The South Asian Studies Council Colloquium presents
Akshaya Tankha, Postdoctoral Associate & Lecturer, SASC, Yale University:
“An Aesthetics of Endurance and Emergence: art, visual culture, and Indigenous presence in Nagaland, India.”
Register here. https://cutt.ly/SAApr15
In 2005, vilified by the Baptist residents of a village in Nagaland, India for making a sixteen feet high “pagan” statue that visualized an Indigenous lake spirit, the artist Lepden Jamir defended his wood-carved sculpture by exclaiming: “I am a Naga and an artist.” In 2007, an approximately thirty feet high stone column inscribed with the words “Nagas are not Indians” was erected on a highway outside another Naga village. When asked about its purpose, a regional political figure exclaimed that the monolith could not be considered a “project”. Rather, its political significance was tied to its role as a “post-death family practice”. These anecdotes hint at the contested publics that varied forms of art have engendered in Nagaland, an Indigenous and Christian state in northeast India that borders Myanmar since the 1997 ceasefire agreement between the Indian state and Naga nationalists brought decades long armed movement for Naga political autonomy to a provisional halt.
In this talk, I will argue that the tensions that animate the reconstitution of Indigenous cultural forms as sculpture, monument, and museum demonstrate that the contemporaneity of Indigenous art is tied to—rather than distant from—the ever-changing corporeality of Indigenous lifeworlds in contemporary South Asia. I will seek to challenge the popular and scholarly relegation of Indigenous art to an archaic past and/or a ruptured present by highlighting how art and visual culture in Nagaland’s post-ceasefire political field enacts an aesthetics of endurance and emergence that foregrounds the plural and layered temporality of art and the political significance of the aesthetic.