In conversation with the Award winners Easterine Kire & Kethoser Kevichusa
Vishü Rita Krocha
Kohima | April 12
As literary activity is not prioritised as other activities in Nagaland, the Gordon Graham Prize for Naga Literature has emerged as a beacon of light for the writers’ community in the state.
Winner of the inaugural Gordon Graham Award for Naga Literature in the fiction category, Easterine Kire holds this as “very important” while voicing out that “I don’t know of the government sector instituting separate funding or scholarships for writers, so when any writing related activity is to be done, such as research and travelling to villages for data collection, the author is completely self-funded.”
Sequel to ‘When the River Sleeps’ coming soon: Kire
‘The Gordon Graham award recognizes the worth of Naga literature,” she emphasizes and talks about the contribution it has for the future by helping create awareness for the need to have more Naga stories written down. Towards this end, she expresses hope that there will be governmental efforts towards encouraging each village to write down their history and their lore.
Stating that the prize gives incentive to young and aspiring writers, she strongly feels that scholarships should be made available as they begin to write seriously. Different universities in the state of Nagaland, she says, can also institute residencies for writers so that they can get a month or two of boarding and salary and the space to write. “Writers in residence can reciprocate by delivering lectures on relevant topics. These are matters that the Naga writers can get together to discuss fruitfully”, she adds.
“I keep discovering that non-fiction feeds fictional writing”, she shares while elucidating that “when reading anthropological accounts, and also tribe histories, they include anecdotes of the tribe which mingle the spiritual or the para normal with the historical.” These anecdotes, she says are like seeds for fictional works to sprout forth from and towards this end, urges students to read, read, read while stating that it is such a wonderful activity, “it keeps you from quarrelling with your neighbours or gossiping about people at the office and, it puts good seeds in you.”
On being awarded the Gordon Graham Prize, Kire feels very grateful to God and to the KET/KES, and is especially happy that they chose ‘When the River Sleeps’, it being one of her favourites. Highlighting the journey of the book, she says, “when I was writing the book, I had the experience of the world of the hunter becoming very real to me, in fact so very real on several occasions that I had to leave the house and go out into the city and reconnect with the real world.” With many discerning readers asking what happens to Vilie, she says, “I can now say he is around and ready to come back very soon.” The sequel to ‘When the River Sleeps’ titled, ‘Journey of the Stone’ is coming soon.
Kire is also in the process of finishing a nonfiction book which is a study of the sixteen tribes of Nagaland and commissioned by Aleph books as a series of books on different states. Putting across that it is like a travel book, she hopes it will benefit students in colleges and universities, as well as tourists and newcomers to Nagaland. Besides this, a volume of short stories (an illustrated edition) with Seagull publishers is also in the offing.
Hope the book would give new conception of forgiveness & politics: Kevichusa
Kethoser Aniu Kevichusa hopes that readers would have a new understanding of forgiveness and politics after reading his book- ‘Forgiveness and Politics: A Critical Appraisal’ that won the Gordon Graham Prize for Naga Literature in the non-fiction category. “When we say forgiveness or politics, everybody thinks they know what forgiveness and politics is, but I would hope that the book would give people a new conception and understanding and even correct some of their misunderstandings both of forgiveness and politics.”
And because Nagas are so interested in politics ‘and we think we know politics’, he also hopes that “we regain a new vision and the high calling that politics is” while asserting that “it really is a noble calling and people who are called to do politics should keep their eyes on that.”
He says that one of the challenges with writing is that “you don’t really know where it is going; writing is not a transference of idea from the head into the paper. It is not so much you leading, but the book leads you.”
However when it did come out in book form, he expresses that it gave him quite a lot of satisfaction and confidence, but also some insecurities because, in his words- “you have written it and now people can look into it and with my book, to be honest, it’s a pretty obscure book but now that it has some measure of visibility, I know there will be a lot of people out there who will not really agree with a lot of things I have to say.”
But winning the prestigious award has also reaffirmed that he should continue writing and readers can look forward to more of his books in the days to come. He has no doubt whatsoever that the Gordon Graham Prize will encourage writers even while amusingly stating that, “everyone who writes will now write with one eye in their work and one eye on the prize.” On the other hand, he believes that the Prize will definitely boost the quality of both writing and publishing in the state.
Among Nagas, he observes that there are a lot of creative people but with creativity also, he emphasizes, “we need the other side of getting the simple grammar, punctuation, the almost arithmetic side of language right, because you can have brilliant ideas and write very flowery language but if your grammar is wrong, that kinds of put you off.”