Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Wealth of wisdom : An article by G N Devy on Tribal literature

If the visibility of tribal languages has remained somewhat poor, those languages need not be blamed for want of creativity. The responsibility rests with the received idea that literature, in order to be literature, has to be written and printed as well. Tribal literary traditions have been oral in nature. After the print technology started impacting Indian languages during the 19th century, the fate of the oral became precarious. A gross cultural neglect had to be faced by the languages which remained outside the print technology.

The reorganisation of Indian States after Independence was along linguistic lines. The languages that had scripts came to be counted for. The ones that had not acquired scripts, and therefore did not have printed literature, did not get their own States. Schools and colleges were established only for the official languages. The ones without scripts, even if they had stock of wisdom carried forward orally, were not fortunate enough to get educational institutions for themselves. It is in this context of gross neglect that one has to understand the creativity in India’s tribal languages.


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