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Rediscovering Misings through Ethnique Fest

By Fr. K.A. Thomas, sdb
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Dimapur, Jan. 13. A three day food-music-culture fest that came to an emotional finale on 5th January 2014 at 10 pm, was the biggest event in the calendar of the Institution for Culture And Rural Development (I-CARD), Jorhat.  Christened as Ethnique, the fest drew the high and low to a once insignificant hamlet, Baghchung, adjoining Jorhat town from 4th to 5th January.
The campus of Life Plus jammed with the sounds of drums and cymbals, the music of the traditional Mising Oi Ni:tom and modern songs and the dramatization of street plays, while nimble feet of young men and women went tap-tap as they danced the Gumrag, Selloya, Lereli, MIbu Dagnam, or as they enacted the Dobur, Midang marriage rituals and the Ali A:ye L�gang, from 3rd January till 5th January.

The entire 2.5 acre festival ground came alive simultaneously, with different performances in 13 venues. The campus itself was a step ahead of previous years. There one saw the ritual pillar depicting dobur, dodgang, mibu dagnam and liggod, leading on to the Mising religion symbol Karsing Karteng, a combination of concepts created by Fr. Thomas Kalapurackal SDB, the director of I-CARD, where one can see the donyi-po:lo (sun and moon), stars and Meram fireplace.

Adding to the novelty and attractions of the festival in 2014 was an ethnic fashion show, a bullock cart ride and an opportunity to picture oneself with one's partner in Mising attire. The food court was again a feast both to the eyes and to taste buds, with 16 unique dishes, mostly developed by the i_CARD chef team. On the other side was a line of exhibits selling Naga, Mising and Assamese costumes, as well as a variety store which was permanently crowded with women of all ages. The local Assamese ladies too made a few bucks offering home made delicacies.

In addition to the fox and monkey folk tale enacted by the young volunteers, one of I-CARD's unique shows over the years has been the street play. This year's theme was 'Daini' or witch hunting, a vexing problem in certain Mising villages in recent years.
As if dances, music and campus layout were not sufficient to make the Ethnique a No. 1 Tourism festival of Jorhat, I-CARD sprang another surprise during this Ethnique 14 with its fabulous collection of artifacts, a prelude to the forthcoming full fledged museum, another platform for research about the Mising tribe.

A video show was also being screened in the same hall, all through the festival. The photos and videos proved sufficiently why the outside world needs to engage with the Mising tribe.

On 4th and 5th January local music and dance groups performed, showcasing songs, dances, recitations, and classical music, from Assam and other North Eastern states of the country.

The ethnique fest is a rediscovery of sorts. The dances, songs and folktales fast receding into oblivion are captured by I-CARD, refined, researched into and given back to the villages through school dropouts and members of Young Misings Association.

In the past 12 years, I-CARD has trained 225 young dropouts to become cultural ambassadors and agents of social change. They now collaborate with I-CARD in its social ventures. Ethnique fest is therefore a giant step in the empowerment of dropouts and unemployed youth. They are the warp and web of ethnique. Discovering the talents and capabilities of village youth are other jewels in the crown of I-CARD.


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