Weaving a Naga headgear, a craft slowly disappearing

Bukhaio Khiamniungan is one of the few remaining craftsmen who make traditional Naga headgear. (Morung Photo)
Bukhaio Khiamniungan is one of the few remaining craftsmen who make traditional Naga headgear. (Morung Photo)

Morung Express News
Tuensang | April 1

The craft of making the Naga headgears, which carries Naga identity and pride, is on the verge of disappearing, as there are now only four to five individuals left who are engaged in this art. 

This symbol of power, achievement and status for the Naga community may soon be seen only in museums if the art is not preserved. These are not mere hats or caps; it carries with it a position and status. 

These headgears are woven using more than twelve materials collected from the wild. However, now people engaged in their making have difficulty in even sourcing the raw materials. To make authentic headgear, craftsmen needed materials like tiger claws, wild boar teeth, hornbill feathers, wild goat hair, bear hair etc. Now, such materials are scarce and need to be replaced with synthetic ones. 

63 year old Bukhaio Khiamniungan is one of the few remaining who engage in this craft. He is a recipient of the President’s Award and national award for excellence in 1986. He has a handicraft stall in Tuensang town. 

Bukhaio learnt this art from his parents when he around 10 years old. He has made more than 1,000 headgears till date, with his pieces finding places across the world. 

“It is very difficult to make antique masterpiece headgear,” said Bukhaio, as the material is not available like before. “To make natural dye it is time consuming and also difficult to find so we now depend on synthetic dyes available in the market,” he stated. 

A few decades back one headgear cost somewhere around Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500. But with the scarcity of materials and the dwindling number of craftsmen, prices now range from Rs 12,000 to Rs 20,000 depending on the material used and the design. It is also a time consuming process, with craftsmen needing at least a week to make one headgear. 

Bukhaio who received a onetime pension salary of Rs 21,000 from the government, a sum that is entitled to national award recipients, opened his craft store to teach anyone who may be interested in picking up this art. 

Bukhaio says that youngsters now have no interest in taking up art forms such as his. He fears that it may disappear if not preserved and a crucial part of Naga identity and heritage may be lost.