Vaagri Presentation


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A Presentation made during the visit of Ms. Niyati Mehta, Programme Officer (Media and Arts) from the Sir Dorabji Tata and Allied Trusts to evaluate NFSC and its Tamilnadu Archive at Ashakulam in Villupuram district on April 12, 2010.

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Vaagri Presentation

  1. 1. Funded by the TATA Educational Trust
  2. 2. Traditionally, Vaagris are hunters, trappers, and fowlers. Currently, some have become vendors of glass bangles, beads and necklaces, needles, hair pins, kumkum [saffron], cosmetics, dolls, safety pins, combs and toys. Men use catapults, loaders, and portable snares for hunting birds and animals. Womenfolk show excellent skill in making colourful bead necklaces.
  3. 3. Being a nomadic community, the Narikuravas face extreme discrimination in society. They are labelled thieves and plunderers and are often not allowed to stay within villages and towns or sell their wares. Being extremely disjointed as a community has further weakened their voices against oppression. Their culture, though vibrant, is a constantly changing one, lacks any kind of documentation as does Vaagri-boli, their language.
  4. 4.  As a nomadic community, Narikuravas face extreme discrimination in society.  The Narikurava tribe in the state lack solidarity and are broken up into mutually opposing groups.  The fast evolving culture of this nomadic community lacks any kind of documentation.  Vaagri-Boli the language spoken by the community too, has not been studied or documented comprehensively
  5. 5. The need to integrate the community is of utmost importance. So is the importance of educating the common populace about the Narikuravas and their culture and tradition. The DCA intends to integrate the Narikuravar in the documentation process as participants, both as viewers and recorders, as well as potential communicators of their own for visual production across ethnic/social boundaries. This was in keeping with the realization that digital documentation would need innovative and participatory approaches.
  6. 6.  The Narikuruva Digital Community Archive [DCA] is located at Ashakulam in Villupuram [160kms away from Chennai]  We have collaborated with Prof. Bhakthavatsala Bharati, (Head, Department of Anthropology, Pondicherry Institute of Linguistics and Culture, Puducherry)  Our current staff at the archive are Lavanya, Veerappan, Raja and Latha.
  7. 7. As part of the digital archiving process, the staff has been consistently documenting and recording life cycle ceremonies such as:  Marriages  Birth ceremony  Death ceremony  Puberty attaining ceremony  Rituals of local goddesses like Kali, Mariamman etc
  8. 8.  We have been constantly documenting (through photographs, video and audio recordings) the culture and lore of the community  Currently our archive has: o 13,500 photographs o 220 hours video footage o 80 hours of voice recording o 1400 Vaagri words for Lexicon
  9. 9.  Following extensive fieldwork with the community, a documentary film, “Narikuravar” was produced by NFSC in 2009.  This movie which is now broadcasted on our new YouTube channel, serves as an introductory film to the community.
  10. 10. In 2009 we published “Vagri Material Culture” -a resource book for the Vaagri Community. The book comes through as a collaborative effort from Prof. Bhakthavatsala Bharathi, Ilavenil, a professional photographer, NFSC staff and the community members. Eight districts in Tamilnadu were surveyed and photographed according to anthropological categories to make this book which will serve as medium to bridge the gap between the Vaagris and the rest of the world.
  11. 11. Our second publication about the Vaagris, Gabriele Alex’s book “Learning and Embodying Caste, Class and Gender—Patterns of Childhood in Rural Tamil Nadu,” is based on ethnographic research carried out amongst children and youths.
  12. 12.  NFSC is documenting the vast knowledge that the Narikuravas have about wild herbs and medicinal plants.  In the first leg of this documentation, we have documented the medicinal knowledge of a settlement in Thirupathur, near Sivagangai in Tamil Nadu.  53 medicinal plants have been identified and documented. The documented footage will be disseminated to the community & thereafter we would help build networks to assist to market and sell these unique herbal preparations.
  13. 13. NFSC has entered into collaboration with Prof. G. Srinivasa Varma, a renowned linguist from Annamalai University, for the publication of a dictionary of Vaagri- boli. Even though Vaagri-Boli is considered a dialect of Gujarati, the syntax, grammar, lexical structure and grammatical structure have changed because of the heavy borrowing from other south-Indian languages and Marathi. A dictionary in Vaagri therefore would be a definite step forward in resource development for the community.
  14. 14. Apart from regular documentation done by fieldworkers, NFSC conducts programmes on a regular basis for the overall development of the Narikuravas. These programmes conducted in collaboration with like- minded institutions as well as enthusiastic individuals who have something to share with the community, come under the Civic Engagement Initiative of NFSC.
  15. 15. Young adults are being trained regularly by the NFSC staff in the use of various equipments for audio and visual documentation at the archive. This was in keeping with the realization that digital documentation would need innovative and participatory approaches.
  16. 16.  Prof. Peter Claus from California State University conducted a five-day workshop on documenting children’s games for students of Dakshinachitra, Chennai, at the Ashakulam settlement.  As part of her student internship at NFSC, Padini Nirmal, a research student from the US, spent two weeks in Ashakulam archive studying the Narikuravas.  Mr. M. Manivannan, NFSC, has been engaged in theatre workshops and games for children since August 2009.
  17. 17. The “Ashakulam Narikurava Skill Enhancement Programme” (ANSEP) was organized in 2009 in collaboration with Nirmala Shrethar and Ilangovan of ArtServ to train Vaagri women on bead making and marketing their new products to a wider market. Through this endeavour NFSC is trying to enhance the livelihood opportunities of Vaagri women for making beads according to modern day demands.
  18. 18. As a continuation to this initiative, a second workshop on bead making is being planned for this year. This time around NFSC will assist the Vaagri bead makers to avail loans for bead making and assist them to sell their beads to a larger market.
  19. 19. NFSC arranged a World Gypsy Music Concert at the Ashakulam settlement in Villupuram on April 14, 2009. The concert was performed by Gypsy musician Oliver Rajamani and his associates, Jobi, Steve Markham, Richard and Suresh from Texas, US. The concert was a huge hit with the Narikuravas, both children and elders.
  20. 20. The dissemination of “Vagri Material Culture” -The process of returning the publication to the community as a repository of their culture has also been undertaken. The field staff of NFSC took the publication to 38 Narikuravar settlements in Tamil Nadu and documented the community’s responses to the book.
  21. 21. NFSC organised a huge community gathering at Villupuram that brought together Vaagris from several districts to address their issues. This gathering saw a participation of around 400 people from Narikurava communities from all over Tamil Nadu, close to 80 NGOs working with the Narikuravas and also representation from the Narikurava Welfare Board. The gathering had many audio visual presentations on different issues concerning the Narikuravas.
  22. 22. NFSC has initiated the process of handing over the management of the archive to the Narikurava community itself. For this purpose a five-member citizen’s committee has been set up at Ashakulam. The committee meets weekly to review the functioning of the archive and make the necessary changes to ensure smooth functioning.
  23. 23. NATIONAL FOLKLORE SUPPORT CENTRE CHENNAI Presented By: Aakaash Nair, Programme Officer, NFSC © 2010