"I will come every year in the form of water. If the river is full, it is the sign of my presence. 'Let the men worship me when Inga month comes. I will play with the wavy plants of paddy in the fields. Let there be good harvest during Poinu month. If I be worshipped in the appropriate manner there will be growth and prosperity." Thus speaks the Manipuri goddess of paddy, Phou-Oibi, following which the harvesting begins.
This grant supports pena player, musician and balladeer, M Mangangsana Meitei of Imphal, to develo•-a production based on the mythical story of Phou-Oibi, which literally means the lady of the paddy. This legend is peculiar to the rice-growing culture of Manipur and the story relates how Phou-Oibi's influence reaches across the state and how she brings about good harvests.
M Mangangsana started to play the pena (Manipur's traditional string instrument) under his father's supervision when he was just five years old. He took further training in the pena from Oja Leimapokpam Yaima, the then Pena Shanglakpa of Lainingthou Sanamahi Temple Board, Imphal. He has also worked in contemporary theatre and dance with Kalakshetra, Manipur; the Forum for Laboratory Theatres, Imphal; Anjika, Kolkata, and the School of Hard Knocks, Japan. He has consistently been experimenting with the pena and exploring "whether the pena can have a significant place in the orchestral music of contemporary theatre and dance of the state". He adds, "As a firm believer in the Oja Khanba (apprenticeship learning), my search is for knowledge and practice in the field that goes beyond the rigid boundaries of the conventional syllabi (of the pena)."
Reflecting on his practice, Mangangsana says, "On the one hand, we are a part of the 'traditional' culture of respecting gurus and on the other, artistically involved with those who challenged notions of performance in Manipur and created a new language out of it. We take from both the traditions what suits our creative impulse." With this `creative impulse', he plans to create a new performance based on the story of Phou-Oibi. Mangangsana observes, "Because of certain rigid frameworks of traditional performances, they tend to be monotonous. So, we strongly feel that they need to be re-looked at artistically and 'modernised' so as to address our contemporary artistic needs." To 'modernise' the story, Mangangsana and his group will work within the framework of the traditional performance, yet try to extend themselves beyond what is traditionally done and achieved. For example, a ballad is performed only in the shrines on rare ritual occasions. For this project, however, the group proposes to create a public performance of the legendary story. Their interpretation will bring traditional forms out of the 'given' ritual space into a non-ritualistic public space. The performance will be set up in an open public space under a huge tree. The group will create supporting visual materials and install them along with lights to bring out the nuances of the story.
Mangangsana points out that the pena can normally be used only while singing at a high pitch, with slow beats and soft sounds. As a creative director he finds it difficult to explore the story of Phou-Oibi with just the pena. Therefore, the story will be told in ballad form and performed by orchestrating the pena with the vocal and rhythmic expressions of Moirang Sai, Moirang Parva, Sankirtana, Wari Liba and Lai Haraoba. The group will undergo workshops with a Manipuri martial art trainer, Gope Kokngang, and also with Meitei gurus in the above-mentioned performing art forms.
The Phou-Oibi performance is expected to be ready for showing in Imphal by February 2009.
This description is part of the institutional records created by IFA at the onset of the grant. The project may have changed in due course as reflected in the deliverables from the Grantee.
Grant No : 2008-0-004
Grantee Name : M.Mangangsana Meitei
Programme : New Performance
Grant Status : Completed
Start Date : 01-09-2008
End Date : 28-02-2009
Duration : Six months
Grant Amount : 5,59,000
Geographical Area of Work : Manipur
Disciplinary Field of Work : Theatre
Language : Manipuri (includes Meitei)