Revati Akerkar Sanzagiri is a Goan artist and entrepreneur who is known as ‘The Lady of many Passions’. Hailing from the state of Goa, she has perfected many art skills which have been her passion since childhood. She is known for her playful and perfectly intricate designs which she creates in her art. She has been actively trying to keep Indian and Goan traditions alive through her modern art not only in India but in Oman as well.
With years of experience and teaching over 100s of people, she has become a prominent name in the Goan art community. Growing her brand ‘Reva’s Art’ over the years, she has become one of the busiest art entrepreneurs from the state of Goa. She is widely known for her perfection in decoupage. Decoupage is the art of decorating an object by gluing colored paper cutouts onto it in combination with special paint effects, gold leaf and other decorative elements. Revati has adapted the art to preserve her Goan culture. Goa is famous for its pottery and she often uses earthenware for decoupage to preserve the tradition. She has over the years created decoupage art on lamps, Buyao (Pickle jar), candle stands and some of the Goan heritage items.
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At Goan Insider we spoke to Revati to know more about her journey and passion for art. The excerpts of our conversation are below.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your work. What got you interested in art?
My name is Revati Akerkar Sanzagiri. I am originally from Harmal in Arambol. I was brought up in a joint family where we were 6 kids and creating different artifacts was our day’s adventure. Tents from dupattas, tents from umbrellas during monsoon, arranging flowers in flower pots and making rangolis was what we enjoyed doing. Hence my interest in art lies in my childhood.
My mother, Ashalata Arvind Akerkar was an artist. She used to teach me how to make flowers from crepe paper, jewellery of tilgul etc. She was an amazing lady with a lot of talent in her.
You are known as the ‘Lady of many Passions’. What are the different jobs you were and are still involved in right now?
I have always been an active promoter of Indian culture and heritage. By profession I am a tax practitioner but art and craft is my passion. In 1997, my family and I went to the United States where I encountered a few art and craft shops there. My son was very small then and I learned how to keep him in art. My interest in art developed in that country. When we came back to India, we lived in Pune for two years where I learned web designing and did some designing as well. In January of 2001 we moved to Muscat Oman where my journey as an arts and crafts teacher started and flourished. I picked up a lot of skills there such as Malyasian Batik paintings, Scotish stained glass etc. I worked there as a PDO Art Center Treasurer and instructor and started teaching art as well to make ends meet.I have a love for embroidery as well. I was a researcher with the Museum of Omani Dresses in Muscat. I was the Treasurer & Art Instructor at the Art Centre, PDO Muscat Oman from 2009 to 2015.
My passion for crochet gave me the opportunity to participate in the Guiness World Record. In Oman, I worked as a visiting Art Instructor with Dar Al Maruj, the Oman heritage gallery at Muscat. There I conducted workshops on how to make Bandej (Tie & Dye) with Omani Dies, to ladies and children from different nationalities. I also started Diwali camps for children in Muscat & Abu Dhabi which was a novel concept at the time there. These workshops taught them the significance of each day of Diwali, along with the art and craft appropriate for the occasion. The children loved the workshops where I taught how to make lanterns (Akash Kandil), Forts and Diyas from clay, eco friendly rangoli and many such interesting items.I continued my passion for art by arranging Diwali and Christmas camps for kids. During these years I was part of a few committees as well such as the American Women’s Group committee, Goan Community of Oman and Petroleum Development Oman Spouse Association Committee.
A very memorable occasion was when I presented ‘Priyadarshani’, which is a delightful presentation on how to wear a sari and the meaning of the 16 adornments of an Indian bride. This show was in association with American Women’s Group, Oman in 2011. After this, I presented ‘Parineeta and the 16 Adornments of a Woman’. This was an informative and demonstrative presentation of the 6 yard and 9 yard sari which was aimed at an international audience in association with the American Women’s Group, Oman. It became so popular that I was called to present it frequently from 2011 till 2016.
When I came to Goa I successfully organised workshops at The International Centre Goa in June 2015 and February 2016. I also began weekly classes in teaching decoupage at the PDO Art Centre. I took up the initiative to open the Art Centre for young Art lovers where I actively taught and promoted Malaysian Batik, painting, Air-dried clay pottery. I am one of the founding members of the Goan wing of the Indian Social Center and Committee. I am well known for my decoupage art form. I have organized multiple decoupage classes in Goa at The International Center Goa. I began an initiative where I do decoupage on Goan Heritage Pottery and I hope this grows to a wider audience soon.
You are a professional Decoupeur. What is ‘Decoupage’ and what got you interested in it?
Decoupage is an ancient technique to decorate and preserve household or other objects with an overlay of paper, deco glue and varnish, till it gets an effect of painting or inlay work.
During my stay in Oman, I encountered a lady selling decoupage bottles. Being ambitious and always eager to learn new things, I asked the lady to teach me the art, but she refused despite several attempts. My eagerness led me to learn it on my own. I picked up a book on decoupage art, went to art shops, galleries to understand the difference between the normal tissue and the decoupage tissue. My training in another art form called decopatch in England also helped me understand decoupage a bit more. I have been doing decoupage for over 10 years now and can do it in the French way, Victorian style, Japanese and using Chinese traditions as well.
I use decoupage art to add value to unused objects. I take articles found on the street like a wooden block, kullad (earthen pot), pebbles from the sea shore and beautify them. Decoupage art is a restoration art. It involves using cut pieces of a magazine, newspaper, greeting cards, etc. on objects of your choices to create a scenery or a theme based story. Since I am from Goa and the place is famous for its pottery, I often use earthenware for decoupage to preserve the tradition. I have created decoupage art on lamps, Buyao (Pickle jar), candle stands and some of the Goan heritage items. I began promoting the art as an upcycling technique for waste and other objects. I have till date taught more than 100 students from various countries in decoupage.
Could you tell us how you perfected your skills in the art and the workshops you conduct?
I believe that I am a born teacher. I love to teach. So I keep learning which makes me perfect in my teaching. I have been lucky to visit a lot of museums, libraries and meet artists from different countries which has helped me update my knowledge.
You are part of the AWG (American Women’s Group). Could you tell us what the association does?
AWG is a Social Group. We do lots of informative coffee mornings, charity lunches, Cancer Awareness dinners, Christmas Bazaar, Winter Bazaar from which the proceedings go to charities.
What got you into event management? Which are the biggest events you have organised in your career till date?
My passion for perfectly organising and arranging things got me into event management. I was attending the General meeting of the PDO Spouse Association and they were discussing the International Market Place. I immediately got interested and that’s where it all began. I was appointed as the coordinator of The International Market Place at PDORC from 2007 to 2009 and again in 2011. About 25 countries participated with food stalls from 20 different nationalities, 50 commercial stalls, 50 craft stalls, with cultural music and dances. We achieved a record collection through this event which we donated to various charities. I have also successfully arranged events for companies and charity organizations.
You have been known for successfully organising many events. Which according to you would be the most memorable ones?
The International Market Place in Muscat, Oman would be a memorable ones. At The International Market I got the opportunity to introduce the Royal Oman Police band to open the event. Also our record collection for various charities made this even more memorable.
I run my own talk show called ‘Parineeta – The Complete Woman’ where I talk about Goan culture, the journey of sarees and the 16 adornments of an Indian woman.
You have a Guinness Book record Certificate. Could you tell us more about this achievement?
I was part of the ‘Mother India Crochet Queen’, a group formed by a Chennai based lady to break the record of South Africa in crochet. South Africa’s record was 3500 sq mtrs and we managed to make crochet of 27460 sq mtrs, thus breaking their record.
Are there any other hidden passions or skills you would like to share with us?
I am a very good cook and I have a plan to start a home cook business. I want to take the Goud Saraswati Brahmin cuisine to the world. People mainly know about non-vegetarian food of Goa or the konkan region but not vegetarian or vegan food. I want to take this cuisine beyond Goa and share the stories behind our food.
Everything is in lock down. What are the major lifestyle changes that you have encountered apart from work from home? How are you dealing with it and conducting your workshops?
I have tried to adapt to the current situation to my level best. I have conducted a few online workshops. I still conduct one to one classes with a single student only with social distancing measures in the place. I am planning to arrange zoom workshops for college going students. But the lockdown is also a process for learning new things. I completed 2 online courses, one in Disaster Preparedness by the Pittsburgh University in the United States and the other on NeuroEconomics.
Being a self-made woman and entrepreneur, what advice do you have for other women entrepreneurs?
- Life begins at 50. There is no age bar for studying or starting a business.
- Never look back.
- ‘Aekala chalo’ which means walk alone.
These three mantras were given to me by my father, Advocate Arvind Akerkar. I have followed these and it has worked for me. At the same time be self reliant. Study the market, your product and always keep yourself updated about changes in the market. If you are interested in art, you have to continuously study and update your knowledge.
What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself say 10 years from now?
I see myself at the peak of success where my mind is without fear. Till then I have decided to stay strong and take each day as it comes.
I am planning to revive our traditional playthings that we used to play with in our childhood. I am going on a journey to locate original artisans who still make these articles, although it is going to be difficult to find them. My aim is to preserve these treasures for our children and help the artisans as well in the process.
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