Temsüla Ao received the Padma Shri Award in 2007 and also the Sahitya Akademi Award in the year 2013. She was also the recipient of the Governor’s Gold Medal 2009 from the government of Meghalaya. She is widely respected as one of the major literary voices in English to emerge from Northeast India
By Imna Longchar, TFM Nagaland Correspondent
Renowned academician, poet, writer, and ethnographer, Padmashri Dr Temsula Ao breathe her last on Sunday night at Eden Hospital, Dimapur, at the age of 80.
Born in the month of October 1945 at Jorhat, Assam, late Temsula Ao matriculated from Ridgeway Girls’ High School, Golaghat, Assam, and received her BA with distinction from Fazl Ali College, Mokokchung, Nagaland. She later did her MA in English from Gauhati University, Assam.
From English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, she received her post graduate diploma in the teaching of English and PhD from NEHU. From 1992 to 1997 she served as director, North East Zone Cultural Centre, Dimapur, on deputation from NEHU, and was a “Fulbright Fellow” at the University of Minnesota in 1985–86.
She received the Padma Shri Award in 2007 and also the Sahitya Akademi Award in the year 2013. She was also the recipient of the Governor’s Gold Medal 2009 from the government of Meghalaya. She is widely respected as one of the major literary voices in English to emerge from Northeast India along with Mitra Phukan and Mamang Dai.
Late Dr Temsula’s works have been translated into German, French, Assamese, Bengali and Hindi. She has been credited with publications of five of her poetic works which included Songs that Tell (1988), Songs That Try To Say (1992), Songs of Many Moods (1995), Songs from Here and There (2003), and Songs From The Other Life in 2007.
Her first two poetry collections were published from Writers Workshop, Kolkata, while the third poetry collection was published by Kohima Sahitya Sabha and the fourth was published by North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) and the last one was by Grasswork Books, Pune.
When she was in the University of Minnesota as a Fulbright fellow, she came in contact with the native Americans and she learned about their culture, heritage and especially their oral tradition. This exposure inspired her to record the oral tradition of her own community (Ao Naga) and after returning from the University of Minnesota, she worked on the oral tradition for about twelve years. She collected the myths, folktales, folklore, rituals, law, custom, belief system.
This ethnographic work was published in 1999 as the Ao-Naga oral tradition from Bhasha Publications, Baroda, which is regarded as the most authentic document about the Ao-Naga community. Late Dr Temsula Ao has also published two short story collections (These Hills Called Home: Stories from the War Zone, Zubaan and Laburnum for my Head) published by Penguin India in the year 2009).
The former short story collection consists of ten short stories dealing with insurgency(s) in Nagaland fired by right to self-determination of the Naga people. The Padmashri awardee also has the distinction of publishing a book of literary criticism on Henry James’ quest for an Ideal Heroine in 1989.