Arts and Handicrafts


Art and Craft of the Nagas

          The Nagas have a rich tradition of art and craft rooted in a lifestyle that has always been harmony with the environment they live in. Skilled tribal craftsman and artisans have always been the pillars of a tribal society that had, for many centuries, been self-sufficient. They lent their skills to creating items of utility as well those with ritualistic and aesthetic value. To quote Dr. Verrier Elwin; “they have made their own cloth, their won hats and rain-coats; they have prepared their own medicines, their own cooking-vessels, their own substitutes for crockery …. “ Skilled craftsmen were employees to carve splendid village gates, house posts and Morungs in Naga villages. Fine storage baskets, wicker drinking vessels and containers were woven by craftsmen whose skills had been inherited from generations of skilled craftsmen.  

      It was these craftsmen, weavers and artisans who foraged the forest in search of wood, barks, dyes and other resources that were utilized to carve out fine works of art and weave colorful clothes that distinguished each Naga tribe.

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             The various crafts and art that were known to the early Nagas and are still carried out to this day are;

basket.jpg (17009 bytes) 1)      Basketry : Naga storage and carry baskets women from fine strips of cane and bamboo are well known and sought after for their utility as well as aesthetic value. The cane baskets of Khonoma village are particularly well know for their intricate weaves. The cane baskets and containers woven by the Khiamngan weavers in the Tuensang District are also known for their fineness and delicacy of work that gives it a lace-like appearance. Headgears and mats are also woven from fine bamboo and cane strips. In the recent years, entrepreneurs have utilized the skills of these craftsmen to weave beautiful cane furniture that are being marketed in the local as well as outside market.

2)      Weaving: Naga women are excellent weavers and the colorful shawls, bags and jackets woven by them are extremely popular. The ‘backstrap’ or the loin loom is commonly used for weaving, although, in recent years the fly shuttle loom has become popular with the weavers. Each tribe uses distinguishing colors and motifs that are often based on tribal folklore. Earlier, natural dyes extracted from barks, roots and plants were used for dyeing cotton yarn and woven fabrics. In addition, woven cloth was embellished with beads, cowrie shells and goats hair to denote the wealth and status of the weaver. Body cloth symbolizing Feast-giving and Head-taking added to the variety of clothes woven on the backstrap loom.

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            The art of weaving is still popular amongst the Naga women, especially in the rural areas and the woven products of Nagaland have found its way into the National as well as International marker.

3)      Woodcarving : Nagas are excellent woodcarvers. Making using of simple rudimentary tools and implements such as the local dao, hand drill and chisel, skilled craftsmen produce great works of art that local adorn village gates and house posts as well as objects of utility like the common wooden dish. One of the finest specimen that epitomizes the skill of the Naga craftsman is to be found at Shangnyu village in Mon District. The work of art at Shangnyu consists of a massive wooden panel that has carvings depicting objects of art as well as those of ritual and utility value.

Woodcraft has now been commercialized and craftsmen have been able to use their traditional skills to generate income for themselves. The Diezephe Craft village in Dimapur District is a good example of a cragft concentrated village where the major sourse of income is from woodcraft.

4)      Pottery : Pottery was known to the early Nagas and was mostly done by the womenfolk. The pots made were generally very simple and importance was given to its functional value rather than aesthetics. Tseminyu and Ungma village were well known for pottery by aluminum and steel vessels have long replaced the simple clay pots.

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5)      Metal work : Iron tin and brass were used to produce weapons as well items of utility and ornaments. The Konyak blacksmiths were famous for their works in the early days and their products were in great demand in the plains of Assam. To this day, the local dao, spears, chisels, ornaments and  other items of utility are still made by local blacksmith whose skills are highly valued in society.

artc.jpg (21012 bytes)  In addition, jewellery and beadwork is also popular with local craftsmen. Naga festivals are a testimony to the fascination and love the Naga tribesmen have for art and craft. The color and beauty of the traditional attires symbolize the wealth and status of the wearer as well as the skill of the maker. The abundance of raw material, the splendid environment and the inherent skills of the people have all played a role in generating a rich history of art and craft in Nagaland. The resurgence of art and craft in recent times has enable the traditional craftsman and artisan to earn as he creates.     











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