Cultural performances during the 7th North East Festival in New Delhi Credit: EastMojo image

Guwahati: The seventh edition of North East Festival concluded in New Delhi on Sunday evening with a pledge to save over 220 indigenous languages of Northeast region.

A symposium was organised at the festival to discuss the challenges for indigenous people of Northeast India and the importance of preserving and promoting the languages of the region. This comes after the United Nations declared 2019 as the Year of Indigenous Languages.

The discussions started with a special session on documentation of Sumi Naga language of Nagaland by Dr Hchishi Chishi, director, Indigenous Cultural Society. Sumi Naga, an endangered community is facing many challenges in documenting their language in the Roman script because their dialogue is from the Tibeto-Burman language family. Chishi feels the loss of a language means loss of culture as language is the first expression of one’s own community.

Designers showcasing their works during the 7th North East Festival

“We don’t have a script of our own. To fit into the pattern of Roman script, we find it very difficult. Lots of values formed in the oral narrative have been lost as the generation passes. Language is the first expression of a community. We have to preserve our own languages. Sumi tribe has more than 1,000 folk songs and folklores, which are the narrative of our own traditions. We are finding it difficult to get the right letter or word when it comes to Roman script,” said Dr Chishi.

He also listed out ways through which such indigenous languages can be preserved like: the need for children to interact in their native language in their elementary years and the need to aid scholarship on language policy and planning to witness a paradigm shift from monolingualism to multilingualism.

Dr Chishi added that schools and colleges should also teach community languages so that children should know about their culture.

Amity University associate professor Dr Walunir pointed out that westernisation is one of the main reasons behind the downfall of the community languages. “Indigenous language represents the variety and depth of a culture. Too much focus on western education has changed the scenario of local language in our country,” he said.

Dr Walunir suggested that initiatives should be taken to preserve indigenous language by organising cultural festivals and encouraging traditional wears in schools and colleges.

Besides the session on various tribal languages, the festival also honoured the three people – Robin Hibu, Kalyan Barooah and Temsutula Imsong from the region with the ‘North East Festival Recognition Award’ for their immense contribution in their respective fields of running an NGO, journalism and working for sustainable development respectively.

The third day of the festival also gave a platform to young writers and budding artists. Bleach Head band won the winner’s title in the Rock Battle whereas The Iyer Project and boyband Sweat Mint were the first and second runner-ups respectively.

The day came to an end with a performance by renowned singer and Assam’s musical sensation Papon. The Ae Humnava hitmaker set the stage on fire with his Bihu numbers, soft Assamese songs and Bollywood renditions.

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