Culture is the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a society or a group. It includes creative expressions, community practices and material forms influenced by the social memory without which culture cannot exist. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, and no future. Culture stands survives on the shoulders of the people.
Keepers of Culture
A couple of years ago, I attended a workshop in Noida at V.V.Giri National Labour Institute for almost a month. Researchers from every part of the country converged to be a part of this programme. After a hectic schedule, the workshop finally came to an end. On the last evening, a cultural programme was organised and all the participants were asked to present a cultural song or dance. All the participants eagerly waited for the cultural programme to unfold, as we all belonged to different cultural backgrounds and it was an evening to celebrate the cultural diversity of the country.
Unfortunately, I was in for a rude shock after hearing about this programme. The fact of the matter was, I did not know even a single folk song or dance of the Nagas and I was the only participant from the state. Thus, on that particular evening, the audience was deprived of witnessing a cultural show from Nagaland, due to my utter lack of knowledge in this respect. I was embarrassed as well as ashamed of myself for being ignorant about our own cultural heritage. On a similar note, a friend of mine underwent a harrowing experience. He had to take around some foreign tourists during the Hornbill festival as a guide. The tourists were curious and fond of knowing the names and meaning of the different ornaments that our Naga warriors were clad in. Though my friend could answer a few, on many occasions he could not provide a substantial explanation and ended up offering shallow answers. I wonder how many of us can relate to these experiences. The significance and prominence of knowing our cultural heritage cannot be reiterated enough. This aspect is stressed in all quarters, especially by our elders. The younger generation is admonished and exhorted all the time to embrace and learn about our culture. But the pertinent question is, from where and from whom do we learn? It so happens, that most of the time, our parents or people we know are also not well versed and not in a position to teach us. Commonly, most of the knowledge keepers of our culture reside in villages. Gradually with the passage of time, this knowledge tends to disappear along with the keeper, unless it is documented or pass down to the next generation. Culture is a vast concept and it includes within its parameters several aspects of a community. Today, we are witnessing massive migration of people from rural to urban settings on an unprecedented scale, even in our state. People yearning for a better life, to provide better educational opportunities for their children and for numerous other factors, often decide to relocate to urban centres. Even those families, who are unable to migrate, send their children away to urban places, to receive their education. Thus, migration to urban places takes young people further away and denies them the opportunity to come into contact with most of the knowledge keepers of our culture (older folks) who normally reside in villages and rural areas. The situation would be again exacerbated for those young people who go out of Nagaland at an early age for education and remain outside for a long stretch of time. Unless one is a researcher studying about our culture, it becomes difficult due to several reasons for common citizens to travel to villages and seek out those people with deep understanding of our culture, so as to learn from them. Moreover, the undercurrents of cultural imperialism, sweeping through our land wave after wave cannot be overlooked. Further, with the tremendous evolvement of smart technology, young people today are bombarded and influenced heavily with the pop culture of the day.
To address the lack of avenues, when it comes to learning folk songs and dances especially for young people, what are the possible ways and means? A proposition is put forward for wider public discourse on this issue. In order to flourish our rich cultural heritage, an INSTITUTION should be set up, where our various dance and folk songs can be taught to our young people. To start off, the Art and culture department of the Government can collaborate with the respective tribal Hohos, since they are the guardian of our culture and work towards this end in orchestrating this institute of culture. The respective tribal Hohos may be given the responsibility of selecting and bringing in people, who are well versed in our songs and dances to teach the students. Initially, the government can support to jumpstart the institution. Later, the institute can be placed under the control and supervision of the respective Hoho. Anyone who is interested in knowing and learning about our culture (Folk songs and dances) can come and enroll themselves at this institute. The fees received from the students can be utilised to self-finance the working of the institution. This is a crude exposition of the proposal. Whether this proposition is feasible or not can be debated and deliberated in various platforms. Discussions concerning this issue can be generated and better ideas on how to carry and imbibe our culture among young people should be shared. Culture is dynamic and with the passage of time it keeps on evolving. The stark reality is, majority of the younger generation is benighted about our culture and unless we take the responsibility to propagate it, decay of culture will gradually set in. History is replete with stories of cultures fading into oblivion. If conscious and intentional policies are not taken in this direction, it will not be long before we find ourselves as a people stripped off of our identity.
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, Tatongkala Pongen, Aniruddha, Meren and Kvulo Lorin. For feedback or comments please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.