Wearing their ethnicity

Naga jewellery

India has a rich tradition of tribal jewellery and each tribe has sustained its unique style using materials available in their local environs.

 Materials used for making ornaments include bone, wood, clay, shells, mirror pieces, crude metal and even coins. Naga jewellery thus has a distinct rustic and earthy charm.

The ethnic tribes of Nagaland, who are also found in Manipur in the Northeast, have their own jewellery tradition. Ornaments are status symbols for the Nagas. On occasions such as the spring festival, and the Sekrenyi harvest festival of the Angami tribes, Naga men and women don ceremonial dress and ornaments. For the Nagas, ornaments are more than a matter of aesthetics. They help define the identity of individuals and groups.

Rayama Pamringle of Manipur has been making Naga tribal jewellery since childhood as a hobby, something which she continued while at college in Shillong. She now exhibits and sells jewellery at various crafts fairs in the country. “There are different types of Naga jewellery — one for everyday wear and another one worn while attending church on Sundays. Traditional tribal jewellery with a definite pattern for the different tribes is worn on festivals and other cultural occasions,” she explains.

“There are 18 to 20 different tribes in Nagaland, namely Ao, Angami, Konyak, Sema, Lotha, Chakhesang, Yimchunger, and each has its own tradition of ornaments,” explains Kiwi Shohe from Nagaland, who is now studying in Bangalore.

Some examples of tribal jewellery worn by the Ao tribes are necklaces with crystal beads, crystal earrings, cut-shell necklaces with cornelian beads, and necklaces with shell, blue glass and fluted brass beads. Examples of ornaments of Konyak tribes are women’s head gear, and waist belts and bead necklaces with bone spacers. A typical ornament of Angami tribes is a necklace with shell, cornelian and glass beads with bone spacers.Ornaments that were once a status symbol for the Nagas now serve as souvenirs and collectible items, and one can even wear them for an ethnic touch.

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