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Benjamin Gondaimei: Debate on Cultural disintegration of the Zeliangrong

Since i was born, i was wrapped up in a cloth made out of tribal weaving, and as i grow up, i started pulling up huge-huge Shawl especially in winter to keep myself warm, but that was soon replaced by jacket designed in better shape to hold firm and warm me from cold. Moreover our elders on any occasions would call us to dance and we continue to go practising our tribal dances. But later, it was taken over by Break-Dance, Ball-Dance, Couple Dance etc-etc, hardly in the villages i rarely find youths and young people getting involved in the traditional/cultural factor. Now many of us do not know (including me) how to dance, and sing our folk songs.
Our Grandpas and Grandmas were excellent in weaving basket and craft-making, but now i hardly see people getting involved in the self-employing matters. My eldest sister and my Ma was an excellent weavers, but, now the coming up ladies and lad knows or do not know what is weaving and what is sewing of our own traditional attires. There are many things to ponder on…but what i am trying to say is; what can be the causes, in the process of dwindling our cultural integrity/dignity, and what would be the remedy..??
• Comments
Lumpiulung Kamson That’s cultural invasion…we were the victims.
Resurgence is on the way but if educated people do not involve we are still be on the back foot….As for baskets/clothes/attires of ours, professionalism is required. nowadays, u don’t have time to train all the girls in the family say for weaving, time had changed but market them properly once you have the products..
I believe some stalls of cultural items will put up in the upcoming AZSU conference for e.g…Let’s buy them. Money isn’t the issue but the brand value is….Let Bro Amstong Pame or Sister Gaina Kamei or any smart and good looking be the brand ambassadors (speaking my minds out!)
Jonah Kamei good topic. This is specially we Christian only, who made losing our culture and traditional. I Never forget the past incident that happened, exactly i forget the year , at around 1995 only one of the most important traditional festival called NANU at Khoupum ( all villages celebrated in same day given a fixed date by village elders ). At that time culture and traditional etc are well maintained and practice. At that day the so called NSCN(IM) group came to our khoupum valley and bandh the traditional festival. House to house, door to door entering and destroyed all the traditional items. The important rice bear made for the festival was flooded in the rooms and kitchens. Many-many harassment had been done at that day to our lovely village elders at KHANGCHU (Morung). More than thousand of thousand worth rupees r lost. At that time Christians are the main supporters of NSCN (IM)-Nagaland for Christ… ‎@ the khoupum incident no Christian forum or village churches interfered in bringing justice. I saw with my own eye; they forcefully made them to kneel down (the elders and NANU family members) to drink all the rice bear which is flooded in the floor, beating them blue and black. During last month election i went home and asked the cultural items to preserve it to some of the village elders the same story came over again- all important custom and traditional items are already destroyed nothing available now. very sad…..
Gainithoi Gonmei Cultural awakening or revival is the need of the hour. Detaching from the cultural activities by our people will only leads to cultural suicide and finally we will be known as a lost people. We must reassert our customs and traditional values which are the only identity and we which can be made distinction from others race. Culture is our identity so we must preserved it.
Rampau Michui Cultural revival will take more than a wish. It will require the political will of those who occupy political position. There must be a concerted efforts on the part of intellectual to preach our cultural sermon rigorously. In fact today no product will flourish without market and without money coming from the market no industry can be kept alive. If we revive our culture just for the heck of it it will be like repairing a dilapidated house drinking a lot of resources without a glow coming out of it. What we need is a cultural industry. Think of the Western Culture, Hollywood promotes it. Indian Culture Bollywood promotes it, Meitei culture, meitei film industry promotes it. In order to produce culture we need more than talking about folk song and stories or the traditional way of weaving. We need our present stories, present fashion, present gourmets, present ideology, present consciousness be written in books, recorded in songs, produce in movies, sold in the market take the profit and bounce back with a new product totally our product in our language in our homes.
But when it comes to implementing or making it a reality, we need an organised intelligentsia to draft our route to begin with. Unless there is a conscious collective revival movement of culture, someone doing somewhere will die with the death of the person doing the thing…either dance, or rice bear, weaving etc.
Kasumpou Gonmei the causes of losing our culture are Globalization, education, mass media, christianity in short. We have to conscientize our people first by imparting our identity of who we are through seminars and consultations. Unless we do this it is hard for us to rebuild our lost culture.
Gaikhuanlung Gangmei One thing we can maintain our cultural item is Khangchiu & Liuchiu. It is social organization like club. We can have two three Khangchiu/Liuchiu in a village. Change is necessary since situation changed, but we can maintain the name and the form. Christian society also have chabamvlu swmei; but they don`t want to use this cultural name, in stead English name social gathering. ——–About compilation of traditional song, Brother Ragongning Gangmei published quite a thick book. That must have almost all the songs.

Benjamin Gondaimei There will be a time when we have Cultural Dance and Folk music teachers in our School and colleges, all the students will be required to learn and will be compulsory. To introduce our Local (ZLR) Cultural studies programme in the school Syllabus, in our ZLR areas.

(Example) Starting from Class IV-X, One subject each in a year, and school can also deal it with the said subject, how to implicate them in our society.
I guess every one of us knows how to lead a March-Pass or go parading in the 15 Aug. or in 26 Jan (republic day). Like-wise, our Cultural Programme should also be made inevitable.
Langs Gonmei ‎……there are many ZLR NGO’s established with a motive to ZLR culture. They are good for minting money. May in the near future, we will have ZLR dance academy… and so on. Christians are also to blame for this state, we have been demonising our art and culture by vehemently repudiating. We need to de-paganised and de-demonised. I agree with Gondaimei idea of incorporating in syllabus, but as an elective. We can have different course on folk dance and music of different genre. I’d love to try drums and of course lamluan lu. Private run schools have certain amount of autonomy in deciding the curriculum. we can easily incorporate, if we have will and determination to do. Catholic run schools are very good in enculturation. Kudos to them for enlightening us. ….many of us think that we have apostasized by dancing and singing cultural/traditional. Woe unto them for their naiveness.
Shingsing Golmei With malice towards none!!!
Well, coming to Benjamin’s question..to begin with, we, the followers of our indigenous religion believe that culture n religion r inseparable. And our culture is enriched by the observance of festivals, which in turn is associated with religious activities. For us, without these religious activities n rituals, the observance of all these festivals become meaningless. Every year, we observe a number of festivals but we see the dwindling of our rich culture due to lack of initiative/interest, where only the followers of TRC r left with the task of promoting it. Most of the rest r happy taking the neutral role. For them, cultural items like costumes, dances, musical instruments r given up except as show pieces during meetings/conferences etc. Somebody had mentioned somewhere already, but i would mention again, how our ppl who converted to another religion sold/burnt off all invaluable cultural items like costumes, tadan-tu, nthi-nai, simiu etc. Happened with some of my near ones too. Also for them, singing traditional songs n dancing our folk dances r things of the past. Until…..
I remember, years back, a theologian who came to learn our folk dance from my village coz the first time he went abroad, he was asked to show his cultural dance n he dint know how to. Coming to basket-weaving n crafts, yeah, it’s very true that nowadays, it’s hard to find ppl who can do it…even in my village, only maybe 2 elders knows the craft. That’s y, this time when i went home, me n my sister planned to have a workshop, inviting all youngsters to come n learn from my uncle. However, it dint materialise this time due to time constraints n other factors. The idea of the workshop came to me when, last yr, a TRC follower died n for the burial, we needed some baskets to put in the food, drinks, dao, spear etc, to be buried along with the dead ( for his journey into the ‘other’ world). That time, my uncle who knew how to weave them had gone to Tml, so we approached another elder(christian) for it. But he declined saying that “nangniu kachap tatmeithe tu ethei, heikummei teini phaithai ninade”.Somehow, somebody got it done. As for weaving our traditional costumes, m like nearly zero at it n m not proud of that but my mom is continuously into it…i wish i knew how to too…
So,according to me, all of us, both christians n TRC r to be blamed for the dwindle. TRC, for not being enthusiastic enuff to promote it n for some of the followers having the wrong notion that festivals r only for merry-making. Many of the youths n even elders today do not know whats Lamluan Luh, Kalaam Luh, Taraang Luh, Kailong Pat Luh,Chabam/Pajei Luh, BaanGeiluh etc…n my appreciation goes to those who took the effort to preserve n record our folk songs, rituals on cds, books etc.
Gairiangmei M Naga bro Benjee, I am glad to see all the comments. Yes our cultural/traditional attire is under threat, almost down/wipe out but is still not destroyed. Thanks to all the strong headed-protectors, there I am also one of the members of promoters and preservers. Fortunately, at the age of 15 to 18 (yrs), I used to participate in the cultural programme and actively dance with my seniors: gaan-laam, leangdai-laam, tareang-laam, seem-laam, laotai-laam, khuaiguna-laam etc. I used to sing-songs: kailuan-ruanlu, lamruanlu, luluang etc, after coming here in Delhi no time to practice so forgotten almost all, but my spirit is still burning inside. In 2004, I was the Chairman of Gaan-Ngai Celebration Committee,Delhi. Theme: “zlr culture at the crossroad”. The main purpose of the celebration was to protect, promote & preserve our culture & tradition at the same time reaching out to the world. With the cooperation from all our zlr, non-zlr brothers and sisters from not only Delhi and NCR areas but also from well wishers: MPs, dignitaries, media persons from Delhi, Manipur and Nagaland, the programme was a grand success. In 2010, I went to my home town for vacation, I had contact many elders and encouraged them to start practice, and collect traditional songs. I have fixed the time/dateline to collect all the songs and their write-up by April 2012. In this way I am trying my level best to collect songs from village elders. Hope, my little effort may be a treasure in the days to come. OUR CULTURE, OUR LIFE, long live zlr culture.

Benjamin Gondaimei can be reached at bgondaimei(at)gmail(dot)com

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