Hornbill Goes to Mon

Dr. Asangba Tzüdir

Konyak women ignites the real spirit of Hornbill festival

Marking the end of the three-day celebration of the Aoleang-cum Mini Hornbill Festival which was celebrated under the theme ‘Empowering Women for Cultural Heritage, around 5000 women from the Konyak community adorned in their colourful traditional attires performed a traditional dance in an attempt to enter the Guinness World Record. Such a record attempt which is said to have been on the cards since the year 2016 finally materialised on April 5 after perfecting the dance for close to a month.

The synchronised 5 minute dance which invoked blessings upon the community, people, fields and crops and their natural surroundings saw the coming together of women from 11 wards in Mon town representing more than 115 Konyak villages in Mon district with the message of solidarity and unity to the Nagas and to the world.

Starting in the year 2000 coinciding with the Statehood Day, Nagaland Government desirous of promoting tourism embarked upon an ambitious project called the ‘Hornbill Festival’ tagged as the ‘festival of festivals’ to exploit the ‘cultural heritage.’ While the loss incurred over the years is huge (NPCC, who filed an RTI, disclosed that the public exchequer incurred a loss of Rs. 11 crore, 87 lakhs and 99 thousand during the years 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014), a misrepresented ‘Naga image’ is portrayed to the world. To suit the changing times and tastes, the cultural shows and the various events comes with a blend of tradition and a “westoxified” modern.’ Within this blending, a new understanding of ‘Naga Culture and lifestyle’ is presented to the outside world through ‘texts’ and ‘images.’ Further, the Hornbill festival has opened a window to the commercially escapist world of Naga culture which finds tilted towards ‘deceptive style’ and opportunistic capitalism including ‘commodification’ of humans. In this process, the Naga cultural ‘narrative’ gets fitted into the ‘hornbill narrative’, which is nowhere close to being considered as a marker of Naga cultural identity, and thereby a ‘misrepresented real’ is produced through the material display, so do the captured images for ‘pleasurable consumption’ of the ‘others’ which is more often used to reinforce stereotypes. More painful is the experience of not being able to place the Naga cultural past in context. Thus, the hornbill festival in its present avatar, does not serve as an imagery to reawaken their ‘forgotten past’ or ‘unknown past,’ more so the cultural heritage and value system.

Within this strain, the World record attempt dance goes much more beyond setting the record which is mostly for the books. In so doing, it has not only reawakened the traditional cultural heritage but the uniqueness, the beauty and the aesthetic and the moral values of Naga Culture. For once our Konyak women have given the right message to the Nagas and to the World about the Naga cultural heritage, the feeling of oneness, solidarity and unity. For sure, this exemplary dance will be the beginning of many good things to come for Konyaks and for the Nagas in general to set many ‘undesirable’ things in the right perspective.

The dance uncontaminated by popular culture, music and entertainment, has given birth to the true meaning and essence, and the spirit of Hornbill festival, and for which our Konyak women truly deserves to be called ‘Ambassadors’ of Culture and Champions of Unity.

With this record attempt dance and for the message it brings for the Nagas, Hornbill Festival has gone to Mon from Kisama and the real spirit of Hornbill is born there.

(Dr. Asangba Tzudir contributes a weekly guest editorial to The Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to asangtz@gmail.com.)