The ancient tribal cultures of India’s Arunachal Pradesh state are succumbing to the influences of the modern world. Moji Riba has devised an ambitious plan to involve young people in documenting the state’s beliefs and customs and help this rich culture to live on.
Arunachal Pradesh, which means “Land of the Rising Sun”, is a border state, home to some 26 indigenous tribes, and dozens of sub-tribes. Over centuries, the mountains – it is 96 per cent hill terrain – isolated these tribal communities, preserving their exceptionally diverse cultures with their distinctive religions, dances, songs and crafts.
I realized documentation is not enough and that we need to revitalize the traditions that are disappearing.
Over recent decades, however, modern communications, economic development and languages like Hindi and English, are all assisting in the erosion of traditions.
Moji Riba, who is a film-maker, has a long-term interest in cultural preservation. In 1997, he founded the Centre for Cultural Research and Documentation outside of Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal.
Part of his project has involved filming the life cycle of the indigenous tribes of Arunachal such as marriage and harvest rituals, oral traditions and myths. Riba is using many methods, including music, to interest young people in their heritage. “We visit schools; show the films we have shot; and have slide shows with pictures of the different indigenous tribes,” he says. Riba has been involved in making an album of songs in nine Arunachalee languages, in contemporary genres.
Tribes being documented by Arunachal Pradesh, Riba’s Centre for Cultural Research and Documentation