Documentary shows Konyaks of Nagaland rediscovering roots

(IANS) Tracing their origins to the region around the Tigris and Euphrates river basin in western Asia, the head-hunting Konyak tribe of Nagaland, which embraced Christianity, is now trying to rediscover itself and its fading culture, the Rajat Kamal National Award-winning documentary “Aoleang”, highlights.

Produced by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS) and directed by Ranajit Ray, the documentary won the prestigious Rajat Kamal (Silver Lotus) National Award for the Best Anthropological Ethnographic film this year.

“Aoleang” is based on aoleang, the most important traditional harvest festival of the Konyak Nagas located in Nagaland’s Mon district. It is celebrated in April.

The 30-minute film narrates the history of the Konyak tribe, their conversion to Christianity, their loss of traditional culture and the resurgence of cultural activities, said Ray.

By documenting the most important festival of the tribe, he has also put the spotlight on a tribe that has no written records of its cultural practices.

“They are trying to rediscover themselves and they feel Christianity has robbed them of their culture. While the older generation say the youngsters do not know their own culture, the new generation are trying to go back to their roots and revive the festivities,” Ray told the media here at a screening of the documentary.

Shot in 12 days across villages, in the interiors of Nagaland, almost inaccessible by modern modes of transport, the film provides a day-by-day insight into the six-day festival which has now been shortened to one or two days, thanks to paucity of time and globalisation.

The whole village comes out dressed in its traditional finery with elaborate headgear and heavy jewellery, and celebrates by dancing and singing, ending in a mega feast.

One of the tribesmen shown in the film is a reverend who translated the Bible into Konyak and claims their forefathers originated from Tigris and Euphrates region.

“He translated the Bible into Konyak. Nobody contradicted (his version of origin) or had new insights. They have no written records,” informed Ray.

According to MAKAIAS Director Sreeradha Dutta, the film is a much-needed documentation effort to preserve the culture for future generations. MAKAIAS is an autonomous body under the ministry of culture.

“Their indigenous lifestyles are slowly fading away due to globalisation and other factors. We thought of documenting the festival in its original form,” Dutta said.

Medaram Jathara

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