Kohima Vezoteu Doulo is a farmer in Phek district, Nagaland. She recently turned film maker to document traditional knowledge from her village. When she held the camera for the first time, she was scared. When she realized the power it gave her, a story unfurled.
Trained by the North East Network, Nagaland, Doulo began to document the traditional knowledge specifically held by women in the village. Documenting them gave her confidence. She began to recognize that when the community comes together, inclusive of women, the community progresses.
Amplifying the voices of indigenous peoples through the lens of women, the North East Network (NEN) commemorated the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9 by organizing a film festival cum workshop at the APO Building in Kohima.
The film festival showcased the work of a women-led Participatory Video (PV) project in Phek, Nagaland, where 15 women farmers video-documented the diverse issues in their farming communities and lands since 2014.
According to Seno Tsuhah, NEN, an objective of the film festival is to initiate conversations with diverse stakeholders, particularly the urban mass about the rich indigenous resources, knowledge systems and issues such as climate change and community’s adaptation strategies. This will help build collective awareness and inspire action.
Women are key
The keynote speech to be delivered by Monalisa Changkija, Editor & Publisher, Nagaland Page was presented by her daughter Tasungtetla Longkumer. Speaking on the theme, Changkija stated that “overall societal existence is incomplete without women.”
For Changkija, “Women are the lead players in this drama called life,” more so in “indigenous communities and societies like ours.”
“Today as we observe and celebrate indigenous peoples across the globe, our voices must be amplified through women’s lens because these are the only lens that gives the most rational and credible picture of how the most peripheralized half of the earth holds up the sky,” she remarked.
The first session discoursed on the ‘Inter-linkages between Climate Change and Biodiversity and its impact on livelihoods’ by Kenneth Pala, Senior Technical Advisor & Regional Coordinator, GIZ.
Filmmaking: Inspiring Action
A panel discussion was held in the second session on the topic- ‘Visibilising the Unheard- Indigenous Women Farmers in Media’ with Bano Haralu, Journalist and Environmentalist, as moderator. Speakers were Sesino Yhoshü, Filmmaker & Producer, Vezoteu Doulo, Farmer & Filmmaker, Kükünelü Shijoh, Farmer & Filmmaker, Tshenyilo-u Chirhah, PV Team, NEN and Vibi Yhokha, Journalist at The Morung Express.
“These films tell us the important role of women as history keepers. The lack of participation of indigenous women in Naga society is delinking us from our roots,” Haralu affirmed.
Sharing their experiences on filmmaking (in their own dialect), one Farmer & Filmmaker, Kükünelü Shijoh, said that she aims to reach out to urban masses to make them aware and understand the good practices and values of rural life. Expressing interest in educating the urban and to inspire action, Shijoh urged students attending the event to expand their intellect beyond the classroom with traditional knowledge and agricultural systems.
For young filmmaker Tshenyilo-u Chirhah, filmmaking is an important channel to bridge the gap between young and old. Sensing the urgency to document traditional knowledge that elders possess, Chirhah has helped document films like ‘The story of Cotton revival’, ‘Seed Guardian’, ‘Salt in my village.’
Chirhah, who also filmed ‘Millet-Securing livelihoods,’ along with Kewekhrozo Thopi and Vizoli Khamo, mentioned that she has witnessed a revival in the cultivation of millets after its documentation in Naga villages.
Although being young and a woman is a challenge, she believed in the power of films to initiate change.
First published by Morung Express