‘I decided to simply tell my story’

‘I decided to simply tell my story’
(Left) Anungla Longkumer (second from left, sitting row) with other delegates after rehearsals during the Indigenous Celebration festival at Ubud, Bali, Indonesia in May 2018; (Right) Anungla giving her presentation on the main stage at the Agung Rai Museum of Art, Ubud . (Photos courtesy Surya Shankar)


Anungla Longkumer recalls her experience of attending an indigenous festival in Indonesia


Morung Express Feature
Dimapur | July 14


Awe struck at the sight of more than 200 performers and artists representing several indigenous peoples performing songs and dances, Anungla Longkumer recalls her apprehension. Thinking hers would be the most boring, “I decided to simply tell my story at the festival.”


Anungla had the opportunity to represent Nagaland at the ‘Indigenous Celebration,’ a gathering of indigenous peoples from 32 indigenous communities from Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Australia and New Zealand. This was held in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia from May 11- 15, 2018, at the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA).


“Long before I knew the meaning of the word ‘displaced’ my life had been displaced,” recalled Anungla of how she started her presentation on stage. Born and brought up away from her native place, her convent school education did not allow her to be close to her roots.


Her companion on stage was her book, ‘Folklore of Eastern Nagaland,’ commissioned and recently published by the Department of Under-Developed Areas (DUDA), Government of Nagaland. She spoke, through it, about the folklores and poems, which is also a reason why she was invited to represent Nagaland at the festival; she met one of the organizers of the festival, David Metcalf, at the Hornbill Festival who then invited her.


Folklores of the east
The book, commissioned by the DUDA, was released in January this year. The project she embarked upon along with local Naga artists culminated in the compilation of folklores from the six eastern Nagaland tribes, namely the Konyaks, Phom, Chang, Yimchunger, Sangtam and Khiamniungan. Anungla travelled, spoke to people and heard stories from over 70 villages. During the project, she encountered physical difficulties, many times dialects and translations impaired her work. Although it took Anungla a little over a year to complete, she felt she needed more time. Nonetheless, it was a great learning experience.


For Anungla, independent research and travelling to remote parts of Nagaland are unique ways to connect with her roots. She says that her love for traditional tattooing enables her to reinforce her indigenous identity. She also draws inspiration from her mother, Temsula Ao.


When she had finished presenting her work at the Indigenous Celebration, what came as a bigger surprise was the reaction of the people to her presentation. “You spoke for me!” said the participants to her. This gave her the realization that she was not alone and her “story was a story of many indigenous stories.” People were surprised to hear that Nagaland is a state in India; she further had to add that it neighbored Myanmar.


During the festival, Anungla also attended various artists’, tattooing and writing workshops.


Green School
Apart from Indigenous Celebration, she also had the opportunity to visit the Green School for which she had prior fascination. Giving a vivid description of the school campus, Anungla said, “The campus is built entirely out of bamboo with wall-less classrooms.” Here, she interacted with students from different classes, narrating folklores, reciting poetry, showcasing illustrations and reading excerpts from her book. She found herself immersed in the beauty of the folklores which had a bend towards oral narration. “I think the children will remember Nagaland through the stories throughout their lives,” she hoped.


At the Green School, she also attended Indigenous Tattoo Art workshop. Talking about her unique tattoos, she said her tattoos are a combination of traditional tattoos of the Ao women of the Changki, Mongsen and Chungli which she came across in JP Mills’ book ‘The Ao Nagas.’ Describing an encounter with an elderly woman during research work on Ao tattooing, Anungla said, the woman told her, “take them as far as you can go.”


Many things she saw at the Green School were, she felt, imperative to be told in Nagaland. The holistic approach of the Green School, from skills and learning principles to traditional practices, organic farms, compost toilets and sustainability taught to school children from a young age “can be incorporated into our education system.”
“This would serve huge need and benefit many,” thought Anungla.


“I found so many similarities in the tribal regalia between Nagas and the indigenous people there. Even in old practices like tattooing and headhunting the difference I saw there was their strong sense of ‘self’ and pride in their culture, especially among the young people,” Anungla observed. This, she felt, also needs to be inculcated in the youth of Nagaland. “But it depends on how interested and curious we are about our history and culture.”