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Focus on Nagaland: Textiles of Identity

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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, with the minor exception of the raw organic cotton used now being sourced from outside of the community. The entire community is involved in the creation process as stinging-nettle strips are thigh-reeled and converted to yarn, then 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, unprocessed form. Unlike other Naga tribes, the traditional textiles of the Angami Naga tribe distinctly demonstrate a significant use of the un-dyed colour of cotton i.e. Keicha/Kekeriyü, or the colour white. As negligible as one would assume the colour could possibly be whilst probing the meaning behind the bold Naga colours, the weavers of the Angami Naga tribe describe and use it in the most profound ways.

According to their traditions, the colour Kekeriyü represents skill and dexterity. For a Naga warrior, the white colour prominent in his prestigious body cloth would represent his skills in warfare; and for his wife, the same colour would represent her skill and finesse in weaving.

The Existing Scenario

Contemporary craft activities practiced across the state utilize the indigenous skills of hand spinning, natural dyeing, loin loom weaving and the local traditional craft vocabulary to design furnishing products like cushion covers, runners, place mats, etc. Responding to its innate woven structure, the natural decision to shape the dense fabric into furnishing products has been diversified, evolved and explored by numerous craft groups across the state to such a level that it has actually become saturated and restricted.


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