have a long list of memories that I can’t wait to illustrate. I can’t really tell what the next piece is going to be as the entire process is very spontaneous. Having said that, at some point, I will illustrate the people I grew up around, like my family, old and new neighbours, friends and teachers and what I took away from my interactions with them. I plan to take this project beyond Instagram. I hope to turn this series into a book once I begin to see a more structured narrative emerge from this process.”
“Life in Goa, as a baby and then a teenager, was filled with wonder and surprise. I grew to love its old world charm though some would find it very depressing.”
The above is a concise account of her works and illustrations, some of which could not be included here eg. ‘Grandmothers mirror, Ferns Bar, Buke the neighbour’s dog, grinding stone’, etc. For a greater insight into her works follow her on instagram @Jezreelnathan.
Picture Credit: Jezreel Nathan
Information Credit: Design Fabric