British anthropologist to call on old friends

Haimendorf’s student Michael Yorke to visit in early February

January 09, 2019 11:12 pm | Updated 11:12 pm IST - ADILABAD

Ada Jalpati Rao, Michael Yorke Gondi teacher from Ginnedhari, in front of his 40-year-old picture.

Ada Jalpati Rao, Michael Yorke Gondi teacher from Ginnedhari, in front of his 40-year-old picture.

Ginnedhari, the Adivasi village in Tiryani mandal of Kumram Bheem Asifabad district, is readying to welcome a special guest from London after over four decades of his stay. British Anthropologist and documentary film maker Michael Yorke, then a student of the famous Ethnologist Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, had conducted research on the Raj Gond aboriginal tribe in former united Adilabad district basing himself in this remote habitation.

Mr. Yorke, who retired as a film maker, is the chairman of the Adivasi Arts Trust working to support many groups of tribal artists in India and Papua New Guinea and to distribute their art in the West, among other things.

He will be visiting Utnoor and Keslapur in Adilabad district and Marlavai in KB Asifabad district between February 4 and 7 and will call on old friends in villages in Tiryani valley on February 8 and 9, according to his tour programme, communicated by All India Radio, Adilabad Station in-charge Sumanaspati Reddy who is coordinating the visit.

Young researcher

As a student, the young Anthropologist accompanied Professor Haimendorf and his wife Elizabeth to Adilabad in 1976 and was allocated research work on the Adivasis of Asifabad taluq in the eastern part of the district. “I would research among the Eastern Raj Gonds in Asifabad Taluq and live in Ginnedhari. Accompanied by Abdul Majid from Bellampalli, who had been one of the teachers in the Gondi language schools that Haimendorf had set up for the Raj Gonds in the 1940s, I moved into an empty house in the centre of Ginnedhari village, Asifabad Taluq, and lived there for 18 months, until 1978,” was how he recalled of the beginning of his stay in a note.

“My time among the Raj Gonds taught me not only to love the Adivasi way of life, but also how to rethink my career and my purpose in life,” he sort of summed up about his extensive work among the ethnic tribe. Apart from the research work which went into the making of the book co authored by Professor Haimendorf — Tribes in India: Struggle for Survival — Mr. Yorke made 11 anthropological films about India for the BBC and many other television channels, according to the note.

“The rediscovery of the researcher’s works on the Raj Gonds could not have come at a better time,” Mr. Reddy opined. “His documentary on Dandari festival brought to light the story behind it and his essays on rituals of customs of the Adivasis brought back the connected stories which have been forgotten in these parts,” he added as he talked of the importance of the work and visit in question. During the tour of the former film maker would be participating in the tribal darbar at Keslapur during the Nagoba jatara on February 7. He would also meet, centenarian Kanaka Rajubai, wife of Hannu master who was among the first teachers from the teacher training schools established by Professor Haimendorf.

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