The legacy of storytelling

Vishü Rita Krocha

In the absence of a written literature, Nagas have relied on the oral tradition of literature for many of its histories and culture. All our stories or whatever story that continues to exist today are outcomes of what have been orally passed down from generations to generations.

“Our ancestors were the storytellers in these hills of the Nagas, the ones who told immortal stories before they passed on, the faithful carriers of village history, of poems, songs…..The carriers of language and culture”, noted poet and writer, Dr. Easterine Kire had said during the opening of The White Owl Literature Festival, which was held recently. She had also remarked that, “we are simply trying to carry forward the legacy in a different medium.”

This is where “writing” as a form of storytelling also comes into the picture and one cannot emphasize enough how important it is that the young Naga society continues to preserve this legacy of storytelling. Especially considering that in the modern context of the Naga society, we no longer practice storytelling around the kitchen hearth, and in that sense, most of today’s generation will never know how it’s like to sit around the kitchen fireplace listening to grandparents narrate stories that are rooted in our very culture and tradition.

While this very experience may soon disappear altogether, perhaps, the only way we can salvage this precious legacy of storytelling is to preserve it in the written form. The writing culture in the state is still very young. But thanks to the pioneering efforts of our literary figures, the way has been paved. And now, we are also witness to very exciting times with a growing number of writers, some of whom have already proved themselves in the literary world.

But even as accomplished and established writers confess, writing is a solitary journey. That, “it is a difficult and a lonely profession that does not pay much and those who want to pursue it need to be prepared to do the hard work as well as depend on other sources to earn a livelihood besides writing” in the words of Jahnavi Barua stands true for most writers, who write with no other ulterior motive but only with a heart and passion for storytelling.

Needless to say, storytelling plays a crucial role in preserving one’s cultural heritage as it also ensures the continuity of cultural traditions and serves as a repository for traditions, beliefs, values, and history of any society. But ultimately, ensuring that we continue to keep the rich legacy of storytelling as far as the written word is concerned, the power lies within the community—a community that knows and understands the value of storytelling and more importantly, supports the art of it.

Because as David Barnett says, “The writer’s work might not really be a matter of life and death, but it surely enhances our lives in ways most of us often don’t consider. Value writing, and pay writers, what they’re worth. Which, when you really stop and think about it, is their weight in gold.”

This is a guest editorial by Vishü Rita Krocha. She is the Publisher of PenThrill Publication and a senior journalist based in Kohima.