“Heta tangin...saw saw a lang
             Sawta tangin...hei hi a lang”

   - Early Zo poem

Translated, “From here...that can be seen. From there...this can be seen”.

Story of my life.

Some of my earliest memories of Shillong involve wanting to come to New Zealand. I do not know why, as this was in the days before we had a TV, and definitely much much before we had the Internet. I knew little of Maori, and even less about the stunning landscape. One association I made with New Zealand was the tins that Apu had, that used to hold milk powder, but now held sugar, bought monthly in 5 kg bags from the Army rations stores. Turned out that these were from Australia. Over the years, bits and pieces I heard about this land fascinated me, from the news piece about bungy jumping, or watching the Maori haka, even finding out that Sir Ed Hillary was from here. In the years I lived with Apu, he spoke once or twice about wanting to go to New Zealand. Then there was the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland, and the subsequent banning of all nuclear armed/powered vessels from New Zealand waters.

Interestingly enough, it was that last one that brought us here. When talk of studying/seeing the world came up, I had suggested Aotearoa New Zealand, but Dee thought it too far from home and family. One day though she saw a documentary on the banning of nuclear armed/powered vessels, and came home and told me we would be moving to Aotearoa New Zealand after all.

And what an adventure of the mind this has been. Scraping a little under the surface of Maori art, I’ve got more insight into my own tribal culture(s) than I’d have thought possible. I’ve been introduced to the whole world of Visual Culture, and think I may have finally found something that can keep me interested long enough to be able to get a degree in it. I’m dreaming of a chance to study the Visual Cultures of North East India in detail, particularly the Zo puan.

The fantastic libraries and the work with the RDA and a Special School have thrown up questions of access I had never thought of before. While I may not be able to contribute brilliantly to the world, surely I can help by helping provide access for people who might? I think back of the chap from Bihar who built a pirate radio station. He was obviously much smarter than the bureaucrats who shut him down. What could better access do to those of us impaired by a disabling society? I dream now of starting, not so much a library, but something that does what a library does- provide access.

The Lord of the Rings connections here are leading me down the trails of Myth and the creation of myths. First there was Tolkien and his Middle-Earth, created on the basis of Old English and Norse myths. Then were the movies based on the Lord of the Rings that have become as famous as the books, if not more. And now is another extension of that mythology being created- movie set tourism. Tourists are not visiting Matamata, they are visiting Hobitton. Not the Rangitata valley (Maori), or even Mount Sunday (European), but Edoras. And I cannot help but wonder: What myths have we lost? What myths are we creating?

And so it is, this far from home, that is what I see clearer. Just as this is what I saw when I was there.

Heta tangin...saw saw a lang
Sawta tanging...hei hi a lang


illusionaire said...

Whoah. Deep stuff, bro.

Calliopia said...

When I first heard about your NZ move, I was admittedly intrigued by your choice of countries but this post nicely explains everything. I had a penpal from Auckland when I was 11 and she told me a bit about the Maoris then. Always thought they were pretty similar to the Australian Aborigines but turns out the Maori culture is light years more sophisticated. What's with the Mizo puan? I'm planning a light blog post featuring Mizo puans myself.

feddabonn said...

@illus: bro i'm going to assume that means you like it, ey? grin.

@calli: interesting you brough up the aussie aborigines. while maori were more 'all round' sophisticated in their culture, the aboriginal understanding/concepts of art, spirituality and myth is stunningly complex. it is almost as if they *live in the spirit world.

while the zo/naga tribes seem to have largely benefitted from our contact with the british, the indigenous people in the settler countries (NZ, aussie, US and canada) seem mostly to have suffered, being reduced to the material and cultural poverty they are now trying so hard to beat.

would love to see your post on the puan. part of my obsession might be because the puan seems the most consistent and continuous expression of mizo artistry. would love to see your post on the puan!

Blind Dayze said...


what about the 'Gents' puan? i'm waiting to see one of the Mizo [rock] bands out there follow the lead of Jonanthan Davis [used to wear a kilt onstage for some shows..]
inspiring Radio story up there... wonder if his station still up on air..

Pearl said...

Funnily this piece had me thinking of a chapter in my second grade english class (with Goldsmith sir)about a frog from Osaka and another from else where. I never understood it so i did a search with what I remembered (osaka frog with eyes on top of their head) and this was what I found Any interpretations?

feddabonn said...

@blind: 've tried wearing a puan over jeans back in shillong. i thought it looked quite nice, though i doubt i'd dare do it now, lol.

i believe the babus shut down raghav FM, but have since heard that there are a whole lot of these pirate radio stations in bihar now. hopefully the BBC will NOT write about them and bring them to the govt's attention.

@pearl: i do wonder what happened to goldsmith. brilliant, wasn't he!

i guess the story is about being happy staying at home? or maybe pointing out that frogs eyes are far back in their heads. even pointing out that osaka and kyoto don't look that different? lol. pick a strand you like...