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July 13, 2024
Art & Culture

This is Lamka

Lengkhawn in the Hills

This project “Documenting the Visual History of Lamka” will create a digital archive documenting the visual heritage and history of Lamka (Churachandpur) town in Manipur. The town is inhabited by over nine tribes belonging to the Zo (Chin-Kuki-Mizo/Zomi) group, with its rich oral traditions. The tribal groups did not have a written history until Christian missionaries from Wales came in 1910 and standardised their dialects using the Roman script. Since then, in the gradual adoption of writing, many of the oral histories have been written down in pamphlets and local magazines. However, there is little to show to the new generation of the town about its visual history.

Our Purpose and Manifesto:

‘This Is Lamka’ is a digital archiving project with a primary objective of preserving the visual history and narrative of the Zo people from Manipur and beyond, from photographic evidence and moving pictures that are surviving to this day and are in the danger of disappearing or lost. Ranging from portraiture, family photo albums, private collections and several documentary images recorded by individuals or photographers, we aim to build a comprehensive record of the history and culture of the Zo people living in the town and beyond.

Conceptualised with the purpose to work on visuality to construct the historiography of the Zo kindred tribes beginning with Lamka town (Churachandpur, Manipur) as we rewrite, re-tell, rebuild, and re-engage our stories from within – which will help us in filling the existing gaps and challenges.

We also seek to establish a common platform where younger generations and inhabitants of the place, practitioners and experts of the region can come together in restoring our own narrative- visual, written, and oral of the Zo’s living in the Eastern Himalayas (Northeast India) and Chin Hills of Myanmar and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. In doing so, we will promote the importance of visual arts, engage in the socio-political and cultural discourse of the region to further and enrich research.

The photographs that we collect are digitised and preserved mainly:

  1. for the diaspora of the region.
  2. for academic, institutional and independent researchers who are keenly interested in the
  3. for the Zo people and communities at large.

We find a great urgency in collecting visual materials like photographs in its original form and digitising them as there is a threat of these relevant materials disappearing rapidly with time or as people discard them unaware of the imminent importance/ value it holds. Hence, the necessity of a people centric and participatory archive where the community and people of the region engage themselves and contribute in mapping stories together before they are wiped out and forgotten.

Our archive or visual history project is only at its starting point, and will continue to grow and evolve as we explore and collect visual records beginning with photographs. We also plan to work on other visual cultures in the future.

‘This Is Lamka’ as an endeavour is supported as a project by the British Council’s Heritage Grant for South Asia.

An exhibition titled ‘THE TOWN BETWEEN THE HILLS: A Photo Exhibition on the History of Lamka’ was held at District Library, Lamka from 8-10 April 2022 in collaboration with NEST Lamka and Zogam Tribal Museum spearheaded by Highland with the support of the British Council.

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