GLIMPSES OF NAGA LIFE AND CULTURE.
by Dr. Gautam Chatterjee.
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,l997.
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
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
Dr Gautam Chatterjee
Dr Gautam Chatterjee(b.1958) is an established writer
who has written persuasively on Indian Heritage to the
matters of national concern.Academically he holds
a Ph.D. Degree from the prestigious Rabindra Bharati
University on Social History.
As an Historian he has written many papers and
authored two pioneering historical
books i.e. Secret Congress Broadcast During Quit
India Movement and Child Criminals and the Raj
(Reformation in British Jail).
Both the books are unique contribution to the
world of History and referred by stalwarts world-wide.
He has also studied Indian History as his academic specialization.
His Ph.D thesis was on Social History, and has done extensive
archival research on various aspects of Indian Culture and Heritage.
He has written many acamedic papers on Historical subjects and for
common man he has been studying many aspects of Indian culture
and did field study on various subjects. Check the books written by Dr Gautam Chatterjee