Ahuna Festival 2012, Zunheboto

Ahuna Festival 2012, Zunheboto (II)

So the turn-out at the Ahuna celebration in Zunheboto was small in comparison to the one in Dimapur, but here were some of the highlights of the cultural performances. I was a little disappointed that the organisers decided to make all 4 cultural troupes perform at the same time, so you’d have to rush from performance to performance, with no clear sense of what you were seeing if you didn’t already know what the troupes were doing (and also only if you were lucky enough to be able to enter the performance area – most of the spectators from the town had to sit at a distance).Thankfully, I was allowed into the performance area, and was already familiar with most of the performances because of the cultural documentation project.The villagers from Chishilimi perform the rain invocation ceremony called Tala Dala (or Dala Dala). According to them, they are the only Sumi village to perform this ceremony, which involves two rows of men taking turns to hit a raised mound of earth with long sticks. The action of hitting the mound is quite similar to the action of hitting the creeper called ayichi during community fishing (called ayichi küvvü).
Chishilimi villagers performing Tala Dala, Ahuna 2012, Zunheboto

In addition to the men hitting the raised mound with the sticks, others stand to the side pulling strips of bamboo (I think), while others swing bits of bamboo attached to a piece of string, all of which make a sort of buzzing noise, that I believe is supposed to ‘call the thunder’.

Chishilimi villagers performing Tala Dala, Ahuna 2012, ZunhebotoThey also performend hango leh, which is a song sung while sowing.
Chishilimi villagers performing Hango leh, Ahuna 2012, ZunhebotoThe men from the village of Khükiye-Lukhai did aphila kuwo, which is often mistranslated as a ‘war dance’, since it was never performed by warriors before they went off to battle, or by victorious warriors. It was simply a dance performed during festivals.
Khükiye-Lukhai villagers performing Aphila kuwo, Ahuna 2012, Zunheboto

The women from Khükiye-Lukhai performed thigha leh, a song sung while breaking up the soil with sticks, usually performed after hoeing (phushe) has been done.
Khükiye-Lukhai villagers performing Thigha leh, Ahuna 2012, Zunheboto

Some men from Zunheboto performed winnowing of the paddy. According to H.S. Rotokha, the proper way was to have one man waving the paddy sifter up and down (along the vertical axis), while another waved his from left to right (along the horizontal axis).
Paddy winnowing, Ahuna 2012, Zunheboto

And the women from Lazami village performed a thread spinning song called aye küzü, while ‘spinning’ thread from balls of harvested cotton.

Lazami villagers performing Aye küzü, Ahuna 2012, ZunhebotoLazami villagers performing Aye küzü, Ahuna 2012, ZunhebotoLazami villagers performing Aye küzü, Ahuna 2012, Zunheboto

They also demonstrated how fabric used to be dyed black and red (the most important Sumi colours). Here we have a pot of black dye.
Lazami villagers showcasing dye making, Ahuna 2012, Zunheboto

Here’s the red dye.
Lazami villagers showcasing dye making, Ahuna 2012, Zunheboto

The GB (at least I think he was the GB – someone can correct me on this) of Lazami village showed me the plant used to make the red dye, called aghüsa in Sumi.
Lazami GB showing me aghüsa, Ahuna 2012, Zunheboto

And here we have a close-up of the aghüsa plant.
Aghüsa (used for making red dyes), Ahuna 2012, Zunheboto

Alright, just one more post about Ahuna and I’m done!

Ahuna Festival 2012, Zunheboto (I)

I was in Zunheboto town all of last week for the Ahuna / Ahunah (post-harvest) festival, and to get some project work done. I’m still recovering from the trip back to Guwahati, but here’s a quick recap of last week’s events.Monday night, we had the premiere of the film The Silent Field, or Yenguyelei Qha in Sumi. It’s something that has come out of the cultural documentation project that Abokali and I have been working on the past 2 years with H.S. Rotokha and Pukhazhe Yepthomi. Most of the work on this film was done by Abokali and our wonderful video editor Vito Sumi (who had to work with most of our amateur footage), but I’ll get to that in another blog post. Just to be clear, it’s still a first edit that we were trying to rush for this year’s Ahuna festival, but we hope people still enjoyed it.Silent Field film screening, Zunheboto
From L to R: Me, H. S. Rotokha, Abokali Sumi, Pukhazhe Yepthomi.

Before I get into the cultural activities in my next post, I thought I’d just talk about the entrance to the festival ground.

The photos below [WARNING: some nudity] are of what I think was a modern take on an old tradition: the genna post. The word genna appears to come from the Angami kenna, which according to Hutton, in his book The Angami Nagas, translates as ‘prohibition’ (1921: 190), though the meaning of the term is quite broad and would deserve a blog post of its own. [Note that the Sumi equivalent is chine, presumably related to the Angami word, but with the initial velar stop palatalisating before the front vowel /i/.]

The post was erected at the entrance to the local ground, with the words sasüvi, meaning ‘welcome’ in Sumi.
Ahuna Festival 2012, Zunheboto

On the right side, we see the chief guests for all the various events this Ahuna festival. Since every single event needs its own chief guest, a very important part of modern Naga culture.
Ahuna Festival 2012, Zunheboto

And on the other side, we have pictures of the moon, sun, pieces of meat (steak actually), tiger, a pair of and a mithun head. Yes, disembodied breasts. I had to do a double take on that, especially given the highly conservative nature of Baptist Zunheboto.
Ahuna Festival 2012, Zunheboto

I have no idea who commissioned the post, but it does bear the elements of a traditional Sumi genna post. Of such posts, Hutton (in 1921) wrote:

Genna posts, whether the front centre post of the house or the forked posts set up outside it, are carved both in high relief and with incisions, the latter taking the form of horizontal lines, crosses, circles, or arcs, and used to fill in space not devoted to the serious carving, which generally consists of mithan heads more or less conventionalised, and highly conventional representations of the article of ceremonial dress known as “enemies’ teeth ” (aghühu). … The only living thing other than mithan which seems to be represented in Sema art is the bird, which is carved out of a piece of wood and fixed to a crossbar between the “snail-horns” of the house. … The sun and moon are also represented, usually as plain circles or concave discs, also breasts, singly, not in pairs, significant of success in love, and wooden dao slings. – The Sema Nagas (1921: 48)

I’m not sure if anyone was offended by them (I suspect some people might have been ), but as you can see, there was some cultural precedent for them, even badly photoshopped ones. Of course, it doesn’t completely match Hutton’s description, but I’m sure there were others types of genna posts that he didn’t get to document.

For most of the festival I was actually busy at the Sumi Cultural Association stall (since the members were busy with the main festival events.) We were selling DVDs of the film, as well as calendars for 2013.

Sumi Cultural Association stall, Ahuna Festival 2012, Zunheboto

The calendars (tsalaphi) are unique in that they are completely in Sumi, with short explanations about the Sumi names for the various months. They are also accompanied by photos depicting the traditional agricultural activities / events typically associated with each particular month.
Sumi Cultural Association stall, Ahuna Festival 2012, Zunheboto

Here’s our little (unofficial) calendar mascot. The girls helping us run the stall picked him up on the first day.
Sumi Cultural Association stall, Ahuna Festival 2012, Zunheboto

If you’re interested in purchasing a calendar and live in Zunheboto, you can contact the Sumi Cultural Association in Zunheboto town. Alternatively, we will be trying to make them available in Dimapur, and also at the Hornbill Festival in Kohima. More information to come.
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