Tribal Literature and Performance : Rapporteur Report

Aheibam Koireng *

Three-Day National Conference on Tribal Literature and Performance on April 1, 2 & 3 2017
Three-Day National Conference on Tribal Literature and Performance on April 1, 2 & 3 2017

Three-Day National Conference
Tribal Literature and Performance

Jointly organized by:
Department of Kannada & Culture, Government of Karnataka,
Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Amarkantak and
Regional Campus Manipur & Manipur University, Imphal
(April 1, 2 & 3 2017)

Venue: Manipur University, Canchipur, Imphal, Manipur


As a part of the Three-Day National Conference on "Tribal Literature and Performance" a seminar on the same theme the same was held at the Conference Hall, Computer Science Department, Manipur University on April 3, 2017.

Prof. N. Nagaraju, Department of English, Central University of Karnataka, Kalaburagi and Dr. Romate John Head, Dept. of Psychology, Central University of Karnataka, Kalaburgi, graced the Inauguration Session as the Chief Guest and Guest of Honour, respectively. The session was presided by Prof. P. Nabachandra Singh, Department of Manipuri, Manipur University.

Dr. Arambam Lokendra, Renounced Theatre Personality and Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts delivered the Key Note Address. In his address, Dr. Arambam shared his existential ties with South India and recollected the resurgence of political and cultural at that particular time and how as a student in Madras Christian College, Tambram impacted him. The south Indians' friendly attitude and hospitality never gave the impression of "Us" and "Them" but instead provided the best atmosphere of learning not only about the rich Dravidian culture but also about what was happening as a churning in the very understanding of India as a nation.

Today how the ethnic poets, performers and others respond to the transformative power of globalization remains a challenge. According to him, the very term "tribal" found even in the constitution of India is problematic. However, amidst the transformations brought about by globalization, a new sense of reality is given by the "first people" or "indigenous" and recognized throughout the world is a continuation of the ethnose. The new name propagated gives a new sense about the land and territoriality and engaging with new dimensions of engaging with new realities. This also gives a chance to the people to understand themselves, about their past as well as about their aspirations.

Deconstructing the longest era of colonialism, the 19th century, the longest century which many agree, and how we can emerge out of the constructed identities remains an issue which we are unable to completely process.

Three-Day National Conference on Tribal Literature and Performance on April 1, 2 & 3 2017
Three-Day National Conference on Tribal Literature and Performance on April 1, 2 & 3 2017

In this context, we are now in a process of reflection and understanding not only about ourselves but also about the others. Tracing out similarity, world view and others about these first people by the poets, artists and performers is the added challenge which one has to aware of. When many of the identities are losing in oblivion, the task remains to bring out the linkages as well as identify an ideology cutting across the different identities.

Dr. Romate John Head, Dept. of Psychology, Central University of Karnataka, Kalaburgi, the Guest of Honour spoke about tribe psychology. He stated that the population of Scheduled Tribe is the highest in Madhaya Pradesh and lowest in Meghalaya. Some of the problems associated with ST is health related and malnutrition. From the psychological point of view, there are prevailing issues of mental health and also there are problems of substance abuse and highly vulnerable. Often they are victims of abuse and as a result suffer from trauma. Sadly, modern psychologists neglect these issues.

Tribal people thrive themselves on collective mind and thinking according to psychologists. Team work is something inherent among the tribals. These aspects can be helpful in understanding and studying about the tribals.

Prof. N. Nagaraju, Department of English, Central University of Karnataka, Kalaburagi, the Chief Guest of the Inaugural Session, shared that he had an interesting fact about working in the Northeast. At that time, Assam was undergoing an intense movement about the foreigner's issue. He submitted that he discovered about the huge diversity of the Northeast and a great democratizing region.

In a diverse country like India, we need to be aware about the very diversity of the neighbours as well as India. Despite the emphasis laid on nationalism, we are yet to learn about the cultural diversity. Even the media is unable to educate us on these diversities. The onus has been left on the cultural activists and leaders. But the position and status is diminishing today. This is tragic. Even cultural exchanges are decreasing at the cost of nationalism. To receive cultural troupes and exchanges in such medium can be healthy. He cited the exercise undertaken by the Government of Karnataka and admitted that this can be a small contribution.

He then spoke about the problematic associated with the word "tribe". According to him, it is too generalizing and trivializes the particulars of a particular community and identity. Thus, he observed that the word ethnose can be given importance to do away with universalism. Geo-ecological issues needs to be addressed in the Northeast in addition to geo-political. This can give the opportunity to understand the communities, in terms of resources and others, in this changing world. Ecological resources the more we're aware, the more we can understand about others.

Prof. P. Nabachandra Singh, Department of Manipuri, Manipur University, in his Presidential Address observed that on account of modernization and globalization, many changes have happened in our lives. Lots of challenges are facing us. This is inspite of we possessing rich culture and tradition. Different ethnic communities (around 33) have contributed a lot in terms of enrichment of the heritage of Manipur.

As their lifestyles and hardhips are different from the valley people, these are reflected in the colour, clothes, dances and folklores. These needs to be studied, documented and research. However, in these changing times, we are neglecting our own culture in the name of "civilized" to the extent that even we do not want to speak our own language. In such instances, the question is, if we do not want to speak our own language who is going to safeguard them. He stressed that we must safeguard our culture and tradition.

Three-Day National Conference on Tribal Literature and Performance on April 1, 2 & 3 2017
Three-Day National Conference on Tribal Literature and Performance on April 1, 2 & 3 2017

Invited Talks

The first Session on Invited Talk was on the theme, "Tribal Culture & Performance" The session was Chaired by Prof. P. Nabachandra Singh, Department of Manipuri, Manipur University. Lanbilung Gonmei Associate Professor, Department of History, Imphal College, Imphal presented a paper

He stressed that the culture of South East Asia influences the culture and tradition of Northeast India. at the same time, there are also influences from mainland India. In fact Northeast is a meeting point of two great traditions, India and South East Asia. However, the people in this region has unique identities and culture.

Culture is the integrated knowledge of tools including language. It is a compound of elements. Many anthropologists combined two words tribal (fixed entity) and culture (flux and changing). Tribal denotes the evolutionary stage of culture. This understanding is misplaced. Looking at the tribals of Northeast, they have already achieved a certain degree of development which is beyond the definition of tribal.

Speaking on performances, the issue is whether tribals follow the performances. He cited some case studies. Dance is a part of culture of some tribals in which they dress scantily. Killing buffalo in Nagaland by a tribe and claiming it is their tradition does not really reflect their present status. Attempt to restore to old ways of life cannot be successful. This may be assigned to integrated patterns of life. Further, combining of universal festivals with culture has been a problem. Even in this day of globalization and technology revolution, preserving one's culture and tradition has been difficulty. There has been efforts by many tribal bodies but he argues that one cannot be followed in toto, for example for marriages. So only the basics need to be followed.

Prof. M. C Arun Professor of Anthropology & Director, Centre for Manipur Studies, Manipur University and Dr. Romate John Head, Dept. of Psychology, Central University of Karnataka, Kalaburgi also presented papers during the session.

In the Session II of the Invited Talk titled, "Tribal Literature & Culture", Prof. Soyam Lokendrajit Singh, Department of Philosophy, Manipur University, Chaired the session. 2 (two) resource persons presented papers. Prof. W. Nabakumar Singh Department of Anthropology, Manipur University and Dr. Rinkahao Horam Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Modern College, Imphal, spoke on different aspects of ways of lives of the hill communities of Manipur.

Both speakers emphasized that oral tradition has been the time tested tools of not only narrating about incidents and events but also the most important tool of passing down and exchange of knowledge. Both speakers further remarked that although historians do not give room to the oral tradition nevertheless it has been the site of gaining knowledge about everything pertaining to tribal life by other discipline of social science. Therefore, oral tradition has to recorded and transmitted for the larger good of the society.

* Aheibam Koireng wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at akoireng(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on April 03, 2017.

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