Meghalayan Age – The Store at Rajiv Gandhi Handicrafts Bhawan presented ‘Maniani’ celebrating the art, crafts, film and food of Meghalaya’s Garo tribe on 8 April. ‘Maniani’ means celebration in Garo language.
Garo tribe is one of the three ancient hills of communities of Meghalaya. With a mix of Garo crafts, demonstration, film screening and panel discussion, ‘Manani’ is indeed a celebration.
In attendance were three Garo artists: Arak M Sangma – ceramic artist, Christine G Momin- multi disciplinary artist and Domnic M Sagma – film director.
The event was divided into two sessions: crafts process and demonstration, followed by film screening and panel discussion respectively.
The first half of the craft process and demonstration was led by Momin. She is an archive of tribal knowledge and living culture. Even the dress she wears represents who she is and the culture she is proud of. She started her journey of making handicrafts while in search of pots to nurture her bonsai. She couldn’t find them anywhere, which led her to experiment and make one for herself.
She now makes a wide variety of handicrafts, ornaments and other miniature forms of ‘gourds’ – traditional utensils. She was inspired by the bottle gourd found in most gardens. “Ever since the new convenient utensils like aluminium vessels came in, the need for ‘gourds’ was reduced. I had a fear in mind that our art and culture which largely depends on this for every festival and rituals will be lost. When I first had an opportunity to make something in clay it was gourd”, said Momin.
She introduced her crafts through a presentation later followed by a live demonstration.
Sangma is a ceramic artist who recreates his childhood memory of making bulls out of jackfruit leaves which were used to play among kids. He also creates other mixed media art on canvas. He tries to relive his memory and educate the coming generations on the cultural heritage and essence of Garo hills. With his inspiration from childhood bull, he creates terracotta bulls. He has been in this field for the past two years.
He also conducted a demonstration and interactive session among the attendees, engaging them to create bulls out of jackfruit leaves and clay.
The event was further followed by the screening of Ma’Ama, adjudged the best Garo film in 66th National Film Awards. It was directed by Dominic, who graduated from Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata.
“It is a very personal film, the title is a combination of two words ‘Ma’ meaning mother and ‘Ama’ meaning longing. It is my quest to know who my mother was, as I lost my mom at a young age and I was trying to understand who she was as a person”, said Domnic. As a filmmaker he feels that when people connect to his film, it is more important rather than recognition.
When asked about his inspiration behind film making he added that, “I come from a family of oral storytellers, since there is no Garo script I grew up listening to these. One of my cousins Francis introduced me to cinema with his small projector which he made out of a discarded film reel and flashlight. I didn’t even have a television experience before that. Directors like Anderi Tarkovsky, Bela Tarr are some of the filmmakers I look up to. And it’s not only filmmakers, poets, writers and it is the accumulation of all this that fits my style”.
While talking about the Garo culture and its current awareness now Domnic says, “I think culture always defines us who you are as a people, before joining film school my dream was to go to Bombay. After studying there for five years, I realised that I can go back home and tell a story about my place. I can show people what we have here, and I can still connect with the world”.
Currently he is working on his second project, which is being funded by French, Dutch and Chinese producers. The film will be screened again on 9 April 5 pm – 7.30 pm.