DABA – Na shaman

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A Study Guide


Translation into English from the French by Clare Perkins Cléret

Royal Anthropological Institute, 50 Fitzroy Street, London W1T 5BT

September 1999, © RAI 1999

This is a Study Guide by Cai Hua to his film Daba – Na shaman (colour, 40 minutes, 1999), which is available on DVD  and VHS  (PAL or NTSC) from the Royal Anthropological Institute.


After more than a quarter of a century without any form of religious ceremony, the Na, an ethnic group living on the Himalayan plateau, began openly practising their religion again in the early 1990s. Their priests are called daba. Among the few old shamans who are still living today, Dafa Luzo is the most remarkable. As the main character in the film, we see him looking after his farm and his family, as well as performing rituals to expel all unclean spirits and demons and honour his ancestors. His main worry, and his greatest hope, is to make sure his knowledge is safely handed down to the next generation.

Note on the translation of kinship terms. In this text, the Na vernacular term lhe is used to mean an elementary unit of kinship and economics made up only of brothers and sisters of the same generation. By lineage, the author means a larger unit (vernacular term: sizi) which is formed when members of a lhe become too numerous, and a new house is often built next to the old one. This is not the same as the standard anthropological usage of the term ‘lineage’.