Celebrating Hornbill Festival in 2018 – Meliwe Elah, Assistant Professor, Department of English

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“It is not that I am against the celebration [of Hornbill Festival], but a lot has to be done to make our state presentable to the world beyond.” Thoughts from Meliwe Elah, as we welcome the New Year, with a head-start towards getting our priorities right. Let’s now focus on the importance of hard work and true merit, in order to have a valid reason to celebrate by the time December 2018 arrives again. 

Celebrating Hornbill Festival in 2018

If we are to compare Nagaland’s level of development in various areas with the advanced world or even states in India, we are far behind. The undeniable truth is that, though we do not make an effort to work hard like others, it often appears more like we know exactly how to party hard like them. We do not have the knowledge and standard of civilization as theirs, yet, we know how to imitate their lifestyle perfectly well. We lazily toss aside the struggling process and jump straight to extravagant celebration and party.

Tracing back the observance of festivals of our ancestors, they celebrate after their year-long labour and toil. They take the time out to rest, to enjoy, celebrate, feast, and make merry after a bountiful harvest. They truly deserve a treat for their sincere and honest hard work. Now let’s shift focus to our dear ‘Hornbill Festival’. In examining the Hornbill Festival, I am not reading it from an economist point of view, but rather the social and cultural aspect of its celebration. Does still the Hornbill Festival hold the same value and meaning as the olden days? Have we completed our annual assignment to merit the time taken to rest and celebrate? Or do we just apply temporary makeup over our incomplete task at the last minute and rush to celebrate?

The wave of “festival of festivals” came like a hurricane in December 2017 and  successfully concluded yet again. It’s amazing how enthusiastically people gear themselves up each year to participate or to celebrate this festival. Over the years, its exoticness has captured the international audience, consequently opening many opportunities and boosting our economic prospects. Many foreigners come to know about Nagaland through this festival. They arrive with great curiosity and excitement to explore, learn, or simply enjoy.

This festival is tied to our history and identity. After the arrival of Christianity and British invasion, things have changed rapidly. Many old beliefs and practices were discarded as we embraced the western religion and education. As a result, the present generation is far removed from the original identity and heritage. Hence, the Hornbill festival serves as a gateway to let the young generation have a glimpse of our ancestors’ way of life and history and also acts as a significant string which keeps us attached to our true identity with all its splendid culture and traditions,  thereby keeping us grounded to our origin.

The ultimate purpose of Hornbill Festival is to preserve, revive and promote our rich cultural heritage and traditional values. This festival has also provided a platform to the various local artisans, craftsman, artists and talented individuals to promote their creative works and talents and enabling them to lay down a solid foundation on their establishments and entrepreneurial undertakings.

However, besides, the entire positive outcome, there is clearly a flip side to this festival. The image of our culture that we reflect isn’t authentic. There is a huge influence of so-called ‘modern culture’. Certainly, we need to compromise, adapt, and make some adjustments to make the tourists and visitors inclusive. But, in my opinion, we tend to go overboard and sometimes misuse this festival.

If we are to stick to the true sense of festival, aren’t we celebrating before the harvest? There are exceptionally few individuals amongst our society who are working hard to make a positive change. But in general, what fruit, what grain, what achievement have we yielded that we rest to celebrate at this point in time? Isn’t it a premature celebration?

What we have harvested so far are corruption, division and chaos. Be it development or civilization, we are sinking. From students to officers, many are yet to be called truly educated and civilized citizens. Our social, political, and economic sphere is hitting its rock bottom.. Perhaps this festival serves as an anaesthesia to escape from harsh reality to whimsical dreaming, to switch to the ‘laughter and fun’ button from ‘tears and disappointment’ mode of our present state.

On the other hand, if this festival is to promote our culture, are we doing justice to it? There are many outsiders who came, saw, and perceived how or what Naga culture is through this festival alone. Do we send them off with a genuine culture of the past? Or does it end with just our traditional attire, ethnic food and drinks, art and crafts, and a confusing mixed culture?

It is not that I am against the celebration, but a lot has to be done to make our state presentable to the world beyond. Certainly, the tourists will form an impression of our state from the few days events at Kisama, but they will also be wondering how the colourful Nagas are tolerating the dusty-muddy-bumpy ride of the roads.  

Each year huge amounts of money and resources are spent for hosting this phenomenal ten days Festival. Kisama looks magnificent and beautiful. What if we give the same importance and invest in various areas for proper development of our state, the urgency of which is greater.  If we are to hold on to our true culture, why don’t we first do our duty and then celebrate with immense satisfaction? Our ancestors stick to the adage of ‘work and eat’, they celebrate only after the harvest. Likewise, have we gathered enough harvest to celebrate? Looking at the present scenarios of our state, the priorities have to be set right. Why don’t we first achieve something that’s worthy and deserving of a true celebration at this years’ Hornbill Festival 2018?!

Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Nungchim Christopher, Seyiesilie Vupru, Vikono Krose and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

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