Beyond exoticism, Berenice Ellena’s photographic work examines the transitions and metamorphoses Naga people and their heritage are going through. Between the paradigms of identity and the paradoxes of myth and reality, step by step, she discovers the hill people’s inner landscape.
A designer and art curator, she entered Nagaland for the first time in 1998 when researching textiles and natural dyes for her book « India Sutra ». More recently, she has been engaged on a project to establish a tribal Heritage Museum in the capital, Kohima. This Museum will play a crucial role in the preservation of the extraordinary heritage, both tangible and intangible, of the Naga people. On her various travels, she has taken a set of photographs that she now uses as a tool to raise awareness of the museum project. Her portraits tell the tale of a Nagaland divided between tradition and modernity, between authenticity and invention of a new self. These images reflect the pace of a still bucolic life, in an environment where the hill-dwellers had to survive by relying on nature’s clemency as well as on their own skills. They speak of womanhood, pride, hope in a better tomorrow.
"When returning from there, just delay before washing off this acrid scent of humus and haze and bamboo smoke which impregnates one’s body and all things brought from there. Keep the vision of these sharp smiles, these eyes that stretch and gaze from east to west beyond the borders. Gazes in which the paradoxes, struggles, fervour and tenacity of life are only just perceptible. Keep the sense of natural forces pulsing within the people and among these hills, a rising sap, a frothing osmosis with nature that irrigates their lives", she says.
The French Embassy in Delhi, the Alliance Française de Delhi and the Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development are sponsoring this event in order to support and help publicise the Naga Heritage Museum project.