Sundays in Nagaland are generally very quiet; everything is shut, and there is little point in thinking of going out. At home here now in the derelict guesthouse in the jungle, tucked away quietly behind the North East Zone Cultural Centre, it was a day for visitors. The first was Aditi Chitre, an artist based in Mumbai who I had met several months ago at the screening of her 26 minute animation film, “Journey To Nagaland”, at the India International Centre in Delhi. Like me, Aditi has fallen for Nagaland and she is now back on her fifth visit (like me), to conducting a week long Art Workshop at the Hope Centre of Excellence for Dance, Music and Art in Nagarjang, Dimapur.
We spent several hours comparing experiences in Nagaland and exchanging films from our hard drives. Aditi’s film, commissioned by PSBT, took her two and a half years to complete and it tells a story of a woman who returns to Nagaland in search of her roots. During the research period for the film, Aditi visited Chisemi in Phek District and she later went back to conduct an art workshop there for school children. So inspired was she by the response and outcome that she is determined to find sponsorship for a follow-up workshop to teach students how to write and illustrate their own stories. Aditi felt that Naga youth are mostly shy and reserved and are neither taught nor encouraged to do art. She explained that she also involves parents by inviting them to see the outcome for themselves so that they will recognize and support the artistic potential of their children. Aditi was familiar with the story of Man Tiger and Spirit and she told me that it is shared by several tribes. She showed me illustrations of the story made by the children in her workshop and she also revealed a detail that from another version of the tale that I had not heard before. As we walked a kilometer to the highway for Aditi to find an auto rickshaw back into Dimapur, she related her experience in the previous workshop, where students had been asked to adapt traditional stories but had been unable to reconsider the stories in any new way. On my return, I reflect on my happiness at knowing Aditi, who is both inspiring and adventurous.
A short while later, a gang of about a dozen young Nagas arrived at the guesthouse, in three cars. It was Lima and Sari, my Ao friends from the Nagaland Institute of IT and Multimedia in Dimapur, with their relatives and friends, and they had come with gifts of beautiful Ao and Konyak jewelry for me!
I had conducted a one day Introduction to Animation seminar and workshop last year at their centre above the garage for 75 students, and I recall the day well – It had been extremely busy with three sessions of film screenings and practical cut out animation, and the gang obviously remembered me too. Sari and Lima are now proposing to raise funds from the State Government for a 3 day workshop with me at their Institute at the end of August, and they had come to discuss details of the programme, so as to advertise it.
This day has rejuvenated my hope for the youth here in Nagaland. I am proud to know such an optimistic, enthusiastic group of bright young Nagas who are motivated to do something for themselves despite the unusual difficulties faced here - poor infrastructure and undercurrents of frustration and unrest. I appreciate the efforts of my friends and I know that they will arrange a fine programme for us because they are an efficient team.