The speakers with others during the plenary talk on ‘Reviving Folk Literature and Storytelling’, held at School of International Studies (SIS), JNU, New Delhi on April 13. (Photo Courtesy: NSA)
Dimapur, April 15 (MExN): The Naga Scholars Association (NSA) on April 13 had organized a plenary talk on ‘Reviving Folk Literature and Storytelling’, at School of International Studies (SIS), JNU, New Delhi.
Dr. Zuchamo Yanthan, president, NSA started with a welcome address and the introduction of the chairperson Prof. Nandini Sahu who is a well-known writer, poet and editor of an interdisciplinary journal of Literature and Language and the three invited speakers of the plenary talk.
‘Trends and Issues in Folklife, Folklore and Folkloristics’
The first speaker, Dr. Walunir, Associate Professor, Amity University, spoke on ‘Trends and Issues in Folklife, Folklore and Folkloristics’. He started by looking at how traditionally organized groups of people tell their practices/beliefs and within such traditional ‘enclosures’, folklore itself is folklife and folklife is folklore. He added that such orally transmitted enclosures or ‘borders’ of folklife and folklore are ruptured of by ‘modern’ forces, especially the technology of writing which further leads to post-encounter ‘metamorphosis’ of folklore forms.
Dr. Walunir opined that folkloristics mostly engage either with folklife and folklore in their enclosed natural milieu or in its post-rupture event of ‘becoming’. What involves in both the cases is transcription and documentation and a serious question to be posed here is whether this act of ‘retrieving’ folklore does justice or damage to an otherwise living corpus of life and knowledge. Walunir opined that folklore materials get ‘frozen’ in the written and digitized forms and they lose their ‘original’ significance.
Dr. Walunir also stated that the most unethical element in this act of documentation is shift of folklore knowledge from public domain to private domain: institutionalization, privatization and control of an otherwise free circulatory public knowledge. Walunir also pointed out that there is an unusual ‘desire’ to document unexplored virgin ‘relics’ and ‘exotic’ folklore materials within the nexus of knowledge, power and money. Walunir concluded that folkloristics need to find ethical means of moving forward from ‘relics’ or ‘perishing’ traditions towards continuities and relevance in the changing world and to that end, interdisciplinary approaches can be employed with faithfulness towards traditional milieu of folklore.
‘In our own Imagery: Indigenising Poetry in English through Folklore’
The other speaker Dr Theyiesinuo Keditsu, Assistant Professor in Kohima College, presented a paper on ‘In our own Imagery: Indigenising Poetry in English through Folklore’. She began her presentation by highlighting the need to embrace the broader definition of folklore, which is no longer limited to the past but includes the present day practices.
Closer home, Dr. Theyiesinuo, rued the fact the Nagas are still helplessness trapped in the ‘colonized mindset’, be it the nature of our pedagogical methods and the way our school syllabuses are structured. We learn about the culture, polities and histories of the others at the cost of forgetting our own. The supremacy of English as a language was established on account of the pioneering works of the Christian missionaries in the region which unfortunately continue to hold sway amongst the Naga society. The extent of dominance is such that, the Nagas write about their past by using modern terminologies which our forefathers would not have idea.
Dr. Theyiesinuo, as a Naga poet exhorted the NSA members to create our own imagery in our own language to describe our own situation. She went on to add that because of our failure to internalise who we are, we end up mimicking the other. Thus, we continue to be other without really realizing that we are not ourselves. This is owing to the fact that we have not been colonized not just once, not just twice but thrice- first by the Britishers, then the Christian Missionaries and then by the idea of “Bharat”.
‘Storytelling in the age
of Digital Media’
The third speaker, Kaikho Ashuni, Producer, Electronic Media Production Centre, IGNOU in her presentation on ‘Storytelling in the age of Digital Media’ opined that writing alone cannot do justice to indigenous folklore and culture but reading and listening using multimedia can offers rich experiences of preserving our folk literatures and storytelling. She started her presentation by playing a pre-recorded audio todraw an analogy on how spoken words are equally powerful in conveying one’s message. She further pointed out that even in this age of modern science and technology, oral mode of communication continues to dominate our society. She stated that digital media offers a ray of hope in the preservation of our culture which can be recorded in digital format and act as a repository of knowledge production.
She further stated that every digital literate should make use of digital media to further the process of storytelling and not confined to written oral history alone. Moreover, since digital media is not exclusive to few privileges, it enlarges the scope of engagement within and outside the society. She also pointed out that, the content flow of traditional media like television, radio, print media are limited. However the content flow of digital media is unlimited where people themselves become both the producer and consumes itself or “prosumer”. The use of transmedia for sharing stories is unlimited as it can be shared across at multiple platforms using various social Mediassuch as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, whatsappetc.
She concluded her paper by stating that given this context, the digital media perhaps offers opportunities to enlarge the scope of storytelling even more truly in the spirit of oral tradition, in contrast to the written tradition.
A press note from the NSA stated that the session was followed by discussions and feedbacks from the participants and some reflections from the chairperson Prof. Nandini Sahu on the importance of folk literature and storytelling. The rapporteurs are Solomon Zingkhai, SachoibaInkah and Lung Nathan. The session ended with a vote of thanks by Akhum David Longkumer.