Cane and Bamboo of Nagaland

Cane, Bamboo

Cane and Bamboo of Nagaland


Living in a land where bamboo and cane are plentiful, the Nagas are expert bamboo-weavers. So inextricably are the lives of the Nagas linked with cane and bamboo that it is said that: ‘In Nagaland, life starts in a cradle of bamboo and ends in a coffin of bamboo.’ Every person produces for his personal use; there are no professional weavers. The Naga youth are expected to learn and practise the Naga crafts. Collection of the raw material happens between July and October. The bamboo used is about a year old, for bamboo stems more than three years old are too brittle. The stems are cut and made into splints, depending on the end product and the nodes of the culms. They are then coloured, if necessary.
Basketry among the Nagas is a highly developed art form It is prestigious for a Naga woman to carry a beautifully woven basket. Tradition states that a magician, Chang Kichaylangba, before he died, stated that if the people opened his grave on the sixth day after his death, they would discover something new. On the sixth day the grave was opened and all the designs and patterns of basketry work were found —-these are still being practised them.
Each basket has its use, which determines its shape. The khopi is a basket of bamboo and is always carried by the Naga womenfolk irrespective of age. It has a footrest, and a jute belt and leather strap to fix the basket to the forehead. A basket without a footrest is a koshie. Conical carrying baskets, akhi and akha, for instance, are used to carry heavy loads across large distances, while flattened cylindrical baskets in twill patterns are used for straining the rice beer. This basket is so closely woven that it is water tight. Every household possesses several flat-bottomed big baskets for storing grain. The conical baskets are made from split bamboo and the splits are interlaced in a manner similar to threads interlaced in weaving. Chakhesang and Angami Nagas carrying baskets are well known. Beautiful baskets to carry balls of thread and knitting are used by the Chang women. Konyak baskets are decorated with figures and hair.
Most household articles are made of soft wood and the is made of furniture of cane and bamboo. The Nagas are known for the cradles, tables, chairs, and sofas that they make from bamboo and cane. Other products include bamboo drinking mugs, beautifully embossed with various cultural motifs, bamboo mats, shields, hats, necklaces and amulets, and even musical instruments. A harp made of bamboo with a vibrating reed is made in Nagaland and Assam. A konyak belt once worn by an adult is not removed until death — it absorbs the body oils and over time the belt turns a golden yellow in colour.




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