Tamenglong: Story of Guru Kentaliu of Tamei

FOR SOME people, culture is a fate, while there are many who treat it as a project. Whatever may be the case, and for various reasons, ‘cultural movements’ (some people call them that way) have been gaining traction in various ways with time. Intense ‘cultural campaigns’ are also nudged by cultural dissonances prevalent in the society today. As such, it has always been quite a challenge for those ‘cultural campaigners’ throughout.

Meanwhile, there are signs to assume that to be “cultural beings” has become the ideology for many people. This is likely to connote that the ‘cultural differences’ are bound to be there. If such is an assumed scenario, ‘sane’ trajectories of ‘cultural movements’ are extremely prudent. This speaks that people behind the ‘campaigns’ or ‘promotions’ need to consider many angles and dynamics. This is also to say that simply any Tom, Dick and Harry cannot risk the society by taking the responsibility of such ‘campaigns’.

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Coming to our society, there are votaries of culture who are doing appreciable jobs. They are appreciable because they do things by diligently navigating the labyrinth of issues and troubles keeping the sensitive nature of the society in mind. When it comes to this area, Guru Kentaliu Newmei fits the bill to be highlighted.

Born in 1964 at Nkou village of Tamei sub-division, Tamenglong district, Manipur, Kentaliu Newmei, a graduate from Manipur University, has been one of the steadfast votaries of ‘culture’.

Kentaliu has come a long way. She received the Guru title under Guru Shishya Parampara Scheme by North East Zone Cultural Centre (NEZCC-2019). She was also awarded the state Kala Academy Award (2020) for ‘Tribal Culture’. Kentaliu has also written a book entitled ‘Tahlung’ which was published in 2018. It is a well researched book on Liangmai ‘costumes and artifacts’.

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Presently, Kentaliu is the principal and dance instructor of Tribal Music, Dance & Craft Research Centre based at Tamei.

Kentaliu has also produced the first Liangmai film called ‘Liangmai Lakpui’ in 2002. She has also produced two episodes of docu-feature on ‘The making of Liangmai warrior’ and ‘The eminent person’ (2003) for PPC(NE). She has also produced programmes for DDK Imphal and DDK Kohima. Some of her notable works for TV are
‘League of costume and dance’, ‘The busy bees of the hills’, ‘Indigenous fabric’, ‘Natki massannasing’, ‘Traditional lifestyle of Liangmai’, ‘The arbour life’, etc., etc.. She is also the founder and producer of Chun Chun Films.

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Talking about her campaign and research, Kentaliu narrated how hard it is to engage people on the issue. She said that stultifying effects need to be created so that those people travestying genuine cultures are subdued. In order to do that, intense campaigns and in depth research are necessary.

Talking about the specifics, Kentaliu cited an instance and said that ‘identifying’ traditional attires which are mentioned in folk songs has become a herculean challenge for modern researchers. She also pointed out so many areas where she continues to find it quite challenging. She said that there are rooms for the ‘purpose’ to get diluted if things are not taken care of well.

Kentaliu then said that the present generation needs to be informed and conscious of their cultures since there is already a nearby storm out there. Concerted awareness campaigns on the adverse effects of this ‘storm’ and consciousness of these adverse effects should impel the present generation to focus on the ‘purpose’, she added.


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