Curtains fall on 24th Hornbill Festival
KOHIMA — Curtains to the 10-day long Hornbill Festival were drawn on Sunday with thousands of visitors, artistes and honoured guests, taking part in the ‘unity dance’ around the bonfire at Naga Heritage Village, Kisama.
This year’s edition witnessed an array of cultural and contemporary performances from the 18 tribes of Nagaland, prominent artistes, bands and groups from across the state, India and the world, among many other activities.
For the 2023 edition, Nagaland government had also “partnered” with countries including of Colombia, United States of America, Germany and the neighbouring state of Assam.
United States Consul General Melinda Pavek and British Deputy High Commissioner Dr. Andrew Fleming, the honoured guests in the closing ceremony, addressed the gathering.
Ensure each person’s inalienable human rights — Pavek
Pavek said that the Hornbill Festival is one of the first festivals in India and North East to have included representatives from the US tribal nations as performers. Expressing hope that this participation would not be the last, the Consul General stated that, “The bonds of our people, in pursuit of peace and prosperity, for the betterment of our planet, grow stronger each and every day as we build these connections through events like this.”
She also noted that the closing day coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, according to her, is the “most ground breaking global pledges.” Pavek observed that the document remains an aspiration in many ways, and “efforts to live up to its full potential are inherent in our values, as people, as communities, as tribes, and as nations.”
The Hornbill Festival which represents the 18 tribes of Nagaland together, in partnership, is a way of preserving the unique cultures that make this state special, which is why it is important to ensure each person’s inalienable human rights, she added.
Pavek also reminded that with those rights also come responsibilities including voting for good governance, supporting the rule of law, and the human right to freedom of expression which brings with it the responsibility to advocate for advancement and improvements in society without hatred against specific people or groups.
“This is increasingly challenging in a world where we spend more time on social media than we do talking to our neighbours and members of our communities who are from other backgrounds. Which makes this festival extra special,” she remarked.
The Consul General, who was accompanied by two representatives from three great Native American communities, also acknowledged that the United States, “Made many mistakes in our treatment of our tribal communities. Today, tribal nations in the United States still face many barriers to fully exercise their inherent sovereignty, especially in federal funding programmes.”
In this context, she informed that on Dec. 6, as part of the White House Tribal Nations Summit, US President Joe Biden signed a historic executive order to ensure that Tribal Nations have greater autonomy over how they invest federal funding. The order affirmed that tribal self-governance is about the fundamental right of a people to determine their own destiny and to prosper and flourish on their own, she maintained.
Keen to engage more deeply with Nagaland — Fleming
British Deputy High Commissioner Dr. Andrew Fleming said the United Kingdom is “very keen” to engage with Nagaland in different sectors and assured further deliberations on it.
He said the UK is “very keen to engage more deeply with Nagaland not just culturally but in different sectors including potentially horticulture, healthcare, skills training and education. We need to explore more.”
Assuring that he and his team would return soon for further discussions on those aspects, Dr. Fleming added that the UK is also keen to explore the visitor economy, keeping in mind the huge tourism potential in states like Nagaland.
Just as the UK government had worked to map the creative economy around Durga Puja, he hoped that UK can work with the Nagaland government to map the Hornbill Festival in a similar way for the benefit of the people.
The UK and Nagaland also share a love for music and the musicians have collaborated in past Hornbill Festivals under the auspices of the British Council, Dr. Fleming said.
Expressing admiration for the “absolutely immense” talent of the Naga artistes, the diplomat expressed hope that collaborations between the Nagas and young British young musicians can collaborate for future editions of the festival.
He felt that the Hornbill Festival is truly admirable and acknowledged the amount of hard work, preparation and coordination among the people of the state to have successfully organised the event.
Minister for Tourism and Higher Education, Temjen Imna Along, said the Hornbill Festival is an exceptional celebration of Naga heritage that symbolises unity.
He said that the festival is a platform for exchange of knowledge and an experience of unity in diversity.
To the tourists, he said they may have arrived as strangers but now depart as friends, and urged them to be ambassadors of Nagaland.
Explaining the significance of Hornbill Festival and the bird hornbill, he said that the bird mirrors the essence of the Naga people, and conversely, among all birds, the Naga people resonate with the hornbill.
The stories of hornbills spoken in folklore depict faithfulness, commitment, and unity and the Hornbill Festival aligns with the Naga people’s celebration of these same values, and the concept of looking out for one another, he maintained.