And it is BEAUTIFUL!!!
Our small plane landed in Dimapur yesterday afternoon (which seems like a month ago) and drove directly to a press conference, where Brian and I were interviewed by reporters from the three largest newspapers in Nagaland. From there, Mele (sp?), our overly- generous host and new friend drove us straight up a massive Himalayan mountain--tall enough that the climate changed drastically in only 2 1/2 hours--to Kohima village. We went straight to Dream Cafe to install the exhibition, Parables for a Compassionate Revolution. Mele then drove us to "The Heritage, Old DC Bungalow on Officers Hill", which turned out to be an INCREDIBLY charming lodge at the very top of the mountain with 360 degree panoramic views (though we didn't know this until this morning as it was pitch black at the time) of the surrounding mountains and village. Theja's wife, Angel, made a delicious meal to welcome us to Nagaland and we all sat on the porch to exchange our life stories.
At this altitude, it qets very hot during the day and very cold at night. Our bedroom was freezing when we first entered! Within no time at all, Danzing (sp?) brought a space heater, more blankets, and built a fire in the room before we settled in for a jet-lag induced deep sleep.
This morning, we woke up early for the inauguration of the art exhibition. It was such a gift to walk outside--The view from the bungalow is breathtaking in all directions from the tip of our toes to the furthest horizon. In stark contrast to Kolkata, the air is clean here and the environment is infinitely larger than the population that inhabits it.
The The Commissioner and Secretary of Art & Culture for Nagaland attended the exhibition(that's a HUGE deal--he is the international liason for the Indian government) and gave a beautiful opening speech--one that I wish we had recorded! Regarding the exhibition, Brian said that he thought the installtion was my best so far. It didn't hurt that, due to the location of the building, you could see off of the cliff down Kohima Village and out to more mountains from every window.
After that, Mele drove us through Kohima to an elementary school, to the Nagaland Museum, and to the WWII cemetery. There, several groups of kids ranging from 4 years old to 12 years old asked if we could, one by one, take pictures with them. Upon leaving, they hugged us, waved, and blew kisses. After driving away, we got stuck in some traffic (minor compared to U.S. traffic) near the hedge that surrounded the cemetery. When we looked through the window, we suddenly saw a group of the kids hiding in the bushes. When we waved, they waved back enthusiastically, blew more kisses and continued to say "Bye! We love you!" They followed us behind the bushes until the traffic loosened up and we headed into town.
Now, Brian is taking a nap before we head back into the village to meet with a group of youth to talk about "art and social intervention", followed by a visit to the house of two, renowned local artists.
We have had many interesting conversations in the short time that we've been here. We've learned more about the pairs of men with machine guns on the streets. We've talked about the realities of whether or not our concerns regarding safety in Nagaland are founded. We've learned more about the 16 tribes that make up the region (our hosts are from the Angami tribe) and the hundreds of unique languages that are used through the villages (each tribe has several villages; each village often has its own language). We have learned how to say "How are you?" in the inter-tribal language but that's about it.
Tomorrow we're off for a 5 hour drive up further into the mountains to the University of Nagaland, where we will spend two days working with the students. Once there, will also have the opportunity to visit to a remote tribal (Ao?) region to see "what real village life is like".
Overall, we are VERY happy here and feel that it is a great privilege to be invited into a place where few Americans have been. It is a BEAUTIFUL region (a gross understatement) and our hosts have raised our definition of hospitality ten-fold. Brian took over 500 photographs today. We promise that we won't post all of them, but we thought that you might enjoy these!
More to come...