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Ketholeno Neihu
Date of Publish: 2017-07-13

Angami women toil hard to keep alive the vibrant weaving tradition they inherit

 

Weaving is a culture attached to traditional attires woven in plenty and common to Naga society of which the Naga women folks share an exclusive monopoly in the art and technique of such endowment and in it was also the art of inheritance but which has subsequently withered for many known and unknown reasons.

Naga culture and tradition is a constant admiration and a form of rarity. The variant apparel also shares a huge market value without questions. However, the art of weaving and spinning has become the art of the few. In Kigwema village, a southern village of the Angami tribe, young female folks give one the picturesque of a weaving sustenance in exactly the way it was decades ago. Kigwema village is located in Kohima district in Nagaland and about 10 km off the state capital Kohima. Most of the young women including educated unemployed masters the art, skills and techniques of weaving shawls and wrappers known in Angami dialect as Lohe, phemhou etc which are ecstatically worn at all occasions and church events and comes in variant colors and apparels or sometimes they makes up the whole of an outfit.

Although not regular weavers, but on a day off from the fields or a cozy afternoon, the women apart from daily chores sits on their loom for long hours weaving the horizontally stretched wool to and fro. The end product is made for the family members or is very much saleable to local customers and the market too. It is also a tradition and a form of prestige for every women in the village to gift the hand-spun woven shawl or wrappers on magnanimous occasion as wedding to close friends and cousins.

The process of weaving is old and done in a step by step process which is slow and tedious. A complete woven shawl or wrappers takes four to six days. The wool is first washed with tapioca pearls known as ‘sabudana’. The dried wool is then spun into balls after which the thread wool is carefully pulled and arranged longitudinally with wood supports standing in a lateral position which also frames the structure of the cloth. The weaver pulls in a belt attached to the end of the loom with the feet pressing on a firm support.

The horizontal threads are then interlocked with the use of pick-up sticks made from fine bamboo and wood. One such unique stick is the ‘dziike’ also called a beating stick which is straight on one side and has a convex rectilinear shape on the other. Two pieces are usually woven separately, cut and stitched together. In the borderline, a pattern of about two inch is embroidered with silk threads which is usually shiny and contrast the colour of the shawl or wrapper to add more detail and beauty.

Not only mastering the art but perfection also acclaims a spot in the vicinity of experience. ‘I would excitingly weave small bags spun by my mother on holidays’ said Akhono recollecting her yonder days of practicing weaving during childhood. Weaving was taught by my mother and my other sisters and neighbours also weave for themselves. We all want to compete with our weaving skills and it has become a way of our life, she added.

This sedentary labour has a lot of health implications where eyesight is affected and backaches are not uncommon among the weavers. Dokheno, a graduate, who was busy weaving a wrapper for an upcoming program, said that it was her first time weaving a one ply (Thailand) wrapper. ‘the pattern at the border are very delicate, bending forward and constantly concentrating at the coloured thread gives one a dizzy feeling’, she said.

In Kigwema village, three wool shops are located in the highway along the village. While the shops supply the wool and other necessary items for weaving, it also takes the finished products at wholesale rates from the villagers. The proprietor of one, Kekhrie wool house, the oldest wool shop in the village, says that more than 50 women purchases wool items from their shop and also sell their finished products to them.

The shawls and wrappers, scarfs and coats have a price ranging from rupees 2000 to 10000 depending on their design and quality of wool. Not only weaving but the village has also many men folks engaged in expert carpentry skills which doesn’t render the women folks to run out of tools for weaving so is a reason of sustenance and the independence of the village at such art, deep-rooted and undiminished.

Ketholeno Neihu

( Ketholeno Neihu is a student of M.A. ( Second Semester) at the Centre for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication, Dibrugarh University. This feature has been produced as part of her Summer Internship at NEZINE)

Photographs used in this feature were taken by Ketholeno Neihu

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