NAGA LIFE AND CULTURE
by Dr. Gautam
From urbanites view point art
is viewed as a secluded activities of people and vision is from the
standpont of Gallery de art. But for indigenous people like Naga, art and
culture are inseparable from their daily milieu. And their art is functional
within their ambience. In order to research and depict the Naga life Indira
Gandhi National Centre for the Arts(IGNCA) has recreated their life through
Milada Ganguli’s rare collection of Naga Art at Mati Ghar IGNCA which can be
seen from Monday the 6th October, 1997.
Milada Ganguli, 90 year old , a connoisure of Indian art is the connection
between the past and present. A native of Czechoslovakia, came to India way
back in l939 after her marriage to Mohonlal Ganguli, a writer and a close
relative of Rabindranath Tagore. She developed a special interest in the
hills of North-East India and was specially attracted towards Naga culture.
She has visited these people around 18 times and collected artefacets of
rare kind. Today, one part of her collection is the holding of National
Museum, Calcutta and second part has come to the IGNCA which are being
displayed at theexposition titled "SUNGKONG"--call of the Log Drum.
The exhibition is studded
with rare artefacets and photographs placed within the context of
beautifully created panorama of Naga life ,the aura of bamboo and grass work
interplayed with symbolic motifs of tiger,lion,cross-bow to the votary
symbol of potency.
The exposition revolves
around the theme of ‘Sonakong’ or the call of Log drum of Naga people.
Symbolically it reflects the major part of the extinct Naga Art forms which
are no objective articulation of aesthetics but a display of functional art
of bygone era. The entrance is the roof of the Morung or dormitary which is
decorated with long tassels of thatching grass. Then one walks over the
dried grass reaching out to the Morung. This Morung is the epic centre of
the Naga life. Here youth and elders meet to share their oral
traditions,heritage and functions as a platform of folk cultural
demonstration. At night this is the watch post to keep a watch over the
enemies. Then comes the unique log drum which is another functional
symbolism of this tribe. The interrelatedness of Morung--the dormitary and
use of Log drum for community communications is the high point of this
exposition. Dr. Malla, Art Historian coordinating the exhibition explained
that Log drum has again coming to play a major role in Naga life as one can
hear the rythm in festivals like Moatsu etc. ‘this is a new beginning for
the symbolic retention of old values.’
The exposition on the one
hand subtly deals with myths and megaliths of Naga people on the otherhand
analyses the patriarchal norms,values, power potency and social hiearchial
order. From the status of chieftain to the dialects and population
concentration of different naga groups are also displayed.
Coursing through the
fertility and fetish beliefs of Naga the rituals and symbolic human skull
are the points of display.The micro life style and the traditional stone
oven hemmed with thatching grass and the concept of angan bordered with
bamboo boundary is played to display the artefacts. There are around l00
display artefacts which covers from common serving bowl to dao,from basket
cane work to the sacred human wood carving called ‘Instead of Me’.
Explaining this rare art piece Dr. Das an expert on Naga art said that
‘Amongst Naga people, there is a tradition when the Chief is out of the
village then a woodcarving depicting a man is placed in his seat and called
"Instead of Me". This sacred piece of art and heritage is very rare and this
collection is of Chang Naga of the Tuensang Distt. of Indo Burma border.’
Amongst the rare art pieces
one can find the Head Hunter locket made of brass with a human face on it.
This locket is symbolically sported by Naga people while on head hunting
spree. Incidentally this locket is created be Kachins tribe of Burma from
whom Naga people used to buy through butter tread.
Another rare specimen is the
cross bow which has a mechanism of triggering the arrow. The bow and arrow
are made of wood and bamboo and the cord is of burk fiber. After walking
through the earthly creation of Naga people one comes to the tail of the
exhibition which is tailored with the textile section to show some of the
unique collections of traditional attires through photographs and cloth.
Apart from bright colour temperatures of the naga attire one come accross
the Kauri Shell work on black texture where upon human body is created to
bringforth the contrast of design and texture.
Like wise, the exposition
,though small, creates a window to get rare glimpses of Naga culture which
is almost extinct and modern revivalism is mere symbolic in character and
cosmetic in vision.