Sunday, July 10, 2011

Naga folktales...

The connection with Nagaland was becoming stronger with each visit.  I went back there again in 2010 to make audio recordings of folktales, a project that I had proposed to the Indian National Trust for Cultural Heritage in Delhi.  It was still not officially permitted for foreigners to go there alone,  so I was able to link up with Swiss Anthropologist Richard Kunz, who I had met in London, for obtaining the permit.  Richard had done research in eastern Nagaland and he wanted to present copies of his book to those that had helped him.  I tagged along, sharing the cost of transport; I was determined to record as many stories as possible.   Arriving in Dimapur, I was asked to hold a day of animation workshops at a new multimedia training institute, and before leaving the capital, Kohima, I submitted a proposal for support for the Nagaland animation film to the Nagaland State Government.

 On our fifteen day tour up the eastern side of Nagaland from Phek District in the south, (home to the Pochury Nagas) to Kiphire and Tuensang (Yimchungru) and to Mon District to visit the Konyaks, I was able to record thirty stories using a portable Marantz audio recording device.  Stories would be related in indigenous Naga languages and I would also record an English translation, usually done on the spot by the local primary school teacher, as I suspected that it would be difficult to find such language speakers later on.  The roads were very poor and it would take many hours to reach our destinations, often with the additional delay of a punctured tyre.  Arriving late, it was often difficult to extract stories from the villagers, who hardly ever got any visitors from outside.  The journey brought us to some wonderful locations where we swam and fished in the Tizu River, climbed to the summit of the highest mountain, Mount Saramati, spent a night in a Konyak field hut and wandered over the international border to feel the thrill of stepping into forbidden Myanmar.  At the end of the trip we had acquired many new friends and memories, and I had a collection of audio recordings that needed to be edited, organised and delivered to supporters back in Delhi.  The team at the Intangible Heritage division of INTACH had become excited about the project and they decided that they wanted to publish a bilingual book of folktales and so they asked for transcriptions of the stories in the Naga languages and  I realized I would have to go back to Nagaland to get that work done.  

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