Documenting the contemporary Ao community
Most of the images of Nagaland that reach the rest of the world show the Nagas dressed in their traditional attire dancing during their numerous festivals (or at the Hornbill festival – A showcase event for the old Naga culture). Yet, Nagas from most parts of the state are a very modern, educated people living a non-exotic life – the old customs, traditions, dances, dresses and beliefs being an important but small part of their lives. Christianity is the dominant religion and the Baptist church plays a significant socio-political role. But even this neoteric lifestyle seems to have a distinctly “Naga” flavor as some aspects of the old tradition have consciously been assimilated into the religious practices of the church as well as the norms of social interaction while other remnants just seep in surreptitiously through the cultural crevices that the new way of life has failed to plug. This photo project is an attempt to display this multi-layered and nuanced contemporary Naga lifestyle and contrast it with the prevalent, largely monolithic perceptions, (presently) focusing on the Ao community (‘Ao tribe’ seems like a misnomer when describing this group of people) from the Mokokchung district of Nagaland.