Nagaland | Interview with Viketuno Rio, director of The White Owl Literature Festival & Book Fair

The theme of the festival on February 9-10 is ‘Echoes of Narratives’ — celebrating the convergence of Nagaland’s rich oral and written traditions

Published - February 08, 2024 09:30 am IST

‘Naga writers have more freedom now to pick their stories,’ says Viketuno Rio.

‘Naga writers have more freedom now to pick their stories,’ says Viketuno Rio.

In the season of literary festivals, Nagaland is holding its own, The White Owl Literature Festival and Book Fair, on February 9-10 in the picturesque town of Chümoukedima en route to capital Kohima. Called ‘Echoes of Narratives’ — Nagaland has 16 tribes each with its distinct identity, and hence there are many stories to tell — it is a collaboration between The White Owl Book Lounge, Penguin Random House India, and Cambridge University Press. A host of writers, including Vivek Shanbagh, Taslima Nasrin, Sarnath Banerjee, Avinuo Kire and Mmhonlumo Kikon, are attending the meet. We speak to Viketuno Rio, Festival Director and proprietor of The White Owl. Edited excerpts:

What does this literary festival mean for the State?

This event holds great significance for the State as it not only showcases the vibrant literary culture but also provides a platform for local and global voices to converge. The festival can foster a sense of community, promote cultural exchanges, and contribute to the overall intellectual and artistic enrichment of Nagaland. It marks a significant milestone in the cultural landscape of the State and has the potential to inspire and engage individuals in the world of literature and ideas.

We know of the old and new voices, Temsula Ao, Easterine Kire, Avinuo Kire; will some new voices debut at the festival? 

Over the past decade, the literary landscape in Nagaland has experienced growth, albeit gradually. There’s a resurgence in the culture of reading, contributing to the expansion of literature in the region. Initiatives like the Nagaland Literature Festival, hosted by the Writer’s Collective during the Hornbill Festival, have played a pivotal role in fostering the literary community’s development. We have Mmhonlümo Kikon, Theyiesinuo Keditsu and many more authors from the Northeast debuting at The White Owl festival.

What are some of the challenges in telling stories from Nagaland?

Naga and Northeastern writers faced challenges in the 1980s and ’90 with publishers, who predominantly sought stories centred around political conflict. However, the landscape has evolved since then. Naga writers have successfully asserted their autonomy, deciding on the themes they wish to explore. Hence, I would assert that the challenges of the past have been overcome, and writers are now progressing confidently with themes of their choosing.

Nagaland has a great oral tradition, do writers need to do more to chronicle that journey?

Certainly. Nagaland’s rich oral tradition, encompassing the diverse identities of its 16 tribes, is a valuable cultural heritage. Writers play a crucial role in preserving and chronicling this journey, ensuring that the unique narratives, folklore, and traditions are documented for future generations. By delving into the oral history of each tribe, writers can contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of Nagaland’s cultural tapestry. This effort not only adds depth to the literary landscape but also serves as a means of cultural preservation, fostering appreciation and awareness of the distinct identities within the State.

For our first-ever festival, we have chosen the theme ‘Echoes of Narratives’ with the explicit aim of fostering a festival ambience where the reverberations of both oral and written narratives converge into a symphony of diverse voices. This theme emphasises the universal power of storytelling and seeks to create an atmosphere resonant with the richness of various storytelling forms.

Why did you zero in on Chümoukedima to host the festival? 

Chümoukedima is an emerging town with significant potential. However, the festival’s venue was selected due to its strategic location. Situated just 10 minutes away from the sole airport in Nagaland and positioned on the main highway connecting Kohima and Dimapur, it offers convenient accessibility for attendees travelling from both Kohima and beyond, as well as those journeying from Dimapur and surrounding areas.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.