The azulejo tiles, which were originally produced by the Persians, found their way to Western Europe through the Arabs. Initially Spain and later Portugal, adopted the art of making azulejos to so great an extent that it became indigenous to these two countries. The Augustinian buildings in Goa (Nossa Senhora de Graça [Our Lady of Grace] church, along with the convent of Santa Monica) located in Old Goa are the only religious buildings known to have used such tiles for ornamentation (c. 17th century and later). The complex political geographies in which the Portuguese Estado da Índia was located consisted of many forts, ports, as well as imperial formations such as those of the Mughals, Ottomans, Safavids and so on. Officials, missionaries, and traders from Goa would often travel within these realms. Hence, one can imagine a space that was connected with each other in dynamic ways, exchanging not just goods, but also cultural artifacts. The fact that such dynamics exchanges were taking place regularly should essentially make us seek the many ways in which cultural artifacts were exchanged. One such way of doing this is to deeply explore the ‘Islamicate’, which, as Marshall G. S. Hodgson and other historians subsequently have argued, is cultural and artistic practices inspired and related to Islam, but which is not necessarily religious in nature. Thus, one can easily expect to find Islamicate art right in the middle of a Catholic church or a Hindu temple. By formulating questions and theories about the origins of the azulejo tiles used in the Augustinian buildings, and the political conditions that may have led to their transport in Goa, this presentation seeks to open up Goan history to the Islamicate.
Dale Luis Menezes is a PhD student at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is a member of The Al-Zulaij Collective