A pan-India tribal conclave, Samvaad, organised by Tata Steel Foundation concluded with announcement of the results of Samvaad Fellowship 2020. The online format of the conclave brought together tribal communities from across the world. More than 3,000 people representing 114 tribes from 23 states and 5 UTs of India, and 17 countries including Sri Lanka, South Africa, Nepal, Kenya, Philippines, Thailand and Tanzania participated this year.

The Samvaad Fellowship, which was started in 2017, provides critical gap funding and works towards facilitating platforms at national and international levels for enhanced inputs to the fellows. This year, the Fellowships were awarded to:

  1. Deepa Pawar from the Gadiya Lohar tribe for the project on Documentation of Traditional Art of Iron Weapons and Tool Making of the Gadiya Lohar
  2. Taukeer Alam from the Van Gujjar tribe for the project on Mari Birsa (Our Heritage) – An Initiative to Conserve the Language of Van Gujjar
  3. Bibtha S from the Kadar tribe for the project on Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage of the Kadar Community
  4. Lalremruata Ngamlai from the Biate tribe for the project on Documentation of Biate Indigenous Sports and Exploring its Role in the Cultural Revival & Preservation of the Tribe
  5. Ariba Anar from the Sangtam tribe for the project on Revival of Folk Songs and Folklores of Sangtam Tribe
  6. K Bowang Kho from the Poumai Naga tribe for the project on Reclaim the Past and Empower the Present: Pouli (The Earthen Pot of Onaeme)

The Fellowship received 103 eligible applications from 20 states, more than double the applications received last year.

During the conclave, experts and tribal leaders came together to discuss how traditional models of governance have worked during challenging times as also to explore innovative ways of governance to bring communities together. For instance, due to the digital format, Samvaad was able to connect with the Nicobarese tribe and hear of their 200-year-old governance system from Rashid Yusoof, a member of the community. Screenings were held at 23 locations across 8 states of India, reaching over 600 people. These screenings were specially facilitated in rural tribal hamlets to ensure that more and more people had the opportunity to join the conclave. This ‘bridgital’ format took the conversations online and was complemented by community-led decentralised engagement points.

Responding to queries from CauseBecause, the company’s spokesperson informs that the Fellowship has built a cohort of 16 Fellows working in different elements of culture preservation like language, food habits, religious practices, folk song and folktales, and tribal art. The intended outcome is to set examples of how individuals from a community may address an issue critical to their culture through social action.

To bridge the language barrier, a network of acquaintances helped in translations and communicating the messages. This included volunteers from the Tata Steel ecosystem and students from various educational institutions.

Art enthusiasts got a chance to attend masterclasses on Oraon, Sohrai, Saura, Gond, Warli and Rajwar Bhittichitra art forms hosted by tribal artisans. Each day concluded with cultural performances from artists like Guru Rewben from Manipur and Tetseo Sisters from Nagaland, and cultural groups from tribes of Galo, Siddhi, Dandami Madia, Bhumij and others.

As many as 114 healers from India and abroad participated in discussions on tribal healing practices. The ‘National Tribal Traditional Healers Association of India’, formed at Samvaad 2019, formulated a three-year roadmap with a detailed plan for January–March 2021.

As part of the film screenings, Samuday ke Saath, Ashok Veilou’s ‘Look At The Sky’, Chentai Khiamniungan’s ‘Strength in Diversity’, and Abhijit Patro’s ‘Johar’ were screened. The Samuday ke Sath film competition was also launched.