Focus on Nagaland: Textiles of Identity

Focus on Nagaland: Textiles of Identity

Indigenous women of the Chakesang tribe from Leshemi, a remote Naga village in the mountains of North East India, continue to weave nettle shawls, unique to their own identity, on back-strapped looms. The fiber-to-fabric journey is completely local and self-sustaining, except that the organic cotton is now bought. The entire community is involved as stinging-nettle strips are thigh-reeled and converted to yarn, beaten, bleached, softened, dyed, and strip-woven on back-strap looms also known as loin looms.

Loin loom fabrics are stiff, compact and have a dense woven structure. They were traditionally used to make ceremonial as well as utilitarian body-cloths and wrap-around-skirts among all the Naga tribes. 

The Significance of Naga Textiles

The Angami Naga concept of Keicha/Kekeriyü celebrates the colour of the thread and material in its raw, un-processed form. Unlike other Naga tribes, the traditional textiles of the Angami Naga tribe distinctly show a lot of use of the un-dyed colour of cotton i.e. Keicha/Kekeriyü or the colour white. As negligible as the colour could possibly be when probing the meaning behind the bold Naga colours, the weavers of the Angami Naga tribe describe and use it in the most profound ways.The colour Kekeriyü represents skill and dexterity. For a Naga warrior, the colour white in his prestigious body cloth would represent his skill in war; and for his wife, the same colour would represent her skill and finesse in weaving.

The Existing Scenario

The contemporary craft activities across the state utilize the indigenous skills of hand spinning, natural dyeing, loin loom weaving and the traditional craft vocabulary to design furnishing products like cushion covers, runners, place mats, etc. Responding to its innate woven structure, this obvious choice of shaping the dense fabric into furnishing products has been diversified, evolved and explored by numerous craft groups across the state to a level that it has been saturated and restricted.