|dc.description.abstract||Take a short walk with me. I want to tell you a story about looking for stories. In the beginning, I didn’t know that that was what I was doing. Like the Fool in the Major Arcana, I believe I cheerfully sauntered off the cliff onto thin air. I don’t know now if I’m walking on air or if I’ve crash-landed. But there was a journey in between all that. And that’s the story I’d like to share with you.
It begins in a place called Nagaland, an Indian state populated by a tribal collective known as the Nagas. They are a group of many tribes whom the government of India considers part of the Scheduled Tribes of India. The tales of their respective origins are found in tribal myth or lost to time, but their present history makes regional, national and international headlines time and again. As a fourth-world indigenous cultural group, the Nagas have been ruled, for over fifty years, by economic under-development, political corruption, military oppression and the insurgency for an independent, mythical Nagalim. This is the Naga story, the only story that is newsworthy enough to capture a journalist’s attention. But peel that layer, and the next, and we discover other stories, forgotten, discarded or disregarded. Others are on the same path of discovery and dissemination – writing journal articles and research papers, or linking the Naga tale with those told by refugees from Myanmar and other marginal South-east Asian ethnic groups, attracting tourists through heritage sites and cultural festivals and bringing out the intermittent small ficto-critical novel.
This thesis, consisting of an exegesis and a graphic novel script, revolves around a number of interrelated concerns:
• the historical, political and cultural life of an Indian minority ethnic group known as the Nagas,
• the question of revitalizing the folktales of the Naga oral tradition by adapting them in a graphic novel format,
• along with its associated concepts of word-image dynamics and visual representation,
• and a discussion of certain Naga folkloric elements which function as motifs in the graphic novel script.
As the journey unfolds, we will encounter stories and images about the Nagas;and these in turn will help us imagine the world (imperfectly created as it may be) within the graphic novel script. My own effort to tell a Naga story leaps even further ‘left-field’ – an alternative, near-futuristic interpretation of an obsolete Ao-Naga myth laid out in a script for a proposed graphic novel. Exposing a personal interest in graphic storytelling and folktales, the script can be read as a hybrid text in terms of its layout and its narrative breaks and jumps.
Originally written with an illustrator in mind, the script has evolved into a text-only dramatic piece that can be amended for future illustrative purposes. The intention was to develop a full-colour, hybrid graphic novel – pages of illustrated panels interspersed with prose passages, photographs and collages. Precedents like Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise (which alternate panels with mock newspaper article extracts, diary entries or song lyrics), and David Mack’s Kabuki series (which juxtaposes photo-realistic collages and manga influences within a complex visual narrative) were to serve as guide and inspiration for the design of the graphic novel. The narrative flows both linearly and non-linearly, evoking the rise and fall of memory in flashback sequences, in first-person prose monologues, in the retelling of selected folktales, and to an extent, in the characters’ thought captions which are similar to dramatic soliloquies or asides. I consider the script a multifaceted structure that can be read as a dramatic piece by itself, or as a work-in-progress script for an illustrated graphic novel. But as the cultural settings may be unknown to the initial readers, the exegesis you now hold in your hands serves as an explanation, a road map to navigating your way around, and recognising the local areas and their inhabitants.||