Dr Asangba Tzüdir
Preparations for Hornbill 2023, which is the 24th edition, is underway in full swing and in a few days, the biggest fiesta in Nagaland is going to come alive having set the stage not only to bring all the Naga tribes together but people from across the globe. Indeed it is a cultural spectacle for many being mesmerized by the wide array of colorful and exhilarating performances.
The event is being held from 1st to 10th December each year, and at least for the 10 days Kisama the main venue of the Hornbill Festival becomes like a mini global village because of the way in which this Hornbill Festival has caught global attention while bringing tourists from across India and various other foreign countries to Kisama. As reported in the Hindu Last year’s attendance came to 1026 foreign tourists; 48,413 domestic tourists and 90,860 local visitors.
While each edition of the festival is slightly different from the previous years, this year edition promises to bring in more new events including vlogging contest. The whole of Nagaland will literally get immersed in the non-stop entertainment and festivity especially for those in want of festivity and entertainment.
While the larger objective of the festival continues to be an ongoing struggle, and with its own share of criticisms on the content of the festival of being tuned with commodification and commercialization, it has lived long enough and seems many more editions to come and over the years this festival has no doubt attracted global attention and ‘kisama’ can be dubbed as a global village. However, the larger question remains – Whose Hornbill festival is it anyway? And does it serve the purpose of Naga Unity? What kind of identity does Nagas portray to the world?
One is reminded of the 1914 Christmas truce where peace among ‘enemies’ lasted for a short while before they were called back to battle. For 10 days at kisama the entire Naga tribes come together in unison with the slogan of unity. However, the slogan of unity does not last long, but to return to the underlying reality of the Naga life world where the different Naga tribes live bracketed within their own distinct comfort zone. This has happened because of so many factors, starting from tribalism and the disconnect, the communication gaps and the inglorious condition of roads and where each Naga is a not only a stranger to the ‘other’ Naga but there is an ‘othering’ of the ‘other.’
As such, the 10 days spirit of unity needs to move out of kisama to further reach out to all the districts connecting with the villages. This can be done by creating incentives and avenues in order to bridge the gap of differences. One way is to have cultural exchange programmes and events which will help break away the narrow walls. The recent incident of Church violence clearly attests the selfish Naga attitude, that one would wonder whether the pursuit of a Naga unity is utopian or whether it has gone beyond damage control?
However, even as Nagaland prepares for the 24th Edition of Hornbill Festival, let the Hornbill sing not only of ‘festivity’ ‘music’ and ‘entertainment’, but most importantly the song of Naga unity. This global village has the spirit to sing of Naga unity as an identity marker for the world to see.
(Dr Asangba Tzudir contributes a weekly guest editorial to The Morung Express. Comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org)