Longding town in Arunachal Pradesh

A UK-based researcher has come forward to digitally archive the folktales of Wancho tribe in Arunachal Pradesh’s remote Longding district.

The Assam Kaziranga University admissions

There is hardly any system to document the folklores of the tribe. Not just this tribe but most of the tribes in the Northeastern states don’t have a system of documenting the folktales.

Generation after generation these are verbally practised. Many are already extinct due to a lack of documentation.

Thanks to Tara Douglas, a cultural researcher and filmmaker from the United Kingdom who has spent over three years with community workers and the elders of the tribe to document the folktales and prepare the digital archive.

She even worked on the project during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the recommendation of Stephen Morey, a linguist specialized in the study and documentation of various languages of the region, Douglas also stored the Wancho folk tales in the Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC) – a digital record of some of the small cultures and languages of the world, reported Deccan Herald.

“The Wancho people have a rich tradition of oral stories, memories and songs. The knowledge of the ancestors that has accumulated over generations is the history of the cultural practices and rituals,” Douglas was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

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According to the researcher, the elders also have precise knowledge of livelihood practices, of plants, animals, the climate and geography. “It is the collective memories of the community. But the young generations now find no time to listen to the oral folktales and thus they are facing the threat of disappearance,” she further added.

The Wancho tribe, with a population of nearly 57,000 members, inhabit mostly the Longding district that borders Myanmar.

Douglas was introduced to the community when she first visited Kamhua Noknu village in 2019. Since then, she has been working with local project partners to record, translate and catalogue the material.

Jatwang Wangsa and Banwang Losu, two local teachers, who also run Wancho Literary Mission, helped Douglas by facilitating introductions to storytellers and in their translation into English.

“The archive will be expanded to include more stories from Kamhua Noknu and the neighbouring villages. The primary goal is to safely preserve material that would otherwise be lost,” she said.

Some of the Wancho elders, whom Douglas met and recorded their oral stories, are the late Ngamchai Wangsa and Nyemnoi Wangsa, Tangkaam Pheam, Wanjay Losu, Phawang Wangham, Gamlong Gampa, Wanghom Losu and Wanchan Losu from Kamhua Noknu, Chaidang Dangam from Nyinu and Ngompha Wangsa from Longkai village.

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