The ruling People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) government in the state announced mini-Hornbill Festivals in all the 12 districts starting from the current year. These mini festivals, which will be coinciding with the 16 recognised tribes’ primary festivals, is supposed to spread the Hornbill Festival experience to other districts.
The government notified that at least 2 neighbouring tribes shall have to take part when these mini festivals are held in the districts. Otherwise the main Hornbill Festival that is held in the first week of December every year allegedly benefits only the districts of Kohima and Dimapur.
As had been seen from previous experiments of conducting festivals in the districts, events become lacklustre after the initial boom. So, the government relenting to the popular demand will no doubt be successfully kicked off but the prospect of its sustenance is quite doubtful. The government’s incorporation of other tribes into the events within a district might make the festival livelier and more colourful. It is a time-tested formula that is seen as very successful in some villages bordering districts and it has become a heritage over the years. A notable example is the Moatsü festival in Chuchuyimlang village that as a rule has participation from the Phom and the Konyak neighbouring villages. Whether such cultural heritages will be affected positively by the newly launched mini fests in the district headquarters is yet to be seen.
Along with preservation of culture and identity, the main goal of these government-supported events is to promote tourism. Tourism has become one of the biggest markets around the world and Nagaland state also cannot be left behind. However, out of 2,43,214 people who visited the Hornbill Festival in 2017, only 2401 were foreign tourists while 38700 were domestic tourists. The remaining numbers to it were all locals from the state itself. As for the foreign tourists, their main interest is to see Naga villages as it were or quite similar to that of those days Western explorers wrote about in the late 19th century and early 20th century. For this set of cultural foreign tourists, they would rather take the arduous journey to the districts only if they can have such an experience. So they would zero-in on just 2-3 eastern districts.
As a newly elected government it looks like the government’s decision is driven more by the popular demand but not based on proper study supported by facts. The demands to expand the main Hornbill Festival to the other districts have seen a rise over the years especially in social media. The demands are mostly emotional and based on regional / tribal lines; it is more of a case of ‘why Kohima and Dimapur should have all the fun.’
Nonetheless, a substantial degree of trade and commerce will take place during the events as long as the government’s assistance provides for impetus along with the display of cultural heritage. It will also undoubtedly attract domestic tourists if not foreign tourists initially. The government must ensure proper campaign is undertaken in the media. When other states in the country can have brand ambassadors, Nagaland too can at least have some proper commercials for the print, broadcast and new media to attract tourists. Unless these mini fests attract tourists, it will not be able to sustain.