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Legacy Threads

Updated: Mar 20

In Northeast India, many communities have long relied on the oral transmission of traditions and stories, serving as a primary means of communication and cultural heritage. This reliance  on spoken narratives, as opposed to written or visual documentation, is a distinctive feature  that emphasizes the vital role of storytelling in passing down histories and legacies through  generations. Within this oral tradition, an intricate web of stories, ranging from mythical tales  to factual accounts, is interwoven, contributing significantly to the rich fabric of community  identity. 

While the early 1900s saw the use of photography as a documentation tool by foreign  researchers and anthropologists who visited our region, it was not until later in the 1930s that  individuals or organisations with a means of owning a camera embraced it for capturing special  events such as weddings, picnics, official functions, etc. These photographs often find a place  in our homes and offices, unwittingly holding a trove of historical significance within these  collections, shaping the communal history. Despite this visual documentation, reliance on oral  narratives continues, leading to a multitude of stories remaining concealed and unexplored  within the realms of collective memory and familial anecdotes.  

The challenge lies in recognizing and bringing to light these hidden narratives, ensuring that  the invaluable wealth of knowledge embedded in oral traditions and photographic evidence is  not only acknowledged but also celebrated beyond the confines of familial recollections. It is  a call to bridge the gap between the spoken and the visual, acknowledging both as indispensable  threads in the intricate fabric of Northeast India's cultural legacy. 

Legacy Threads is an exhibition that delves into the rich and compelling narratives of Northeast India's historical heritage by exploring family photo collections and community archives. It is held on the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th of March, 2024 at St Anthony's College Shillong. This  exhibition aims to explore the diverse and vibrant histories, traditions and identities embedded  in the hidden personal narratives captured within family collections and archives of various communities based in the Northeast region of India. By bringing together a collection of photographs, video and audio presentations, letters, documents, artefacts and stories, the exhibition provides  a nuanced glimpse into the familial, social and cultural dimensions of the communities that  call Northeast India home. 

The theme of the exhibition revolves around the concept of familial roots and the  inter-connectedness of personal histories and narratives within the larger cultural landscape of  Northeast India. By drawing on the intimate and personal nature of family photo collections and community archives, Legacy Threads seeks to celebrate the distinctiveness of each  family's journey while highlighting the shared threads that weave the region’s diverse  communities together. It strives to facilitate intergenerational dialogue, serving as a vital  platform for families and communities to share, reflect, and pass down the narratives of their  collective past. Through the intimate lens of family collections and community archives the  exhibition aims to create a space for dialogue, reflection, and celebration of our region’s hidden historical narratives. 

There are six participants at Legacy Threads, in addition to The Northeast India AV Archive which is the organising body. The Confluence Collective's exhibition is named the 'Living Room Studio' and displays typical valuables that are found in the living room of a household in Sikkim. Northeast Lightbox in collaboration with Tahireh Lal put up 'Magh', a gendered space to celebrate the efforts of the founding members of the Tezpur Mahila Samiti who paved the way for feminist ideals and pursuits in the region. The set-up has an immersive soundscape that mimics the first meeting of the Samiti. Ishi Place demonstrates a live game in which attendees can participate. The game explores the idea of 'home' in a simple yet profound manner.

NBBGC (Nar Bahadur Bhandari Government College) Sikkim is displaying a series of clan stories of the Lepcha indigenous community in Sikkim. TakeOne Nagaland is displaying the audiovisual oral history narratives of the individuals in Nagaland whose lives got entangled with the Second World War through the Battle of Kohima. Highland Group-This is Lamka is displaying pictures collected from around Churachandpur, all of which tell the most unique stories. The Northeast India AV Archive is displaying a collection of postcards printed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and photographs from a family collection contributed by the family of Kong Pearlymon Lyngdoh Lyngiong Ryntathiang and Bah Herman Manik Lyngdoh.

Legacy Threads remains an ongoing event, with workshops which are going to be conducted in the proceeding months of the year.


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