Sunday, August 7, 2011

Launch of “Fading Ink – The Dying Art of Naga Tattoos”, a documentary film

The premiere screening of a documentary film, “Fading Ink – The Dying Art of Naga Tattoos”, was held at the North East Zone Cultural Centre on Friday 5th August 2011.  The 60 minute film was made by the team at Design Stash: Akanito Assumi, Lipok Yanger and  Inotu Nawang Khulu, and it was commissioned by the North East Zone Cultural Centre.  The film is an pleasing and entertaining production “not as a scholar, but as a seeker of truth”.  Aptly described as a “travelogue” on the cover of the DVD, the young Naga film-makers toured Nagaland visiting the tribes that had a tradition of tattooing (Ao, Chang, Konyak, Khemungan, Yimchungrü and Pochury) to find out more about the reasons for tattooing and the cause of its demise.  In the Ao tribe it was only women that were tattooed, showing commitment to her husband and family, and there were also associations with the notorious headhunting past when murdered women would be recognized by their clans by their tattoos.   

In the Konyak tribe tattoos proclaimed the exalted status of headhunting warriors.  I felt that the most interesting sound bites in the film were the charming, amusing reflections from a few of the remaining old opium fuelled warriors of bygone days.  “How is it better when we live like sissies?  Show them to me!  Instead of being fierce like this we have become meek, useless cowards”, declares one elderly warrior, adding that, "now all we do is say Hallelujah and tell lies….”

Conversion to Christianity spelt the end of many animist traditions, including headhunting and tattooing.  Nowadays the youth are not getting tattooed for the same reasons as their forefathers, though some are turning to it as a fashion.  Well researched and backed up with quotes from renowned anthropologists  and a good standard of production,  the film has obvious appeal for young people and I suggest that it be submitted for screening on national TV encouraging the young film-makers and  fostering general understanding of Naga traditions amongst the urban mainstream audience.

The screening was attended by the Commissioner of Art and Culture, Mr. Himato Zhimomi and it was introduced by the Director of NEZCC, Mr Som Kamei.  It is encouraging that young Nagas are taking such initiatives to explore their roots and that they are receiving support in this from NEZCC.  It could also be the first of a series of such films on Naga culture, through the eyes of the modern generation.   

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