SOAS University of London

SOAS South Asia Institute

Indigenous Media, Self-Determination and Cultural Activism

SAI-Indigenous Media

Date: 21 June 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 21 June 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B202

Type of Event: Seminar


Indigenous peoples worldwide have been projected as primitive and antiquated by administrators, scholars, film-makers and photographers from outside the community since the colonial period.  The image of the ‘Noble Savage’ is still manipulated to enhance economic gain for the tourism industry, and indigenous artisans are encouraged by foundations and governments to produce work for sale according to traditional aesthetics[1].

The image of these marginalized cultures that persists today continues to influence the notions of authenticity that relate to rural life and handmade art, and Dean and Levi (2003) have argued that when indigenous people use the media, link to the international community and become politically active they also risk being perceived as inauthentic.  Contemporary scholarship challenges the atemporality of tradition, art and authenticity. Scholarship has critiqued displays of reconstructed pre-colonial culture that deny change and put forward the argument that the performance of essentialized identities based on symbols from the past that appeal to Western views of exoticism, is the only capital available to indigenous communities without economic or political power.[2] 

Recently Indigenous media has emerged worldwide as a genre of media practice that is controlled by indigenous communities, represents their content and concerns and is targeted at local audiences[3].   In countries such as Australia, Canada, the former Soviet Union and Scotland, Indigenous media extends to the medium of animation[4].  However, this genre of local media practice has yet to be explored and developed in India.  So how can indigenous artists and storytellers use indigenous media practices as a tool for decolonization and self-determination?   What will their stories tell us and how can they adapt modern media formats to communicate their own cultural knowledge to wider audiences?

Confirmed speakers:

Lidia Guzy

Dr hab Lidia Guzy is a social anthropologist and scholar of religions.  She is the Head of the Study of Religions Department and Lecturer in Contemporary South Asian Religions, University College Cork, Ireland and she is co-Director of the Marginalised and Endangered Worldviews Study Centre (MEWSC) at UCC: this is the first centre in Ireland to place endangered worldviews of indigenous peoples and their cultural expressions in their core mission statement in order to bring together scholars and non-governmental actors.

She is also member of the editorial board of the Irish journal of Anthropology and she has presented papers at conferences on Indigenous Aesthetics and Marginalised Knowledge Systems (2013) and Tradition, Creativity and Indigenous Knowledge (2014).

Leslie MacKenzie

Leslie MacKenzie is a film producer and  the Director of West Highland Animation, established in 1988 in Balqhuidder, in the West Highlands of Scotland. The aim of WHA is to promote Gaelic language and culture to a wider audience through the medium of animation and interactivity. WHA has run many community workshops introducing children and adults to local stories from the Highland and Oral tradition through the art of animation. It has also produced television series for BBC Scotland, STV and Grampian and won national and international film awards including educational programme awards. In addition WHA films have been presented at animation festivals around the world from Annecy to Zagreb.

Venkat Raman Singh Shyam

Venkat Raman Singh Shyam is a contemporary Pardhan Gond artist who works with murals, etchings, mixed media and animation. He has travelled extensively and has exhibited his work in India and abroad. He was awarded the Rajya Hasta Shilpa Puraskar by the Government of Madhya Pradesh in 2002.  His style is strongly influenced by his uncle, late Jangarh Singh Shyam.  Venkat’s work was exhibited at Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art, at the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa. Venkat has created a graphic autobiography titled Finding My Way.

Paula Callus

Dr Paula Callus is a senior lecturer at the National Centre of Computer Animation (NCCA) at Bournemouth University, with a specific interest in Sub-Saharan African animation. This interest stems from six years of field work in countries such as Kenya, Zanzibar, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the DRC, archiving and training African artists in the field of animation.

Murali Shanmugavelan

Mr Shanmugavelan is at SOAS, in the Department of Centre for Global Media and Communications.  His PhD research looks at the community as a whole (communicative ecology), where communicative practices are considered in relation to day-to-day activities of which media is one element. His field site is a discriminated Dalit colony in India.

  1. Hutchinson, E., 2009. The Indian Craze: Primitivism, Modernism, and Transculturation in American Art, 1890–1915. USA: Duke University.
  2. Conklin, B. A., 1997. Body Paint, Feathers and VCRs:  Aesthetics and Authenticity in Amazonian Activism. In: American Ethnologist, 24 (4) 711-737. Wright, S., 1998. The Politicization of 'Culture'. In:  Anthropology Today. 14 (1), 7-15.
  3. Ginsburg, F., 1995. Mediating Culture: Indigenous Media, Ethnographic Film, and the Production of Identity.  In: Askew, K., and Wilk R., eds.  The Anthropology of Media: A Reader [online]. Available from:
  4. Dust Echoes was a series of twelve animated dreamtime stories from Central Arnhem Land in Northern Australia, produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation; the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) is an Aboriginal owned media organisation has also had a major role in the maintenance of indigenous language and culture in central Australia. The National Film Board of Canada has produced films about First Nations peoples that have addressed social and political issues, cultural preservation and the creative arts as well as collaborations in the medium of animation.  In the former Soviet Union Soyuzmultfilm was the most  influential animation studio until its breakup in 1991; in Scotland, West Highland Animation produced animated films of the native Gaelic stories during a period of over two decades, from 1985-2005.

Organiser: In association with Adivasi Arts Trust (UK)

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