On our last evening in Kohima, Brian stayed back at the Heritage with the youth filmmakers from "The Headhunters" and the band members of "Off" while Mele, Kennay, Vickor, and I drove to a nearby village. As soon as we stepped out of the car, little heads began to pop up over walls and around stacks of wood. I turned to see that a small group of kids had already gathered and were slowly walking toward us. We handed out the Sponge Bob pencils and pencil sharpeners that we had brought from the States and our walk through the village turned into a small parade.
The village elders, already gathered around a fire, invited us to sit with them for a while. As we spoke (through Mele and Vickor's translations to and from Nagamese), I tried to grasp how it is possible that a language could not have a written form. Here was my process: Identify all of the reasons why you do write and then subtract those situations from your life. Add a much more social atmosphere (the tribe being an extension of your family) and a much less specialized one. Then, scale your world to the space that you can walk with your own feet. All of the people you needed to contact would be there in the course of the day.
This is one of the subjects that Vickor, a recent art school graduate (seen in the camouflage and beret at the fire), is addressing in his current work. The Nagas have no written history. Their stories have been passed down from one generation to the next through oral folklore. Vickor's new works aim to visually document this history through drawings and paintings. I had the opportunity to see the series in progress and the works are spectacular. As part of Vickor's project, he plans to live with each of the 16 tribes in 1-3 month blocks of time so that he can gather the specific stories from each region.