Need To Preserve –
A Tribe’s Oral History

Oral history of the forest tribes of Goa awaits documentation, revival.

Devidas Gaonkar is a forest tribal who has been regularly reporting on issues that concern various forest tribes of Goa. These issues include illegal mining, depleting level of groundwater, corruption, land grab etc. Click here to watch Devidas’s personal profile. In this video, Devidas highlights the need of preserving Sarantari – folk music that captures his tribe’s genealogical and cultural history.

Sarantari songs have been sung by the tribe for several centuries. These are songs about their professions, art, culture, religion and social traditions. Most of the community’s elderly population cannot read or write. So, the tribe still doesn’t have a written history of its own. The folk songs which are passed on from one generation to other are their only oral history.

However, this history is now under threat as the younger generation is not interested in learning the songs. One of the reasons is that the youth find the traditional songs slow and boring compared to the foot-tapping modern music that they hear elsewhere. Also, there are no educational initiatives – such as production of books or CDs – to instruct children as to their value. Thus, few children are interested in sitting with an elder and spend hours learning or singing the traditional songs.

As a young tribal, Devidas finds himself caught in a dilemma. He understands the great value of the folk songs which are his community’s only history that exists. But he also knows that young children will not learn them unless this value is explained to them or made available in a more attractive way. The solution, he thinks, can be through documentation of these songs and making them a part of the school syllabus and also put them in a series of video/audio albums.

In Goa, the Social Welfare ministry has the budget and the authority to look after all tribal affairs. Additionally, the ministry also receives fund from the central government to preserve and promote tribal art and culture. During the shooting of this video Devidas visited the ministry’s office and met several officials there. He asked the officials if there was a government plan to preserve the forest tribes’ oral history, they said that there were no such plans. But Devidas feels that as the ministry responsible for preserving the tribal art and culture, it can take up the documentation of tribal history as a project because several states such as Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have done this in recent past.

If you want to know the plans of the ministry on preservation and promotion of art& culture of the forest tribes of Goa, you can contact the department at this address:

Directorate Of Social Welfare,

Government of Goa,

18th June Road,

Panjim – Goa.

Ph No: (91) (0832) 2232257

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