For a Naga tribe, any hand-woven cloth is much more than just a piece of warm clothing. It is an indicator of his community and his social standing. So every Naga tribe has it’s own distinct designs. Each of these design has multiple patterns and together they are supposed to reflect the wearer’s complete identity – which tribe he belongs to, the group of villages he came from, his social status and the number of ritual feasts he had performed.
The clothes, especially the shawl woven by the Lotha tribe has several patterns which indicate the number of social feasts given by the wearer. Interestingly all the designs are woven only by women. But unlike before now young Naga women often travel to other states either for higher education or jobs which keep them away from home. As a result, they don’t get to learn weaving which is so crucial for their tribe. Renchano, a Lotha Naga tribal herself, doesn’t know how to weave as she spent several years out of Wokha. She points this out as a reason why the tradition of weaving slowly vanishing.
And as production of shawls and other woven materials decrease, imitations of Naga shawls are now being produced by machines in Delhi, Chennai, Patna or wherever and being sold at a little over Rs 100, when an original shawl of the same design should fetch nothing less than Rs 1,000-1,500 in the Nagaland government shops.
Renchano says, it’s important that the tribals themselves value their tradition, instead of blaming others for creating replicas of their hand-woven crafts. As we see in her video, Renchano herself became more aware of the value of weaving while producing this video. She has now decided to learn the art of weaving and practice it in future. She wants others young members of the community also take pride in their craft and help preserve it.