‘Foraging and fermenting bambooshoot during ceasefire’

A woman harvesting bambooshoots in a forest somewhere in Nagaland.
A woman harvesting bambooshoots in a forest somewhere in Nagaland.

‘Seasons of Life’- a directorial debut on food cultures of Nagaland by Dolly Kikon

 

Vishü Rita Krocha
Kohima | June 24


“Our ancestors foraged for bamboo shoot. They traded bambooshoot and fed it to us too. This is how we were brought up. Today, we forage and sell bambooshoot and fend for ourselves. If we are committed to this process, the community will progress and prosper.”


These are lines captured from the trailer of 'Seasons of Life: Foraging and fermenting bambooshoot during ceasefire,' a directorial debut on food cultures of Nagaland by Dolly Kikon. During an interview with The Morung Express in January this year, she had announced the completion of the documentary and the film is due for release on June 26 on Zoom where there will be screening, followed by a conversation with Dolly Kikon, Uma Chakravarti and Yirmiyan Arthur on indigenous food, fermentation, foraging and women’s work.


Food has always been Dolly Kikon’s passion and ‘Seasons of Life’ is an extension of her work on Anthropology of Food, particularly fermented food. She had conducted her ethnographic fieldwork for her doctoral work between 2009 and 2011, wherein she discovered food in variant ways and how they symbolised everyday human relations and evoked memories and sociality.

 

Towards this end, her first attempt to make sense of food was a short essay she wrote titled 'Tasty Transgressions: Food and Social Boundaries in the Foothills of Northeast India' but it was in the year 2015 that she began to connect food with the armed conflict and the experiences of marketing food for a consumer market.


She also wrote a piece titled, 'Making Pickles during a Ceasefire' with an aim to engage with sustainability, development, and the gendered world of fermentation and further examined issues of modernity, citizenship and belonging in her article on ‘Akhuni’ (fermented soya beans) which is known by different names in Northeast India.


Relating that her memory of ‘Akhuni’ is linked with her grandmother—Oreno, who grew up during World War II, Kikon recalls how she told her stories about her experiences of the war that swept across the Naga Hills. “Her memory of the Japanese soldiers who arrived there was a peculiar one,” she points out while narrating that “she was a young woman when soldiers came to her house in search of food and found packets of fermented soya beans. They wept before falling on their knees and devouring it.”


Some of the questions she delved into while working on the project were: “How does the same aroma that is a delicacy for some become repulsive to others? In what ways do fermented foods highlight expressions of resistance, negotiation and anxiety? Why is it important to celebrate fermented food and reflect its significant role in our lives?”


It was later in the month of August in 2019 that she travelled to Ralan with her camera team to shoot ‘Seasons of Life: Foraging and Fermenting Bambooshoot during Ceasefire.’ 


“It is part of my research work on fermentation where I extend the notion of solidarity and bonding through sharing food and eating together. Today, bambooshoot is an integral part of ethnic restaurants that serve Northeast cuisine across India. This documentary traces its journey from the forests of Northeast India to kitchens and our plate,” she puts across.


Bambooshoot whether fresh, fermented or dried, she further highlights are rich in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fibres, and low in fat. Bamboo, she adds is known for several health benefits while Phytosterols in bambooshoot reportedly has youthful feeling, athletic energy and longevity to regular customers.

 

‘Seasons of Life’ production team 
Dolly Kikon is the Producer and Director of the short film 'Seasons of Life: Foraging and fermenting bambooshoot during ceasefire' while the team consists of P Menangnichet (Cinematography) who has more than 15 years of experience in the field and has made several short documentaries; Mhademo Kikon (Cinematography), founder and director of Feather Frames Production in Dimapur; Hirak Jyoti Pathak (Editing) with a degree in Animation and a diploma in Film and Video Editing and works as a freelance editor in Guwahati; Trihangku Lahkar (Sound), who specialized in Audiography and Sound Engineering; and Ren Merry (Music), with a master’s degree in Music Performance from the United States and has taught music in Patkai Christian College and Westminster Christian Academy (Louisiana) and currently lives with his family in Colorado where he teaches music.