Monday, December 05, 2022

Nagaland: Naga anthropologist moots bringing ancestral Naga remains

By Reyivolü Rhakho Updated: Aug 26, 2022 11:30 pm
Dolly Kikon delivering a lecture on “Journey from the heart: Naga repatriation and healing of the land” in Kohima on Friday. (EM Images)

Our Correspondent

Kohima, Aug. 26 (EMN): Anthropologist and author, Dolly Kikon, on Friday called upon the Naga people to join the journey in bringing back the ancestral human remains of the Nagas that are housed in the European museum to their land and people.

She was delivering a lecture on “Journey from the heart: Naga repatriation and healing of the land,” an initiative of The Morung Express held in Kohima on Friday.

Kikon, who teaches at the University of Melbourne, Australia, said, “This is a time of reckoning. I believe that the voices of the Naga people–young and old–will come together in this repatriation journey to reflect, dialogue, and initiate for the return of our Naga ancestral human remains”.

She recently stated that approximately 6466 items consisting of human remains and non-human remains are in the possession of Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

“The initiative to back the ancestral human remains was not about completing decolonisation. It is only the beginning of thinking together about how research, writing, and documenting are carried out with respect and accountability; actions and collaborations that shape a holistic intellectual indigenous knowledge system,” Kikon added.

“For decades, we have witnessed an unprecedented rate of unemployment, addiction, domestic abuse, mental health crisis, and school dropouts in our society. Today, we witness an increasing outmigration of Naga youths in the hospitality sector and professional fields across our homelands. The sorrow, anger, and frustration in the hearts of our young Nagas – the inheritors of our collective future-is not because there is no love in our hearts anymore for our people and our land,” she said.

According to her, those developments tell about a crisis–a deep structural violence–a culture of militarisation and impunity where the medium of communication was often a language of hurt and rage.

“We cannot aspire for a better future as a people when our existing culture is not a gift but a string of tattered dreams, heartbreaks, and hunger for our future generation,” Kikon added. 

As Naga people, Kikon felt that one must see the significance of the initiative for repatriation in the larger scheme of decolonisation and healing saying, “Our ancestors are done entertaining the world for more than a century, they are done being exotic show pieces and decorations on museum walls, they are done being misrepresented as primitives and savages.”

She added that Naga people have it in them to love and care for one another, to dream for a Naga future where they will cherish one another, respect their elders, and be responsible for the land and the forests ancestors walked, nurtured their bodies, and lived.

As Nagas continue to seek reconciliation and healing from a history of violence and militarisation, she stated that the unconditional return of the ancestors’ remains highly significant. The act of ‘bringing them home’ means they can be safely returned to their homeland. This undertaking is a profound collective act through which the Naga people will have an opportunity to heal and facilitate a dialogue to address a violent historical past and to mend broken relationships, Kikon said.

In her response to the lecturer, Dr. Vizovono Elizabeth, an independent researcher and freelance editor, observed that at a time when people are so divided by tribalism and petty politics, the moment has presented itself to the people to sit together, join hands and work together for the common good of all Nagas.

“A golden opportunity has been handed to us to take control of our own narrative, to write our own story and create the kind of history we want to leave behind as our legacy. The ball is in our court. We have been given centre stage”, she said and called upon all to unite as a people and rise up to the occasion.

In regard to the repatriation of human remains, she suggested that a possible way forward was to have a common place where all the Naga ancestral human remains are laid to rest in a way that is acceptable and honourable to all.

She also proposed building a state-of-the-art museum-cum-cultural research centre where all these precious objects and artefacts could be housed and continue to be displayed in the ancestral homeland. She further suggested roping in the state government’s support in funding the project and also proposed inclusion in the Framework Agreement with GOI since it is about the preservation of Naga cultural heritage.

She called upon the Naga people to unite in a community-driven initiative to bring about such historical changes.

By Reyivolü Rhakho Updated: Aug 26, 2022 11:30:17 pm