Archives of north-eastern, Tibetan tribes to be exhibited

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New Delhi, Oct 24 (IANS) An urge to document indigenous cultures before they slowly fade away was what spurred visits to Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Tibet by filmmaker-artist Anu Malhotra — who presented travel shows “Namaste India” and “Indian Holiday” in 90s — archival material from which will be on view here from Friday.

The exhibition, “Soul Survivors”, is a collation of photographs, documentaries and artefacts from Malhotra’s visits (2000-02) to three unique cultures of a region often dissociated from the ‘mainstream’.

These are: the Apatani people of Arunachal Pradesh, the Konyaks of Nagaland and the nomads of Tibet.

“I was filming travel shows around the country from the 90s, but at the turn of the millenial, I realised the country is changing so rapidly. So many of our vibrant, living traditions, and our wise, old ways of lifestyle, food, and more, was thrown out of the window,” the 57-year-old filmmaker told IANS.

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“I made it a personal mission to document things especially in the socio-cultural realm,” she said, adding that in just 17-18 years, her material has already become archival owing to sea changes in tribal lifestyles.

Her journeys, undertook for a 7-part documentary series “Tribal Wisdom”, took her to two of India’s remotest areas, to the adivasi tribes of the northeast India, starting 2000.

Her documentary “The Apatani of Arunachal Pradesh” was filmed in the villages around the state’s Ziro valley. Older women with nose plugs are a recurring subject of her photographs.

Malhotra, who found active physical lifestyles and their values of community living striking, also said she imbibed many of them, including the rootedness and belongingness a community brings.

For the next year, 2001, she was in Nagaland, exploring and documenting the Konyak culture and their head-hunting tradition — a warfare tool Malhotra said is fast disappearing.

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“The ancient Konyak traditions sensitised me to ways of marking identity that did not stem from material belongings. Once, the identities were etched on their very bodies; oral hygiene came from teeth blackened with soot, rites of passage like puberty and betrothal were marked by tattoos on the legs,” she had earlier said.

Another trip to the Tibetan plateau in 2002, brought home photographs of the nomadic communities of the land, who roam about freely with just a “bag of needments” but owning the infinite sky and land, she said.

The material, not just a visual spectacle in itself, also holds sociological value.

The exhibition will run from October 26-31 at the Bikaner House here.

–IANS

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