The panel will discuss the merits/pitfalls of retelling culture-based story treasures using modern visual aids such as murals, video animation, graphic novels, and digital games. The Legend of Ponnivala will provide one example. Participants are encouraged to contribute additional case materials.
Brenda Beck will mount an exhibit of her 50 years of work on The Legend of Ponnivala oral epic, a historical story about medieval life in the rural, upland (Kongu) region of South India. This display, based on both taped and dictated versions of this story, is a legend that projects a sense of roots and of place: it brags with pride about a more-or-less shared identity endorsed to-this-day, by the people living there. Beck will discuss how she uses this story in a great variety of teaching settings, by employing canvas murals, a video animation and graphic novels. She will ask other participants whether they think it is appropriate for anthropologists to preserve and teach about the themes found in such old stories using modern media techniques. She will also demonstrate how visual and audio interpretations can add modern relevance, both politically and culturally, to an area's ancient cultural heritage. Furthermore, she will show how this story, one that has traveled with the Diaspora to distant lands, has been reinterpreted there. Participants will be encouraged to add their own examples and ask what key moral attitudes or principles can be identified in this way. What gods and what energies infuse a story, for example, and what significance might the suicides of heroic figures have? She will further link this Ponnivala legend to seven key analytic principles first proposed by native North American authors to discuss their own story materials: ROOTS, RECLAMATION, RESISTANCE, RESILIENCE, RELATIONSHIPS, REFLECTION AND REVELATION.