The Naga Scholars’ Association (NSA) in a press release has expressed profound sorrow and regret on the sad demise of the eminent and foremost Naga writer, visioner and leader, the beloved Professor Temsula Ao, on 9 October 2022 in Dimapur at the age of 80 years.
The release issued on Monday by NSA general secretary Elvina S. Amongla said that the demise of Professor Temsula Ao is an irreparable loss and that it is felt not only by her bereaved family and close associates but among the academic community in India and beyond. “In her passing away, we have lost a towering literary figure whose distinguished volumes of work exude exemplary testament to her enormously influential scholarship, brilliant forward-thinking mind, the storehouse of cultural archives, conscientious informant of the region, and selfless humanitarian services. One of the most prominent Naga writers, she played a pivotal role in bringing Naga writing into the mainstream, for which we remain immeasurably indebted to her. Indeed we have lost a most earnest and powerful voice, and with her departure, a huge void is created in the artistic, writing, and academic community; A flourishing era has come to an end,” grieved the release.
It further said, “An erudite scholar, well-known short story writer besides being a poet and novelist in English, and a zealous ethnographer from Nagaland, the quintessential Professor Ao was a pathbreaker whose presence in the writing world arguably brought Naga Writings and the North-East region on the literary map. The recipient of various prestigious awards: the Padma Shri (2007), the Governor’s Gold Medal from the Government of Meghalaya (2009), the Sahitya Award for English Writers (2013), and also other noteworthy awards, her works are widely read; and, is regarded as an important voice emerging from the North-East region. She had an illustrious career spanning 45 years of dedication as an excellent teacher and administrator who worked in various capacities from 1975 until her retirement in 2010: as Professor and as a Dean of the School of Humanities and Education at the North Eastern Hill University (NEHU); a Fulbright Fellow to the University of Minnesota (1985-1986); the Director of North East Zone Culture Centre (1992-1997), Dimapur on deputation from NEHU. She was a leading powerhouse who encouraged upcoming scholars to engage with an informed understanding of their cultural roots, heritage, and history alongside the commitment to give relevance to the social, cultural, and political reality at the helm of the modern Naga context.”
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Cherishing her life and paying homage to Professor Temsula Ao for her spirit of courage, honesty, humility, and the will to live life on her own terms, NSA furthermore said, “In a time when Naga writings were not regarded on equal footing with the mainstream sensibilities, Professor Ao broke this literary divide through her endearing writing while also speaking for/about the Northeast in the larger narrative, and the Nagas in particular. The sense of place and belonging; retelling the story from a vantage point as an articulate, educated Naga; the reminiscence of the past, oral tradition, and heritage; the persistence to memorialize the political and personal memory, trauma, and suffering at the backdrop of insurgency and political upheaval had delicately dwelt with respect, boldness, and moral responsibility- to ‘tell’ as they were but in her own sense of poetic justice and exuberance. Her seminal works include The Ao Naga Oral Tradition (2012), Once Upon a Life: Burnt Curry and Bloody Rags: a Memoir (2013), On Being a Naga (2014), Aosenla’s Story (2018), and the latest The Tombstone in my Garden: Stories from Nagaland (2022). Besides several volumes of poetry and books, the other two collections of short stories are These Hills Called Home (2006) and Laburnum for My Head (2009). The late Professor Ao’s dedication to writing with a purpose is commendable, and it must remain our collective conscious aspiration to carry forward her phenomenal legacy through critical engagement with her luminary body of works.”
NSA extended its heartfelt condolences and support to the near and dear ones of Professor Ao and prayed for comfort, strength, hope, and fortitude to the family in their moment of grief and suffering.