Universiteit Leiden

nl en


Celebrating Naga Culture: Authenticity, Indigeneity and Modernity

  • Zajano Z. Yanthan
Thursday 1 June 2023
Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden

In this lecture Zajano Z. Yanthan will reflect on a modern and state-initiated, organized, and financed Naga festival known as Hornbill. The Naga are an indigenous transborder community whose ancestral lands sprawl across the Indo-Burma border. The hornbill festival is celebrated by all tribes of Nagaland annually from 1st December to 10th December since 2000 and organized by the State Tourism and Art and Culture Department, Government of Nagaland. Through auto-ethnography, she examines the coexistence, co-creation, and conflict between modernity and indigeneity, as enacted and expressed during the Hornbill festival. In particular Zajano Z. Yanthan focuses on music, which, in its lyrics and rhythm, has been immanent to Naga cultural heritage and it transmission, and how it is currently changing. While the celebration of Naga culture is represented through the reenactment of past music of many meanings and questions (authenticity, indigeneity) the festival also encompasses the performance of ‘Western Naga music’. The later performers are seen as ‘receivers of opportunity’ and former as the contributors to the idea of vibrancy and the glorification of Nagas’ right to self-determination with music providing a genealogical identity distinct from the idea of India. Music indeed has a political expression, in the sense that it has gained prominent space as a magic substitute/ soft weapon for Nagas’ longstanding struggle for independence.

About Zajano Z. Yanthan

Zajano Z. Yanthan is a lecturer at Royal Thimphu College, Bhutan. She completed her M.Phil in Planning and Development from IIT Bombay. She is currently working on her PhD, which focuses on Music, Identity and Naga Society (Tata Institute of Social Sciences Mumbai). Zajano belongs to the Lotha Naga tribe from Nagaland, Northeast India.


This lecture is organised by the Asia Research Cluster of CADS.

This website uses cookies.  More information.