Please activate JavaScript!
Please install Adobe Flash Player, click here for download

2016-08_dc

D+C  e-Paper  August 2016 15 Lost in translation Two years ago, I contributed an interview with a renowned Santal writer, Dhiren- drath Baskey, to a documentary film. We met in Bhimpur, a village where American Baptists came to work among our Adivasi tribe as early as 1860. I found it depressing that I could not find a single other elderly Santal man who could tell me about Bas- key’s lifetime in our language. In Bhimpur, a place of great relevance in Santal history, the people today show no pride in our culture – and perhaps even worse, they know little about it. This is the dark side of missionary activi- ties. The Christian missionaries prohibited Santal culture, especially dance and music, so the tribal people who grew up in their environment got a modern education but were deprived of affinities to their own traditions and values. Things were no different at the Mulpahari mission until the late 20th century. That is where the Norwegian missionary Paul Olaf Bodding worked. He is remembered today for documenting Santal culture (see main essay). On the other hand, Ruby Hembrom, a Santal intellectual and publisher, told me that her father was forced to leave the mis- sion because, as a teacher, he had staged a cultural programme that included the use of Santal drums. Due to that rigid stance, a great cultural gap opened up between Christian and non-Christian Santals. In the past few decades, however, mis- sionaries have become more appreciative of tribal culture. Especially the Jesuit and Salesian orders of the Roman Catholic Church understand that it is important to empower tribal youth by relying on Santal traditions, including songs, dance and theatre. The Johar Human Resources Development Centre in Dumka, Jharkand, and the Santal Museum at the Don Bosco School in Azimganj, West Bengal, are doing good work. The truth is that Bodding actually planted the seed for saving Santal heritage more than a hundred years ago. His appreciation of the Santals and their culture spread far and wide. Personally, I found it fascinating to meet two Norwegian ladies, Nora Irene Stronstad Hope and Gunvor Fjordholm Holvik, at a university event in Oslo last year. They are the descendants of mission- aries and were born at Benagoria and grew up at Chandrapura Mission. Speaking good Santali, Stronstad told me: “We still live in two different worlds.” Both women have fond memories of growing up in the Santal vil- lage with its clean mud houses in the midst of Shal trees and ample freedom of playing and roam- ing around with San- tal kids of their age (note essay on Santal youth in D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2015/07, p. 21 f., and D+C/E+Z print edition 2015/6-8, p. 32 ff.). The second world is Norway, where they now live with their families. Stronstad said: “We share with them our experiences but it is hard for them to real- ise what we feel.” She finds news about forest depletion, environmental destruc- tion and other hardships in India painful. We will stay in touch – and thanks to mod- ern technology, that is not difficult. It is encouraging that there is empathy with our fate in Norway and that a deep affinity to our culture is being felt there. This is a good start for further coopera- tion, and it can help to bridge the gap between Christian and non-Christian San- tals. At the same time, it is depressing to know that, unlike two elderly ladies in Scandinavia, many members of our com- munity in India are no longer able to speak our language. ornaments and tools that our ancestors used. These items tell us about our past and the ingenious spirit, intelligence and deep thinking of our ancestors. We are not glorifying outdated artifacts but showing what life used to be like. The idea is to educate our children about our rich culture and tradition because the strength of our cul- tural roots can give them support in the modern world. We do not want to abandon the Santal mentality while we move forward and adapt to a changing world. The museum was built by the community and is maintained by it. All families contribute to the work. Most items were donated by Santal families from vari- ous villages in West Bengal, but some more expensive articles like ornaments had to be bought. Eight years after it was started, we can tell that our museum is strengthening the cultural confidence of our community. Moreover, it has become an infor- mation centre for neighbours from other villages. It is encouraging to witness their interest in our culture. India’s formal education system nurtures middle- class aspirations with little regard for the nation’s diverse communities and bridging the gaps between them. It is difficult and often painful to make the tran- sition from tradition to modernity. We certainly must adapt, but government institutions are not helping. We must find our own way. Unless we save our heritage, it will be lost. Adiva- sis are marginalised in India, but our children must not grow up thinking that our culture is somehow inferior. The museum helps them to understand their roots, and so does our own non-governmental school (see D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2016/06, p. 36 f.). Uprooted individuals Exposure to other ways of life matters too, no doubt. After finishing school, many youngsters from our vil- lage go to work in other places, sometimes in other Indian states. We know from experience that they stay confidentlyconnectedtotheSantalcommunityandour Boro Baski works for the community- based organisation Ghosaldanga Adibasi Seva Sangha in West Bengal. The NGO is supported by the German NGO Freundeskreis Ghosaldanga und Bishnubati. [email protected]

Seitenübersicht