March 2010


Table of Contents

From our Ashakulam Digital Community Archive

From our Jenu Kuruba Digital Community Archive


Encyclopedia Indica

Gives to NFSC

You can donate online to strengthen the National Folklore Support Centre.

Events Calendar:

March 25
Lecture by Silke Bechler, University of Heidelberg, Germany on ‘Traveling Rituals: The Vedic Sacrifice (yajna) in New Public Spheres‘ at 6.00 p.m.

March 17
Contemporary World Cinema (CWC) along with NFSC will screen the film ‘Born and Bred‘ (Pablo Trapero/Argentina/2006/109 mins), 6p.m.

March 18
CWC along with NFSC will screen the film ‘Cairo Time‘ (Rubanadda/Canada/2009/90 mins), 6p.m.

NFSC Portal for Journals:

The 35th issue of Indian Folklife on Tripura Folklore guest-edited by Saroj Chaudhuri is now available on the Journal Portal and at Wiki.

The 9th issue of Indian Folklore Research Journal is out and has been uploaded on our Journal Portal . Full archives of the Indian Folklore Research Journal are available on the Journal Portal.

The 3rd volume of Ishani is out and has been uploaded on our Journal Portal. Full archives of the Ishani are available on the Journal Portal.

Encyclopaedia Indica:

The following is a Patachitra painting of a Tiger by Artist Rabindranath Sahu Encyclopaedia Indica.

TigerA campaign has been launched to save the Tigers in our country. NFSC is fully behind the supporters. We are contibuting to this noble cause by putting together a collection of folktales and lores connected with this beautiful and majestic animal. Visit Encyclopaedia Indica’s ‘Tiger and its Folklore’ byLalitha Ramadurai and ‘Tiger in Bengali Folklore’ by Sanatkumar Mitra.

You too can contribute to the Encyclopaedia Indica. Interested people may please contact


Volunteer at NFSC:

We invite volunteers who can contribute online or at the Centre. Online volunteers can help with our website and wiki as contributors or editors. Volunteering at the Centre would involve helping organise programmes or workshops in colleges, schools or corporate houses. Those interested in volunteering can register online here or send in profile, bio-data, letter of interest, areas of work and experience and commitment of time to the address provided below.

Dear Friends,

A big and hearty Ola to you all from National Folklore Support Centre!

Our office is full once again thanks to the fact that all our fieldworkers have returned from their respective workshops and field visits. But, knowing their love for fieldwork and the desire to be out there making a difference, the office will soon be empty again.

From our Ashakulam Digital Archive:

Following our landmark Vagri Meet held on 9 January, we have made several initiatives for our Ashakulam Digital Community Archive (DCA). One of these is the management of the Archive. We are in the process of handing over the management of the Archive to the Nari Kurava community. For this purpose a five-member citizen’s committee has been set up which comprises two leaders of the Nari Kurava community – Lighter and King Kong, Shankar – a Nari Kurava leader, lawyer and activist, Ayesha and Shakuntala, both bead makers. Both Ayesha and Shakuntala are members of a self-help organisation which provides livelihood for bead makers. The committee meets weekly to review the functioning of the Archive and make the necessary changes to ensure smooth functioning.

As part of enhancing the livelihood of the community, a workshop on bead making is also being planned. Five trainers, Ayesha, Latha, Laila, Anjala and Shakuntala have been chosen from Ashakulam and Viliyanur. They will be trained by Nirmalah Shrethar of Artserv. After getting trained they will then train around 30 participants from both the villages and discuss aspects like modern technology, marketing the final product.

Apart from bead making, the Nari Kuravas have a vast knowledge about wild herbs and medicinal plants. NFSC will be documenting this knowledge. The origin of these herbal medicines will be looked into and the history of the Nari Kurava tribe’s traditional knowledge will be made into a documentary. The documentary will then be screened to the community and attempts will be made to market these herbal medicines.

The several theatre workshops for children conducted by the NFSC at the Ashakulam DCA have been a huge hit with the kids. These workshops have enabled them to learn a lot through an interactive and entertaining platform. Enthused by this success we are planning to take these workshops to other Nari Kurava settlements across Tamil Nadu.

From our Jenu Kuruba Digital Community Archive:

Prof Peter Claus and the students from Daskshinachitra visited our Jenu Kuruba Digital Community Archive (DCA) HD Kote for a five-day workshop in — Visualising Ksheerasagar’s “Playing with the Children of the Forest”.

Here is a picture of Jenu Kuruba children enacting a play in their classroom. More pictures from our Jenu Kuruba DCA have been uploaded on to our Wiki. Do visit to see colourful pictures of Kolattam, Puliyattam Elephant training and more.

NFSC News:

Our Director M.D. Muthukumaraswamy is just back from New Delhi after attending a conference on ?Transcultural Bodies – Transboundary Biographies. Border crossings in Asia & Europe?. The event was held by the University Research Priority Program Asia and Europe, University of Zurich Cluster Asia and Europe in a Global Context, University of Heidelberg and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi. The conference dealt with border-crossings in different media and in a variety of colonial and post-colonial contexts. It also explored the production of transcultural bodies and attempted to understand how biographical research is transforming our understanding of transcultural entanglements.

One of the high points of the conference according to M.D. Muthukumaraswamy was his meeting with award-winning social activist Dayabai. Born as Mercy Mathew into a rich Christian family in Kerala, she settled amongst the Gond Tribal community in the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh. Over the last 20 years she has tirelessly worked towards improving the self image of the tribals. “It was an honour to be in her company,” says M.D. Muthukumaraswamy.

The other major highlight of the visit to the capital according to him was the opportunity to watch the Surabhi Theatre Festival. The festival, from 22 February to 7 March, has been organised by IGNCA, National School of Drama and Sri Venkateswara Natya Mandali (Surabhi Theatres) Hyderabad. From its birth in a small village called Surabhi (originaly called Sorugu) in Andhra Pradesh, this living legend of family theatres in India has now completed 125 years. Complex sets, magnificent backdrops, lighting, and visual special effects are the special characteristics of Surabhi. The theatre performances, and an exhibition were curated by Jyotindra Jain, who is Member Secretary, IGNCA, and also the Chairman of NFSC.

M.D. Muthukumaraswamy will be delivering the key note address at a seminar held by the University of Madras on ‘Popular Culture: Tamil Milieu’. From 4-6 March, the event will focus on aspects of print and visual culture such as comics, calendars, drama notices, posters, wedding cards, photographs, public sculpture etc. There will also be a section focusing on the unique audio cassette culture and the extremely popular mega serial culture of the state.

He will also be presenting a paper on ‘Sita as a Liminal Figure’ at the Ramayana Festival 2010 being held from 10-19 March in Pondicherry. Conceptualised by festival director Rustom Bharucha and the Artistic Director and Managing Trustee of Adishakti, Veenapani Chawla (who is also a trustee of NFSC), the purpose of the festival is to explore and celebrate the plurality of this deeply internalised epic through diverse interpretations and performance traditions.

As we mentioned in last month’s newsletter some of our colleagues had gone to Guwahati, Assam to attend a workshop on digital archiving and audio and video documentation for languages during the first week of February. The workshop was conducted by the DoBeS (DOkumentation BEdrother Sparchen) project of Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (MPI) in collaboration with the Phonogrammarchiv – The Austrian Audiovisual Research Archive and the Don Bosco Institute. The workshop was held at the picturesque Don Bosco Institute, Kharguli which is bang on the banks of the river Brahmaputra. Above is a picture of this beautiful river as seen from the Institute.

The four-day workshop dealt with various issues in archiving and language documentation. There was a two-day hands on training in video and audio documentation with state of the art equipment which addressed all the problems faced by researchers during field work. This was followed by an introduction to various archiving software developed by the MPI for language and anthropological documentation. The relevance of the workshop was its ability to introduce current international trends in the area of digital archiving and research. The growing importance of Metadata (data about the resources being documented) in archiving was specially emphasised and softwares for Metadata documentation were introduced.

Our colleagues S. Aruvi, Vinodh Premdas, Shanthini Sarah, Aakaash Nair and Vani Venugopal enjoyed themselves thoroughly as this was their first trip to Northeast India. The participants were a mixed group comprising linguists, folklorists, teachers, students and researchers and hence there was dynamism in all interactions and some interesting associations came up. Our Archivist Vinodh felt that it was a “unique opportunity” as he got to share ideas and views with research scholars from various parts of India and abroad. Says Shanthini, Programme Officer (Fieldwork), “Interaction with fellow participants and the resource person enhanced our knowledge in the documentation process done in the field.” They all felt that the workshop provided a comprehensive introduction to the field of language documentation and digital archiving. Research Associate Vani felt that it also gave them an opportunity to meet interesting people and the experience was made all the more wonderful by helpfulness and friendliness of the coordinators and instructors.

Fieldworker Dhivya and student intern Vibooshi also thoroughly enjoyed their maiden field visit to the Jenu Kuruba Digital Community Archive at HD Kote, Karnataka. Dhivya, Vibooshi and Manivannan (seen planting a medicinal plant in the picture) stayed at Myrada guest house which is about 3 km away from our archive. ?We met Chikkaiah, a Jenu Kuruba medicinal plant expert, who explained the medicinal uses of the various plants in our Archive,” says Dhivya.

They also went to the forest across various Jenu Kuruba settlements to identify herbs. The picture to the right is that of a medicinal root called ‘Nooru Thaayi Veru‘. Says a visibly excited Dhivya, “They showed us fruits of certain plants which could be used as detergents and some which could be used to cure diabetes.” The trio also visited the Kabini rivcr dam and saw rare migratory birds from Tibet. The three of them were inspired by the lifestyle of the Jenukurubars and their relationship with nature. More pictures of their field visit can be seen at our Wiki.

As Programme Officer for NFSC, I participated in the ‘International Conference on Children’s Libraries: Building a Book Culture’ organised in New Delhi by the Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children (AWIC) and International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). The various sessions held at the conference proved to be an eye-opener for those concerned with children’s books, education and libraries. There were speakers from all over the world who talked about their experiences in their countries.

The cultural events too had an interesting twist to them. A play put up by AWIC, Nutan Marathi School and Anand Van Library gave the age-old story of the cap-seller and the monkeys a hilarious and endearing end. The leader of the monkeys tells the beleagured cap seller (who tries to use the method his grandfather had used to get his caps back from the monkeys), “Sirf tumharen dadaji naheen the, hamare bhi dadaji the. Aur unhonen kaha, beta nakal karo par akal se karo” ( You aren’t the only one to have a grandfather, we also had one. And he told us ‘feel free to imitate, but don’t forget to use your brains to imitate’!)

Encyclopaedia Indica:

M.D. Muthukumaraswamy’s NFSC Lore seems to have chalked up quite a following. This weeks offering is a delightful story “How Fire was brought to the Indians”. You can also find out “Why the White Hares have Black Ears”, “Why the Cat always falls upon her Feet” and “Why the Swallow’s Tail is Forked”.

On that cheery note we wish you goodbye. We will be back with more news from our end next month.

- Subhashini Sen

Programme Officer (Publications & Communication) NFSC

National Folklore Support Centre (NFSC) is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation, registered in Chennai, dedicated to the promotion of Indian folklore research, education, training, networking, and publications. The aim of the Centre is to integrate scholarship with activism, aesthetic appreciation with community development, comparative folklore studies with cultural diversities and identities, dissemination of information with multi-disciplinary dialogues, folklore fieldwork with developmental issues, folklore advocacy with public programming events and digital technology with applications to voice the cultures of the marginalised and historically disadvantaged communities. Folklore is a tradition based on any expressive behaviour that brings a group together, creates a convention and commits it to cultural memory. NFSC aims to achieve its goals through cooperative and experimental activities at various levels. NFSC is supported by grants from the Ford Foundation and the Tata Education Trust.

The NFSC is a member of the Credibility Alliance. For information on the NFSC Board of Trustees, Staff, Annual Audit Reports and details of programme development, click here. To unsubscribe from this newsletter, mail You can also give feedback, suggestions or criticism at NFSC, 508, Fifth Floor, ‘Kaveri Complex’, 96, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Nungambakkam,
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