To view this PAPER PRESENTATION, search for the session title in the Browse by Titlelisting. (See the session title located immediately below ["In Session:"])
In Session: Document, Monument, Event: Contemporary Art and Visual Culture in India, 1991-2021
2: “I am a Naga and an artist:” Forms of Indigenous Art and Their Publics in Nagaland
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
Yale University, United States
Over six months between 2005-06, Lepden Jamir, the acclaimed artist from Nagaland, northeast India, produced a sculptural installation consisting of six wood-carved pillars at Mopungchuket in the Ao Naga district of Mokokchung. The public art project was commissioned by Nagaland’s state government, which was impressed by a pillar Jamir had created for the village in 1999-2000. The financial support reflected its investment in “art and culture” to boost regional tourism, which has been ongoing since the 1997 ceasefire agreement between the Indian state and Naga nationalists brought a decades long armed movement for political autonomy waged by the nationalists to a provisional halt. However, for Jamir and the villagers the creation process highlighted the uncertainties that characterized the relationship between human and non-human life. Jamir embraced them as his “history” as an artist, even as his reinterpretation of shared cultural forms and myths reanimated regional anxieties over the presence of spirits in the world. In this paper, I will highlight Jamir’s pillar project as critical to comprehend the distance that separates Indian discourses of “tribal” craft from their ever-changing lived realities in the predominantly Indigenous and Christian Nagaland. Moreover, I aim to show that the creation process and its reception showcases the re-worlding of Indigenous cultural practices and discourses about them in ways that challenge relegating the Indigenous present to an archaic past and/or a ruptured present, instead revealing an aesthetics of endurance and emergence that speaks to what Kajri Jain calls the “layered temporalities” of art in post-reform India.