Arts and Culture
Crafting of Ceremonial Ornaments using Native Plants and its Conservation among the Nagas
Nagas are an indigenous people, with their homeland stretching along the north eastern states of Indian States of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and north western Myanmar (Burma). Some Naga tribal institutions such as headhunting, the morung (men’s ceremonial house) and feasts of merit inspired many artistic expressions in woodworks, intricate textile designs, body tattoo, songs, dances, decorative ornaments and weapons, symbolizing personal achievements and valour. Much of Naga art consist of perishable material and in the past, the constant threat from enemy attack, the fear of disastrous fires and the rituals and taboos surrounding certain art, prevented the artists from devoting much of their time to produce lasting art forms but the arts flourished. The most pleasing aspects of Naga art is the use of simple tools and materials that reflected their environment – wood, bamboo, stones, clay, iron, bones, tusk, cotton, nettle and bark fibres, natural dyes into their art, producing unique examples of artifacts. One of the oldest and exclusive forms of Naga ornaments are the ceremonial conical hats, leg-guards, wristlets and waist belts made of red dyed cane, ornamented with yellow orchid stem worn during ceremonies among the Nagas. At present there is no literature that deals with their materials, techniques and degradation surrounding their conservation issues. This paper is an attempt to study the accounts of crafting of these ceremonial ornaments and assesses methods for the conservation of such cultural material.