A grandmother’s tattoos, the advent of Christianity, stories woven into fabrics, a tradition of orality, the imposition of a “new” language, and a history of war and conflict—all of this and much more informs the writers and artists in this book. Filmmaker and writer Anungla Zoe Longkumer brings together, for the first time, a remarkable set of stories, poems, first-person narratives, and visuals that showcase the breadth of Naga women’s creative and literary expression. The essays are written in English, a language the Nagas—who had no tradition of written literature—made their own after the arrival of Christianity in the region during the nineteenth century. In The Many That I Am, each writer speaks of the many journeys women undertake to reclaim their pasts and understand their complex present.
About the Editor and authors:
Anungla Zoe Longkumer (Editor) can best be described as a free individual discovering her way through creative pursuits in music, writing, filmmaking, and folk traditions. She is the author of Folklore of Eastern Nagaland comprising of translations of folktales, folk songs and real-life accounts, collected from the six tribes who inhabit the more remote districts of Eastern Nagaland.
‘The Many That I Am: Writings from Nagaland’ is an anthology of writings from Nagaland focusing on the voices of women and is a must read for not only does it bring together a collection of genres from short stories to poems and slam poetry but also personal essays. By the end of reading this anthology, you cannot help but sense as if you have felt and understood in parts the socio cultural and political life of the Naga women, sometimes as victims, sometimes as survivors and sometimes as women who will also take advantage of the society around them.
This anthology gives a brief overview of the journey from the tribal ways of life to the push and pull that Naga society went through once Christianity came and took root, the subsequent upheavals brought about by militarization – first, being caught between the Japanese and Allied Forces during the Second World War and then the growing insurgency in the state due to various factors. The stories are not only powerfully narrated through the voices of women and keeping women at the center of things but also a nuanced and insightful commentary on the many paradox that women in Nagaland face: as peace keepers in the society when there is a looming threat of violence over a village on one hand and as silent victims of patriarchy and domestic violence within the homes; as a known woman political worker who has the agency to negotiate a Government service for a daughter but one who does not have the time or the inclination to listen to her own daughter’s voice.
There are also stories that focus on universal themes: of forgiveness, of the importance to reclaim one’s roots and the nature of violence and fear. Many of the poems are translations of Naga folk songs that will take you to a time that not many are familiar with.
At less than 200 pages, this anthology, which collates the work of 32 women authors and poets and artistes, is an important testament chronicling the pain of women being boxed in by society, husbands and family, the militancy and the security forces. I loved the way the anthology has been put together touching upon so many facets of life in Nagaland. I will strongly recommend ‘The Many Voices That I Am : Writings from Nagaland’ to lay readers and to those who are interested to read about the socio cultural history of Nagaland through its many women.