Rio inaugurates The White Owl Literature Festival
DIMAPUR — Highlighting the power of literature in uniting diverse communities, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio inaugurated The White Owl ‘Literature Festival and Book Fair’ at Plaza, Zone Niathu, Chümoukedima on Friday.
The theme for the two-day event, ‘Echoes of Narratives,’ resonates deeply with the literary heritage of Nagaland, he said, expressing hope that the event will be marked by “vibrant discussions, the sharing of knowledge and ideas, and an exchange of perspectives that will enrich our understanding of the pivotal role literature plays in the life of a community.”
Rio said that the collaboration between The White Owl, Penguin, and Cambridge University Press has given birth to a literature festival that marks a historic moment in northeast India.
In the context of Nagaland, he said that the Naga people’s cultural richness finds expression in both oral and written forms, with storytelling being a thread that weaves us into the tapestry of their origins.
The tradition of oral literature, manifested through folktales and songs, is a precious legacy that connects us to a time long before the written word emerged, Rio said, underscoring the imperative in cherishing and actively engaging in the preservation of oral literature.
“For it is through storytelling that we safeguard our cultural identity,” he added.
The chief minister hoped that the festival would serve as an inspiration for the young generation to read more, write more, and actively contribute to the documentation and preservation of their vibrant literary traditions.
“May a thriving reading culture emerge, one that recognizes the transformative power of literature in shaping our perceptions of the world, let us not merely extract information from books but also seek to understand and appreciate the diverse narratives that make up the fabric of our society,” he said.
Rio also acknowledged the Festival Director of The White Owl Literature Festival and proprietor of The White Owl Book Lounge, Viketuno Rio, stating that her pursuit of knowledge has contributed to nurturing a community of readers, writers, and thinkers who were fervent about influencing the world with wonderful literary concepts.
Rio mentioned that in the Naga way of life, history is passed down from one generation to the other through songs or narration of stories and in the last one or two decades, Nagaland has seen a significant rise in the number of published writers and authors. He said that ‘The White Owl Literature Festival and Book Fair’ is a giant leap towards pursuing policies that benefit avid and budding writers.
“This festival is not just an event; it is a bridge that connects us across cultures and generations, fostering a deeper appreciation for the written and spoken word,” he stated.
While acknowledging the great legacy left behind by the ancestors, Easterine Kire, a noted poet and author, said that the Naga ancestors were foremost storytellers who told immortal stories, faithful carriers of village histories, folk songs, languages, and culture.
The festival theme is a reminder that writers are “simply trying to carry forward legacy in a different medium,” she said.
Kire expressed concern about the current situation of stories being ‘weaponised, intellectualised, politicised to a horrifying degree,’ and encouraged the gathering to do something about this alarming trend.
Lamenting that book making in India has become more of an industry and publishing jargon has reduced books into commodities, Kire emphasised the need for balance in the act of publishing books. She also pointed out the importance for young people to talk about balancing the act of writing, as writing is a solitary life that is hard and brutal.
Kire said that while writing, there should not be any agenda, as it destroys and lessens the story. Similarly, she appealed to teachers not to have an agenda when guiding the students into reading but to trust in the student’s ability.
Sharing a message to all the indigenous communities, Kire encouraged them to value what they have and not to waste their time trying to fit in, but to shine and stand out, and value their originality.
“The story is a seed, the story is therapy, the story is hope, so write good stories and give hope and healing to your readers,” she urged the writers.