Image of a basket containing the notebooks of Rani Gaidinliu (1915-93), a Naga spiritual and political leader who led a revolt against British rule in India, in the stores of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University. The basket carries a tag with the note: ‘Basket of note-books belonging to the sorceress Gaidilin containing scribbl’d characters purporting to be writing. Her supposed literary powers gave her great prestige. Hangrum village. N. Cachar Hills. JP Mills, 1932’. Photo by Zasha Colah.

Zasha Colah researches contemporary collective forms of cultural production and artistic imagination under prolonged militarized situations; and how acts of imagination become collective. She segues between at least two terrains: the region of Northeast India bordering Bangladesh, Myanmar/Burma and China, and the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. These artificially segmented terrains coalesce in this research to perceive the intersections of law, artistic imagination, constitutions, and the infrastructure of disobedient, ungoverned terrains.

Contributor

Focusing on traditional practices of storytelling, poetry and weaving as forms of insurgency, for her 2020-21 fellowship with 221A, Zasha Colah pursues research around the infrastructure of disobedient, ungoverned terrains. Both the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America and the bioregion of Northeast India bordering Bangladesh, Myanmar/Burma and China, operate under the conditions of a militarized occupation of traditional territories, and are crucial fronts of systemic planetary-scale extraction. Her research takes the following starting points:

  • Recognizing and qualifying ecocide through practices of “illegality,” fugitivity and subterfuge (related to Adi Ophir’s concept of “conversion”)
  • Intersections of political environmental reform and mysticism/magical aliases
  • Contested geographies, occupied and militarized traditional territories, and autonomous zones 
  • Material culture, oral objects and orality, collective fictions


Over the course of the Fellowship, Colah will work in concert with a team of collaborators from at least two geographic regions (the Pacific Northwest of North America and Indo-Burma), creating a constellation of poets, artists, activists, legal scholars, weavers, and other cultural workers who will contribute to a palimpsest of research about the intersections of law, artistic imagination, constitutions, and the infrastructure of disobedient, ungovernable terrains. Colah’s research will take the form of commissions for a series of online publications and conversations with partner organizations and platforms. 

Further Feature Image Details: An account of Rani Gaidinliu’s notebooks by Dr. Arkotong Longkumer, Senior Lecturer, Modern Asia, The University of Edinburgh

Live Stream – Introducing 221A’s 2021 Fellows, January 22, 2021