Nagaland State level workshop on Ethnography and Visual documentation

Cultural heritage is a unique expression of human achievement and since this cultural heritage is continuously at risk, documenta­tion is one of the principal ways available to give meaning, understanding, definition and recognition of the values of the cultural heritage.

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A three-day State level workshop on Ethnography and Visual documentation under the theme ‘Techniques of Visual Imagery’ was organized by the Department of Anthropology, Kohima Science College, Jotsoma from December 3 to 5, 2020. The workshop was sponsored by the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development (RGNIYD), Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.

The workshop was organised keeping in mind the need to educate and equip the younger generation with certain skill sets on the subject of Ethnography and the various technical aspects related with visual documentation which is a vital part of Ethnography. Cultural heritage is a unique expression of human achievement and since this cultural heritage is continuously at risk, documenta­tion is one of the principal ways available to give meaning, understanding, definition and recognition of the values of the cultural heritage. Since the advent of modern photographic technology (still and moving), the use of visual methods for anthropologi­cal documentation and inquiry has been an integral part of the discipline. Visual anthropology, whether photographed, taped, filmed, or written, is a method of observation, but more important, it is a means for developing questions and analyz­ing data in all its subfields. Ethnographic documentation is relevant because it focuses on investing in an effort to preserve cultures especially those in danger of disappearing. The workshop aims at acquainting the participants with theory on visual ethnography and its methods as well as the practice of filmmaking and photogra­phy.

The three-day State Level Workshop kicked off on December 3, 2020 with a short inaugural programme which was chaired by Moasangla Jamir, Convener and HoD of the Department of Anthropology, Kohima Science College, Jotsoma.  Dr. Lily Sema, Principal of Kohima Science College (Autonomous), Jotsoma delivered the welcome address, followed by the keynote address by Dr. I. Anungla Aier  (Rtd) Director, Higher Education. Dr. Aier in her keynote address stated that the strength of Ethnography lies in the use of more than one method where photography, motion pictures, sketches and art are used to capture the social realities of people. She stressed that ethnography and visual documentation can collaborate actively for the better transmission of knowledge and practical solutions to modern social issues. Prof. Sibnath Deb, Director (RGNIYD), Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of India delivered the inaugural address live from Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. In his address, he extolled the Department of Anthropology for coming forward with the innovative theme of the workshop and acknowledged the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government  of India for sponsoring the  three day State Level Workshop.

The resource persons for the workshop were Kivini Shohe (filmmaker), Sophy Lasuh Kesiezie (filmmaker), Kekhriezhazo Miachieo (freelance photographer and part time filmmaker) and Thejanguzo Titus Pienyü (freelance filmmaker and storyteller)- all accomplished personalities in different areas of visual imagery and well-recognized for their works.

The workshop was conducted putting much emphasis on the technical aspects of visual documentation and the resource persons delved into great details regarding a number of important subjects namely aspects of documentaries, visual ethnography, photography and cinematography. The technical sessions were very educative and beneficial for the 62 participants, representing different colleges, universities and freelancers, who attended the workshop with great interest and actively participated in all the activities throughout the three day workshop. The entire workshop was monitored live from RGNIYD, Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.

On the third and final day of the workshop, respective group projects were screened and displayed in the last technical session. The workshop concluded with a valedictory session chaired by Kevilhuninuo Nagi, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology. The valedictory address was delivered by Dr.Vasanthi Rajendran, Professor Training, RGNIYD,  live from Tamil Nadu. She lauded Kohima Science College, Jotsoma and the Dept of Anthropology, KSCJ for successfully organizing the workshop. She was very appreciative of the fact that the workshop was conducted by resource persons from the state itself, each of whom were experts in their field. The valedictory session officially ended with the vote of thanks by Dr.David Tetso , Assistant Professor , Dept. of Anthropology. 

The three-day State Level workshop on ethnography and visual documentation may have been a new concept to many in the State but one cannot deny its importance and relevance in today’s modern world with so much technological advancement. The value of images in research processes is rooted in its permeated role in our imaginations, technologies, texts, and conversations and more directly in how they inform individuals’ personalities, narratives, lifestyles, cultures, and societies. In research, images inspire conversations which at the same time may evoke the memory of experiences that are an inevitable part of the environments where we live and where we do research. Visual ethnography is a research methodology and describes photography, drawing, film, and web-based media as methods of data gathering.

Visual ethnography is not understood as a method, but rather, a methodology. On this account, photography, drawings, films, and web-based media are tools through which the ethnographer can encounter other individuals’ worlds. In the particular case of educational ethnography, the worlds and voices of the students, teachers, administrators and community members deserve not only to be heard but also their significance should encourage researchers to turn their attention to look for ways to capture participants’ deepest beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.


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